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The Great Land Rush of Norwold Part 2by Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 8
The Great Land Rush of Norwold - Part 2
by Simone Neri (Zendrolion)
Personalities of Norwold
In the previous issue of Threshold we learned about many of the events that comprise the upcoming Spring Fair held in AC 1002,1 the character and environment of Norwold’s realms, and the government and laws of King Ericall’s young and growing kingdom. In the second installment of the article, we will familiarize ourselves with some of the more important personalities within the Kingdom of Norwold, casting a detailed look at the royal family, the court’s main officers, and dominion rulers present before the Great Land Rush - including the Vatski princes of the Vatskiy Rodina.
The Royal Family
Norwold’s royal family is small, despite being related to the House of Thera, which rules the Alphatian Empire. Currently, King Ericall and his half-brother Lernal are the only members. Farian, Ericall’s other half-brother and Lernal’s full brother, was captured by a Thyatian raiding party in 999 AC, along with the king’s full brother Tredorian, while visiting Norwold; and the two still remain prisoners in Thyatis. The king and Lernal are described below.
Ericall, King of Norwold
Lawful 28th level Fighter
Str 13, Int 14, Wis 13, Dex 10, Con 11, Cha 17
Appearance: Ericall is thirty years old, and at 6’1”2 and 175 pounds, possesses a tall and statuesque figure. With common Alphatian copper complexion, though somewhat paler due to his father’s pure Alphatian heritage; neck length brown hair; mustache; and piercing brown eyes; he is considered quite handsome among Alphatians. Ericall dresses elaborately at court, usually clothed in royal purple trimmed with gold.3
Background: Ericall is eldest son of Alphatia’s Empress Eriadna and Torenal, handsome general of the Imperial Guard, and full brother to Mariella and Tredorian. Born in 972 AC, and possessing not an ounce of arcane potential, Ericall was Eriadna’s least favorite child, and the object of ridicule by the Empress’ other magic wielding children. Thankfully General Torenal instructed Ericall in the martial arts from a young age, and with his natural talent soon became a skilled warrior. Upon reaching adulthood, Ericall finally felt his royal calling, desiring a realm of his own. An implausibility, due to his lack of magical proficiency, in magically ruled Alphatia. While visiting his friend Beriak in Stonewall, he envisioned founding a realm where status and station were determined by competence, not magical ability. After having annoyed Eriadna beyond measure with his request, the Empress eventually caved, giving him jurisdiction over the wilderness backwater of Norwold in 992 AC, which had been made an Alphatian protectorate only a few years prior, and giving Ericall a broad degree of autonomy in ruling the region. Since then, Ericall has devoted all his efforts toward ruling the realm; however they have yielded mixed results. He has failed in bringing vast expanses of Norwold under enforceable rule. His appointment of Lernal as Governor of Landfall has turned into disaster, and he was unable to bring King Yarrvik of Oceanscend into the Empire’s fold. Additionally he was unable to prevent the city of Helskir, laying on the northern tip of the Isle of Dawn, from declaring independence, and was the target of the Alphatian Council’s contempt when Thyatian spies captured his brother Tredorian and half-brother Farian, visiting in Alpha, later transporting both to Thyatis.
Personality: Ericall is fair and honorable. Eager and good-natured, he has found favor among his subjects. Unfortunately, he has only been marginally competent as ruler. Alarmingly naïve, even after nearly a decade of rule, his good intentions yet simplistic understanding of the world and politics often leave him disheartened and befuddled. Dreading the mundane paperwork and managerial duties necessary to run the realm, Ericall is often overwhelmed by the complexity of ruling, relegating many tasks to subordinates of varying ability, which he often fails to properly evaluate. Ericall does not take criticism or advice easily, nor lightly admit mistakes; and he still burns being Eriadna’s least favorite child. To overcome this shortcoming he strives for perfection, being doubly harsh on himself whenever he fails. Whether additional years on the throne, be they further failures or successes, will mature him is yet to be seen. Ericall enjoys hunting and hawking as pastimes. The king is currently looking for a bride to be his queen, and the king’s friend Beriak is working to ensure his younger sister Christina Marie, who turns eighteen the following year, fills the role; however, the king has not seen the girl for years. It is possible Ericall’s eye could be caught by another alluring woman.
Additional Features: Able to draw resources from the Royal Palace’s vault, the king has access to a wide variety of permanent and temporary magic items, employing them only when he feels such use would benefit the kingdom. Ericall rides his favorite white stallion, Whitemane, into combat; wearing incredibly ornate plate mail +5 and shield +3, wielding normal sword +3 and carrying a dagger +3. Despite lack of participation waging war, his intense training, innate skill, and experience garnered adventuring, Ericall has become one of the best swordsmen within the Alphatian Empire. Greatly skilled in the art of the lance, Ericall is an admirably graceful jouster. The king is accompanied in most surroundings by twenty members of the Knight Protectors, the king’s bodyguard, whose members are all knights averaging 12th level, clad in suit armor and shield, armed with longsword and longbow.
Source: CM1 Test of the Warlords, Dawn of the Emperors, Joshuan’s Almanac & Book of Facts, Poor Wizard’s Almanac & Book of Facts I-III, Rogues to Riches.
Lernal the Swill, Duke of Landfall and Governor of Landfall Province
Neutral 6th level Fighter
Str 10, Int 12, Wis 13, Dex 10, Con 14, Cha 7
Appearance: Although only twenty-seven years old, Lernal looks ten years older. Having a pale and ruddy complexion, exacerbated from heavy drinking, varicose veins decorate his reddish nose. Lernal is overweight, weighing 200 pounds, though at 5’10” is of average height for an Alphatian. Lernal wears his straight neck length brown hair in a page-boy fashion, and has brown eyes. Lernal could be handsome if he took more care about his health and physique. On good days, he is clean-shaven and well groomed, sporting clothes of fine fabric fashionably tailored, many of which have been imported from Darokin. While on a bender, Lernal forgoes shaving, and his clothes are slovenly and often wine-stained. His blood-shot eyes always watery and distant. Despite appearance, or sobriety, at social events Lernal most often behaves in a crude and vulgar manner.
Background: Lernal is King Ericall’s half-brother, and son of General Torenal, shamefully conceived with a servant. Like all of Torenal’s offspring, he was totally devoid of any magical potential. After a misspent youth in Sundsvall, hampering the martial training his father tried to provide, he lived amongst the shadows in awe of the magically proficient people his father served. After Ericall was granted title to Norwold by Empress Eriadna in 992 AC, Lernal begged his brother give him rule over a dominion. Ericall, knowing what little opportunity existed for a commoner in mainland Alphatia, and ignoring prudent advice about Lernal’s intellectual inadequacy, fulfilled his plea. Granting him the southern town of Landfall, safely distant from Alpha, and presenting him with ducal title and rule over the region.4 Unfortunately, Lernal grew into a drunken wastrel, letting control of the town rapidly slip into the hands of the two most powerful rival local thieves’ guilds, slowly becoming their puppet, and completely succumbing to their will in exchange for wine and women. Ericall has lamented the decision ever since, yet hopes time and age will temper Lernal’s inappropriate behavior. Because Lernal makes a show of paying large amounts of taxes to Alpha, double the usual amount required, the king turns a blind eye toward his conduct. In actuality Lernal reports less than half of the dominions earnings, unbeknownst to the king. Unmarried, Lernal always retains a number of concubines. One of these mistresses, formerly an Alphatian slave, accompanied him when he took possession of Landfall, and has borne him a daughter. Erise, considered a young beauty, is now ten years old, living with her mother and father in Landfall keep.5
Personality: Lernal is an unscrupulous and rotten individual. A compulsive liar, who is easily bribed, Lernal is an immorally weak and incompetent ruler. Lernal is greatly envious of Ericall’s popularity and shining capital city, hating his half-brother for relegating him to this faraway shantytown. Nevertheless, Lernal is too much a coward to stage a coup or display direct insurrection against the crown, but would eagerly claim the throne of Norwold if the opportunity arose. Even uncharacteristically raising an army should Ericall die prematurely and without heirs. Although abstaining from his most depraved behaviors when his daughter Erise, to whom he relatively attached, is present; Lernal is otherwise utterly devoted to his vices. Drinking, eating, and women!
Additional Features: Lernal would rarely - if ever - personally take the battlefield. But if required to appear in front of the troops, wears plate mail +2 and shield, and carries a normal sword +2. As Lernal is in the hand of Landfall’s two major criminal organizations,6 he has made enemy of other rival thieves’ and criminal guilds of the town. Therefore Lernal always keeps a group of eight scruffy but able-bodied bodyguards (all are 9th level Fighters) on hand, supplied to him by his “patrons”.
Source: CM1 Test of the Warlords, Dawn of the Emperors, M2 Vengeance of Alphaks, Poor Wizard’s Almanac & Book of Facts I-III, Rogues to Riches.
Image: The provinces of the Kingdom of Norwold
The King’s Court
Alpha’s court is comprised of various individuals holding political position as one of the Greater or Lesser Officers, or officials dependent upon one of those offices, found haunting the Royal Palace in one capacity or another. A brief description of the most prominent characters follows.
Greater Officers and the Members of the Royal Council
The following personalities are all members of the Royal Council. Five also hold a Greater Office charge. Only Finnister McAlister holds no other responsibility. Beriak Alanira, Count of Draken (see below), is usually called upon to partake in Royal Council meetings as well.
Dolnarys, Lord High Admiral (Lawful 20th level Fighter):7 A common Alphatian from Haven whose career in the Alphatian Imperial Navy was halted by his inability in the thaumaturgical arts. His appointment was recommended to Ericall by Torenal himself. A strict, serious, and very able organizer; Dolnarys wants to build a navy worthy of his king - and with his given funds is quite likely to succeed.
Finnister McAlister, Member of the Royal Council (Lawful 9th level Cleric of Koryis):8 Native to the southern Shadow Coast on the Isle of Dawn, Finnister is a former adventurer who found his true calling advising rulers. Meeting Ericall in Sundsvall years ago, Finnister befriended him, recently arriving in Norwold to assist his young colleague once more. Finnister wants to ensure the kingdom is not drowned in a constant tide of war. Ericall, despite not being a follower of Koryis, holds Finnister’s word in high regard.
Madiera the Counselor, Lady High Steward and Court Magist (Lawful 25th level Magic-User): A common Alphatian from Greenspur, Madiera is a middle-aged wizard with a scholarly demeanor and immense expertise of Alphatian history, law, and tradition. Eriadna personally assigned Madiera as advisor to Ericall. Madiera sees her appointment as a stepping stone toward greater power, and carries out her work conscientiously, yet her ultimate desire is to take her place among the members of Alphatia’s Great Council. Madiera additionally holds charge as Ericall’s Court Magist.
Martigan, Lord High General (Neutral 21st level Magic-User):9 A native of Redstone, and former slave and gladiator in Thyatis City, Martigan managed to buy his freedom and then become a powerful Alphatian battle mage. He came to Norwold soon after the kingdom’s establishment, offering his services to the crown. After performing many missions for the crown, he was awarded commission as High General of Norwold Armies when Ericall’s previous general returned to Alphatia. Martigan is a handsome, passionate, brave and fearless man, harboring a bitter hatred toward Thyatis due to his days as a slave in the empire’s capital.
Nizanthrul, Lord High Treasurer (Neutral 15th level Cleric of Razud): An experienced priest from Theranderol, and trusted advisor of former Emperor Tylion IV. In his fifties, Nizanthrul accepted a posting on the outskirts of the Empire, advising Eriadna’s mundane son, wanting to end his career away from the intrigues of Sundsvall. Mostly he endeavors to advise Ericall in making wise decisions through careful management of the kingdom’s treasury.
Oriaehryn ‘Ori’, Lord High Chancellor (Lawful 11th level Elf Wizard):10 A Shiye elf from Limn with significant diplomatic experience and acquaintance with many different races and cultures, Oriaehryn has served under King Drushiye and in the Alphatian Empire’s Committee of Foreign Affairs. Ori’s methodical nature and delight in handling paperwork – make him a perfect match for King Ericall, who loathes such tasks.
While not holding any Greater Office charge, nor members of the Royal Council, the following characters may occasionally be encountered at court, performing various duties. Five “Governors of the Provinces” are included among them. While ruling distant provinces with relevant settlements, over which the king’s control is fragile at best, the governors carry out most of their duties from Alpha, and thus are usually found in the capital.
Aendim, Governor of the Aquelera Province (Lawful 4th level Fighter): Aendim, from Stonewall, has Common Alphatian ancestry. In his early forties, Aendim has faithfully served as household bodyguard for house Alanira over the course of many years. Wishing to reward the man, Beriak obtained him the prestigious charge of “Governor” in the Kingdom of Norwold. Yet thus far Aendim has had considerable difficulty managing the complexities of governing. Nevertheless, he remains a staunch and loyal supporter of Beriak and Ericall.
Alvaden Wildgaze, Governor of the Coast of Rebirth Province (Lawful 7th level Elf Cleric of Zirchev):11 Nearly three hundred fifty years old, Alvaden is a Shiye elf, born in the Kingdom of Vertiloch. Wandering for many years throughout the Alphatian Empire, Alvaden endeavored as a defender of the wilderness, advising various lords on matters of environmental and species preservation. Intrigued by the untamed land of Norwold, Alvaden entered Ericall’s service, his past experience making him ideally suited for the task of directing the heavily-wooded province’s government on such similar issues. He is primarily concerned with preventing the damage that unregulated settlement and development would cause to the Norwold environment.
Aranthor, Personal Scribe of the King (Lawful 5th level Magic-User):12 Aranthor is a quiet middle-aged, loyal servant of Common Alphatian lineage, chosen by Ericall to be his personal scribe and secretary; carrying out every order the king decrees in an efficient and inconspicuous manner. Both Madiera and Nizanthrul are wary of the influence Aranthor might exert over Ericall, but the man has no ambition aside from accumulating encyclopedic knowledge about Norwold’s various sites and regions, benefiting from Finnister’s trust at least.
Kerana N’Jozee, Governor of the Esendel-Mhirren Province (Chaotic 12th level Thief): Kerana is cousin to King Lornce of Hillvale.13 A crafty and stealthy rogue, under guise of a lady of the court she acted as Lornce’s spy for many years. Tired of her cousin’s lackadaisical ruling style, she asked he recommend her for a job at Ericall’s court, convincing him she could act as spy for him in Norwold as well. Despite being thirty years old, she is determined to climb the ranks within the kingdom’s hierarchy and become a noblewoman in her own right. To this end, she hopes to perform her role as Governor well, persuading Ericall to employ her as his spymaster. Short of catching the king’s interest – or if the kingdom begins to seriously weaken – she might consider selling her services to the highest bidder.
Mariela, Deputy Chancellor (Neutral 4th level Magic-User):14 An attractive Alphatian woman in her early thirties, Mariela helps Lord High Chancellor Oriaehryn in his duties. A native of Haven, she was personally chosen by Empress Eriadna for her knowledge of Known World politics and extensive experience in trade relations – in fact despite vocation as a mage, she is a merchant by profession. Easily flattered and quick to take offense, she hopes to act in Alphatia’s best interests at court.
Podo Hornblower, Governor of the Chermosar Province (Lawful 5th level Halfling): Podo, at one hundred six years, is a middle-aged halfling from Stoutfellow. Born into a family of army musicians, Podo followed in the family’s footsteps, leading a soldier’s life for many years; afterward obtaining a government post in his home realm. After his wife’s passing, besides sons and daughters grown and departed to start families of their own, Podo decided to offer his services to Alpha’s court. His skill and experience were soon appreciated, and he was appointed Governor of Chermosar province, bordering the halfling realm of Leeha. Ericall hopes Podo might facilitate improved relations between Leeha and Alpha.
Rodnox, General and Garrison Commander of Regent Pass (Lawful 18th level Fighter):15 Rodnox is a stout and able Alphatian fighter from Vertiloch. Only in his thirties, he rapidly rose in rank to commander on Esterhold, and later mainland Alphatia. His command of Eagles Rook, the Regent Pass fortress, guards the only overland route to the capital.
Tarn Oakleaf, Representative of the Norwold Druidic Council (Neutral 24th level Druid): Tarn is a Norwolder16 having a special affinity with nature, thereby rising among the ranks of Norwold druids. While not the most powerful druid in Norwold, Tarn was chosen among his peers as druidic representative to Ericall’s court. Often he is off wandering the wilds of Norwold, only appearing at court when very important issues of druidic concern are at stake.
Teskithan, Governor of Tranquil Coast Province (Neutral 7th level Magic-User): Formerly known as Eldras, a fifty year old unscrupulous yet skilled alchemist and bureaucrat from Meriander, in his homeland he covertly supplied poisons to local lords and aristocrats wishing to rid themselves of their enemies. When the smuggling operation was discovered, yet before traces could lead authorities to him, Eldras left Alchemos. Changing name and identity, taking Teskithan as his new moniker, and after passing some years keeping a low profile in the imperial bureaucracy, Teskithan found his way to the court of Alpha. Teskithan is disciplined and thorough in his craft – to not be could prove fatal in his profession; however, he is spineless in dealings with others, and easily subject to bribes and blackmail.
Viktor Zhucharnov, King’s Master of Horse (Chaotic 17th level Thief):17 Viktor is the younger brother of the knyaz of Lazarsk, one of the Vatski domains pledging allegiance to King Ericall. Ruthlessly ambitious, Viktor was not content being just another of his brother’s boyarin. Conspiring with the latter to intercede on his behalf, Viktor slyly coerced Ericall into giving him a minor charge in Alpha’s court. Viktor considers this merely a first step in his climb to power – one to eventually be obtained by whatever means is necessary.
The Greater Lords
The four court styled “Greater Lords” are dominion rulers holding the title of count, and thus represent - alongside Duke Lernal of Landfall - the highest ranking nobility in Norwold. Tending towards larger or strategically located dominions, the Greater Lords are either personal acquaintances and allies of the king, or descendants of older Alphatian families settling Norwold over a century ago. Three Greater Lords - Beriak Alanira, Theobold Redbeard, and Tralkar Fenn - have been granted title over their domain during Ericall’s reign, while house Therimar was already in existence before establishment of the kingdom, yet Kerik Therimar received title of Greater Lord after pledging fealty to Ericall.
Beriak Alanira, Count of Draken and Governor of Landrise Province
Lawful 22nd level Magic-User
Str 12, Int 17, Wis 13, Dex 13, Con 13, Cha 14
Appearance: Thirty-three years old, and quite short for a Pure Alphatian at 5’7” tall, although held with a proud poise, Beriak is exceptionally slim and nearly haggard, weighing only 124 pounds. Having a very pale complexion and gaunt face, his hollow cheeks partially hidden beneath a thick beard and mustache, Beriak often wears a grave and mindful expression. Beriak wears his black hair long, framing a face with a prominent nose and purple eyes, and speaks with a hoarse baritone voice.
Background: Belonging to a powerful Pure Alphatian noble family, Alanira of Stonewall,18 his family is nonetheless prone to anarchic behavior, rivalry, and infighting; despite close ties with King Koblan’s house. Due to his methodical personality, Beriak felt out of place amongst his family, leaving home at a young age to pursue study of the arcane arts under various mentors throughout the Alphatian mainland. During his tenure in Sundsvall, he met a young Ericall; the two becoming fast friends. The future king admired the way Beriak treated him as an equal, and not as an inferior class as other Alphatian mages had. It was after Ericall visited Stonewall, at Beriak’s suggestion, that Ericall first met Beriak’s young sister Christina Marie,19 then a nine year old girl. Greatly maturing during his stay, the idea to found a kingdom of his own took root. In 992 AC, when Ericall was granted Norwold, fulfilling his wish to found a realm where no discrimination would exist between commoners and magic-users, the prince bid Beriak follow him to his new kingdom. Eriadna, appreciating Beriak’s character and positive influence over her son, asked the young wizard to advise, assist, and protect him from the dangers of sovereignty. Since then, Beriak has stood beside Ericall in the day to day rule of Norwold, alternating between time in Alpha and journeys throughout the wilderness of Norwold, to visits to his family back in Draco, and continued study of the arcane arts in mainland Alphatia. Two years ago Ericall, at his mother’s suggestion, granted Beriak the dominion of Draken, as well as rule of Landrise Province; strategically protecting the eastern entrance to Great Bay.
Personality: Beriak is trustworthy, honorable, and extremely stern; despising the chaotic and reckless behavior of most Alphatians. He holds lifelong affection and loyalty toward people who have shown him love, given friendship, or helped him over the course of his life. He harbors no special attachment solely borne out of family ties or national identity. Beriak is a great friend to Ericall, considering him a just and honest ruler. Though Beriak often feels Ericall lacks proper gumption, having to be continually advised to ensure he makes the right decision. While relatively loyal to the Alphatian Empire, he will favor his king and good friend should a conflict between the two arise. Beriak sincerely supports Ericall’s aspiration to carve a kingdom from the wild lands of Norwold, bringing them under the rule of law, and will do anything in his power to help his friend and liege fulfill this purpose. Currently, he is mainly concerned with the defense of Great Bay; and monitoring, through his spells and magical devices, the various individuals haunting Ericall’s court. Beriak is also promoting the marriage of his sister Christina Marie, still living in Draco among her Alanira relatives, with the king; in order to strengthen his own ties with Ericall as well as giving her a worthy and adoring husband.
Dominion: Beriak rules the County of Draken, northeast of Alpha, on the northern coast of Great Bay; laying immediately west of the Ljallenvals. Now one of the higher ranking noblemen of Norwold, Beriak has brought many Alphatian settlers and soldiers from Stonewall, among them a small squad of battle-hardened Alphatian mages.20
Special Features: Beriak possesses a wide array of spells mostly devoted to control of elemental energies, summoning, and protection; with a focus on transmutation. Though primarily a battle mage, he additionally knows various detection spells, which he uses in conjunction with several divination oriented magic items. If need arises, Beriak may request either money or resources from his family in Draco, even beseeching the King of Stonewall, with whom he maintains close ties.
Relevant Possessions: Helm of telepathy, ring of djinni summoning, ring of protection +4, tunic of armor AC 0,21 wand of cold, wand of fireballs.
Source: Mystaran Almanacs (Marco Dalmonte).
Kerik, Count of Therimar and Governor of Sharnadar Province
Lawful 14th level Fighter
Str 10, Int 17, Wis 11, Dex 10, Con 13, Cha 18
Appearance: Age fifty-one, Kerik exhibits a good natured personality, reflected in his merry green eyes. His long hair, beard, and mustache – once brown – have already turned completely white. Copper complected, and short for a Common Alphatian at 5’8” tall, Kerik has a medium build weighing 137 pounds. Kerik is usually attired in rich yet comfortable garments, and simple jewelry.
Background: Kerik is heir to a noble house that settled Norwold in the 9th century, during the last Alphatian colonization before Eriadna’s reign. Ekerin, his father, witnessed the plunder and subjugation of neighboring Hastamal by savage Northmen, yet was unable to drive them out. A warrior, like most his ruling predecessors, Kerik inherited the throne in 982 AC, and has spent most his time fighting raiding humanoids, barbarians tribes, and Hastamal Northmen. As a result, he has become a gifted tactician highly skilled in military strategy. The imperial colonization begun by Eriadna in 985 AC, left Kerik with mixed feelings, the Alphatians recognizing the Northmen’s claim over Hastamal instead of seizing the domain from them. Yet after receiving title to Norwold, Ericall elevated Kerik to rank of count, thus making him one of the higher ranking noblemen of Norwold. Kerik’s wife died some years ago, leaving him an only daughter, Malaegha (Lawful Normal Woman). A comely twenty year old, Malaegha is nonetheless in frail condition, having yet to take a husband.
Personality: A cheerful and good-natured man, Kerik is very popular among his subjects, and well regarded beyond his dominion borders, being in good standing with most other lords. Kerik may be an expert of all things martial, but is not as capable judging character, resulting in more than a few corrupt individuals in his court. Kerik loves his daughter above all else, and longs to find a suitable husband in order to perpetuate the Therimar dynasty, yet is unwilling to force Malaegha into an unhappy union. On the other hand, he would not reject his own opportunity to marry again. Kerik judges Ericall an inexperienced ruler, still with potential to mature into a great king given due time. Holding onto this belief, Kerik unwaveringly supports Eriadna’s son.
Dominion: Therimar County is located southwest the Peninsula of Alpha, straddling the region between Regent’s Ridge and Great Bay. From Stoneface, his castle in Holion, Kerik manages modest agricultural activities, as well as healthy lumber and iron mining industries. Therimar borders the dominion of Hastamal to the west, and an undeclared war persists between the two. Asger the Grim, ruler of Hastamal, is a bitter enemy of house Therimar, since many years ago he attempted to have Ekerin assassinated, and seize Therimar for himself.
Special Features: Though a skilled fighter, Kerik fought his last battles ten years passed against local humanoid tribes. Since that time he has not wielded his sword in combat, and therefore, makes his attack rolls with a -2 penalty.
Relevant Possessions: Bastard sword +3,22 mace +1 of slowing, plate mail +3 of charm.
Source: NPC from Simone Neri’s own campaign, after an NPC from the adventure “Non tutto quel che brilla… ” by M. Missiroli, in “Kaos”, an Italian fanzine of the 1990s, Issue No. 13.
Theobold Redbeard, Count of Lighthall and Governor of Lighthall Province
Lawful 17th level Fighter
Str 18, Int 12, Wis 9, Dex 14, Con 13, Cha 12
Appearance: Forty years old, Theobold has lightly tanned skin, and an imposing solidly built figure at 6’2” tall and weighing 187 pounds. He carries himself with a majestic countenance. Theobold has red hair, a full red beard, and keen blue eyes. Favoring plain-clothes of high-quality fabric, he wears little jewels or ornamentation; feeling much more comfortable inside a suit of armor.
Background: Theobold is a native of mixed Alphatian-Dawner ancestry from northern Hillvale. At quite a young age, he joined the East Portage army, eventually moving to the Heavy Imperial Marines, finally ending his service in the Imperial Army. All the while, occasionally leading a group of adventurers in a series of successful and rewarding quests across the Alphatian countryside on the Isle of Dawn. Having reached the rank of Commander in the army, being friend to General Torenal, he was sent to Norwold in 992 AC to help organize King Ericall’s fledgling army, widening his control over the realm. Theobold performed quite well in this duty, and was granted domain of Lighthall five years ago, receiving a title as count and governorship over the surrounding province.
Personality: Theobold is an army veteran with no time for formal court ceremonies, or lavish parties and feasts. While eager to prove his hand at ruling a dominion, Theobold is still a soldier at heart, and will likely never lose his martial attitude and curt mannerisms. Unfortunately he is plagued by several shortcomings; worst among them a fondness for hard liquor. Theobold bears absolute loyalty toward his king and the Alphatian Empire, even if he disapproves of certain aspects concerning Ericall’s leadership; such as the appointment of Lernal as Governor over Landfall, or court costs for construction of the Royal Palace; however, he keeps those thoughts to himself. He has little patience for inexperienced and entitled adolescents not able to cope with their responsibilities, considering Ericall among them. If conflict arose between Ericall and Alphatia, Theobold would begrudgingly obey his king; but would switch allegiance if direct orders were received from Sundsvall, and the king—from his point of view—was clearly headed down the wrong path.
Dominion: Theobold rules the County of Lighthall, centered round a small town midway between Oceansend and Landfall, so called because of its towering lighthouses. Since the loss of Helskir, defense of the strait has fallen on Theobold’s shoulders, and he devotes most his energy to this task. Luckily the county is a highly developed agricultural and fishing center; providing the necessary funds Theobold needs to maintain a small flotilla and successfully perform his charge.
Special Features: If need be, he is still able to call upon his former adventuring comrades: Hogun Steelcap (Lawful 12th level Dwarf, now a general in Rockhome), Laralyn Athiliar (Neutral 10th level Elf, from Shiye-Lawr), Quentin Larathor (Neutral 17th level Magic-User, from Helskir), and Theona of the Righteous Glory (a missionary from Bettellyn, Lawful 17th level Cleric of the Seven).23 Most are part of the “League of Extraordinary Adventurers”,24 a society created by Ericall, and led by Theobold, with the goal of gathering seasoned adventurers to help defend Norwold and Alphatia.
Relevant Possessions: Dagger +3, normal sword +3,25 plate mail +3, pouch of security, shield +3, spear +3 returning.
Source: M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom, provisional writeup by Giampaolo Agosta (agathokles).
Tralkar Fenn, Count of Hulgarholm and Governor of Isles of the Strand Province
Neutral 20th level Fighter
Str 16, Int 16, Wis 14, Dex 13, Con 14, Cha 11
Appearance: Though apparently forty years old, at fifty two Tralkar still presents an ominous presence, with pale, near white Pure Alphatian coloration. Tall, brawny, and stout; Tralkar is 6’2” tall and weighs 212 pounds. Wearing his long straight black hair down to the small of his back, Tralkar also sports a short beard and mustache. Tralkar’s jet black eyes betray his inner gloom, and resemble two deep wells of darkness. Several whiplash marks mar his back, and a deep scar dominates the left side of his face. Tralkar favors heavy fur-trimmed clothing in dark colors. In battle, he rides a black destrier and dons magical plate mail complete with a fearsome helm fashioned in the shape of an orc skull.
Background: Born Andryliar in Frisland, Tralkar is the despised second son of an Alphatian lord. Incapable of learning magic, he simmered at the abuse heaped upon him. At twenty years of age, he engaged in an affair with his brother’s fiancé, later uncovered by his sibling. His brother, mad with rage and jealousy, strangled the girl; placing blame for the crime upon Andryliar, and providing false evidence their father was all too eager to believe. Andryliar managed to flee before the farce, but his brother caught wind of his escape. Tracking him down and overpowering him, his brother then brutally lashed him, leaving him face down and left for dead in a southern Frisland river. However; Andryliar survived, and after the near-death experience hid in Stonewall recovering and assuming a fake identity. Hence Tralkar Fenn was born, feigning Helskir origins. Performing various duties, mostly as bodyguard and mercenary, Tralkar used all his earnings to improve his skill with the sword; later journeying across much of the Alphatian Empire. Often seeking duels with the condescending wizards he had come to despise. Finally returning to his family estate in Frisland, his father having died some years before, Tralkar ruthlessly took revenge upon his brother; killing his family before him, before slaughtering him as well. Afterwards, keeping his identity as Tralkar, living as mercenary and soldier for many years, climbing the ranks of Stonewall’s army. In 985 AC when Alphatia attempted to regain control of Norwold, Tralkar at last found a ripe opportunity to leave the mage dominated Alphatian mainland and establish a base of power elsewhere. Asking permission to leave the service of Stonewall’s sovereign, enlisting among the expeditionary units going to take control of Norwold, Tralkar was among the first detachments to arrive. Without direct orders from his superiors, he launched a daring surprise attack against the Ostland dominion of Ostmark, encompassing the Isles of the Strand. His swift military action destroyed the Northman’s hold over them, afterwards executing the ruling clanleaders. This brutal action nonetheless received approval from Tralkar’s superior, also convincing many coastal communities in Norwold, accepting Alphatian rule was the safer choice. After leading further military actions in Norwold, in 992 AC Ericall made Tralkar Count of Hulgarholm and Governor of Isles of the Strand Province, with the important task of watching the Strait of Helskir. Since 997 AC, when Theobold Redbeard was granted County of Lighthall, Tralkar has devoted less and less time to patroling the strait, which has become a matter of contention between he and Theobold. Tralkar has recently made secret trade agreements and delved into plots with the rebel king of Helskir. Tralkar married a thirty two year old Northwoman native to the Isle of the Dogs, Sassa Kajadottir (Neutral Normal Woman), has given him two sons, the eldest being ten years old, and a daughter.
Personality: Ruthless and extremely cynical, shaped by life’s past events into an emotionless man, Tralkar delights only in discord and battle. Tralkar despises the Alphatian society which forbid him to rise in status, harboring a special hatred toward arrogant tyrannical wizards. Tralkar is by no means a revolutionary or a benefactor, only looking out for his own opportunities. Tralkar is clever, vigilant, and vengeful; letting no offense go unanswered. Though rash, often seeking immediate revenge when possible, he is otherwise content to seek vengeance after many years have passed. Wanting to widen his power in Norwold, Tralkar considers the current situation ideal, serving a guileless king such as Ericall. Tralkar’s primary goal is laying his hands on the rich city-state of Oceansend, already placing some of his best spies in the city. Through them, he has made contact with Thyatian agents within the city, and is evaluating the possibility of an agreement with Thyatis, possibly even exploiting the struggle between the rival empires to augment his power in Norwold.
Dominion: Tralkar’s dominion encompasses the entire Isle of Dogs; ruling from his keep in Abengor, west of the isle’s northern marshes. One of the isle’s main settlements founded by Northmen from Ostmark decades ago. The island’s economy primarily focuses on fishing, with sustenance farming carried on for local needs. A rising trade has emerged in the county, centered round ivory tusks from walruses dwelling in the waters surrounding Walrus Island to the northeast. Tralkar’s walrus hunters are trying to dominate the trade by eliminating all rivals; namely Oceansend. This has caused further attrition, and some skirmishes, between rival seaborne hunters from Hulgarholm and the mainland city-state.
Special Features: Tralkar is a skilled tactician and efficient administrator, well versed in intrigue. Leading a small yet well-equipped mercenary army, and a signifigant flotilla of sea reavers, with bases hidden among the Isle of Dogs’ marshes, or around Walrus Island’s coasts. Tralkar also has at his disposal a number of efficient spies, some of whom work in Oceansend and Helskir, and he will soon attempt to place agents among the new dominions created after the Great Land Rush. In combat, Tralkar uses his magical armor’s ethereality power to good advantage, and favors using only his bastard sword, switching between one-handed and two-handed styles, having mastered both; not ruling out treachery and deception when appropriate.
Relevant Possessions: Amulet of the iron-minded,26 dagger +2 of watching, gauntlets of the shocking grasp,27 bastard sword +4/+8 vs spellcasters, plate mail +3 of ethereality, ring of protection +2, ring of spell turning.
Source: M5 Talons of Night Reference to Ostmark is borrowed from its description in the Mystara section of the Italian Games Academy forum, written by Corann; which does not include any mention of Tralkar.
The following lords already controlled various regions when Ericall was granted the crown of Norwold. Their number includes descendants of old Alphatian families migrating to Norwold in the 9th century AC, whom the king granted baronial title within Norwold’s hierarchy, as well as individuals obtaining control of their lands in more dubious fashion, yet managing to legitimize its possession by swearing oaths of fealty to the king. Several pre-existing lords use titles not commonly part of Alphatia’s hierarchy, and are deemed below baronial rank.
Asger the Grim, Lord (Jarl) of Hastamal
Chaotic 11th level Magic-User
Str 10 (6), Int 15, Wis 12, Dex 13 (9), Con 15 (11), Cha 16
Appearance: Asger is forty-five years old, though looks at least ten years older. Fair-skinned, almost pale, having short stature for a Northman at 5’7” tall, and a frail build weighing only 130 pounds with a slightly hunched posture. Asger has waist-length, wild grey hair, tied in various braids and pigtails, no beard but long mustache, and intense light green eyes. Asger has a distinctive scar on his upper back, and usually wears colorful clothes in a mix of Northman and Alphatian styles.
Background: Asger’s father, Morten Bloodaxe, was an Ostland raider belonging to the ruling clan of Vestpont, and follower of Loki. In 973 AC Morten and his men, his son among them, raided northward; sacking many villages on Norwold’s eastern coast, and ending with the conquest of the Alphatian dominion of Hastamal, in the southern Great Bay, massacring its ruling house. The Northmen managed to hold fast against forces of nearby Alphatian dominion Therimar. Morten settled in as jarl of Hastamal, keeping control of the local population with his ruthless band of raiders. Young Asger learned the rudiments of magic from a captured hireling of the former Alphatian lords, and became jarl of Hastamal upon Morten’s passing in 978 AC. A year later; however, he was backstabbed and by an Alphatian slave girl, killing him. Priests of Loki raised him, and Asger delighted in brutally torturing the girl. The girl cursed Asger just before dying, and after his health and physique have faltered, often weak and prone to illness. In the long years since, he has waged an intermittent war against nearby Therimar, sending his raiders to pillage the villages of the Great Bay. Continually searching for arcane secrets to cure his curse. In 985 AC, he agreed to ally with the Alphatians and cease his raids in order to keep possession of his dominion, and subsequently in 992 AC, Ericall recognized his control over Hastamal, letting him keep the title of lord (jarl).
Personality: Asger is cruel, ruthless, bloodthirsty, and treacherous; utterly loyal to the Immortal Loki and his priests plaguing the dominion. Asger is only interested in gathering more political and magical clout, and appeasing Loki by fostering treachery and the spread of chaos throughout Norwold, and eventually hopes to lift the curse that lays hold over him. He has tried for many years to conquer the nearby domain of Therimar with the strength of arms, but to no avail - and now he is planning to use subtler means against Count Kerik. Asger has kept many concubines through the years, but has never been able to father any children, suspecting the curse may be to blame. While many Hastamal Northmen think Asger is unfit to rule, having severely weakened physically and mentally, he is a wizard no one dares challenge as long as the priests of Loki protect him.
Dominion: The Jarldom of Hastamal lays on the southern shores of the Great Bay, about 280 miles south-west of Alpha and due west of Therimar. Asger’s seat is in Hastoun, the former castle of the Alphatian lords, surrounded by a large fortified coastal village. Hastamal’s population is mostly Alphatian on the coast, and Norwolder in the interior’s woodlands. A small number of Northman clans and their warriors rule over the land, under the leadership of Asger and of his priests of Loki; they also make up the bulk of the jarl’s guard. The jarldom’s main trades are fishing, hunting, trapping, and raiding - which, despite Ericall’s orders, Asger’s men continue to practice against unprotected or isolated villages of the Great Bay.
Special Features: Asger’s spells mostly come from the spellbooks stolen from the former Alphatian lords of Hastamal, which deal with water and air elemental power. He has never researched a spell of his own, and would need to apprentice under a more powerful magic-user, but he does not like to give out clues about his lack of power. The curses which affects him lowers his physical attribute scores by 4 points each (use the scores given in brackets, above), and Asger has not found a way to lift the curse yet. Asger’s most trusted advisor is the cunning, handsome, and silver-tongued Tryggvi (Chaotic 9th-level Cleric of Loki), who also acts as high priest of Loki in Hastamal.
Relevant Possessions: Bugle of reviving,28 magic compass,29 periapt of protection against drowned dead,30 staff of aquatic wizardry,31 wand of cold.
Sources: NPC from Simone Neri’s own campaign, after an NPC of the adventure “Non tutto quel che brilla… ” by M. Missiroli, in “Kaos”, an Italian fanzine of the 1990s, Issue No. 13.
Box: The Staff of Aquatic Wizardry
Created by a former Alphatian lord of Hastamal, this powerful staff is fashioned from driftwood, ritually purified and imbued with magical energy. Presently held by the Jarl of Hastamal, Asger the Grim. Wielded as a staff +2 in combat; as long as it remains in contact with the user it grants identical powers of a ring of protection +2, and allows the handler to survive without breathing for up to seven days. Three times per week, at the cost of 2 charges, the staff can create a waterspout – a funnel of water 100’ high and 40’ wide at the top, tapering to 5’ at the base. Anything caught in this awesome storm is helplessly tossed about, unable to act. If the wielder wishes, a victim can be spat out at a speed of 160’. Should the victim’s momentum be halted by something solid, the impact inflicts 5d12 points of damage. The waterspout lasts for 2d4 rounds and can be created on or below the surface of any body of water. Additionally, the staff can cast several spells at the power of a 10th level magic-user. Currently it has seventeen charges left.
The staff casts the following spells at a cost of 2 charges apiece:
charm aquatic creature – a version of snake charm which affects all underwater fish, mammals, and reptiles;
water whisper – similar to wind whisper found in PC4 Night Howlers, yet only functioning underwater.
The staff casts the following spells at a cost of 2 charges apiece:
calm water (see GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds);
conjure elemental (water only);
crystallize – a version of disintegrate which permanently turns an object into a fragile, crystalline substance;
growth of animal – only sea animals, affecting up to five creatures;
sea swarm – a version of insect plague which conjures a school of small fish or sea creatures, and only functions underwater;
summon sea creatures – see GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds;
Azirun IV, Baron of Khemyr
Lawful 15th level Fighter
Str 16, Int 15, Wis 9, Dex 11, Con 15, Cha 14
Appearance: Fifty-three years old, copper Common Alphatian complexion, tall and muscular at 6’2”, but a little overweight weighing 198 pounds. He has gold-colored eyes, dark brown graying hair, and a short beard. Azirun’s left hand is missing after a fight against a frost giant many years ago; strapping a silver hand to his left wrist. Azirun favors clothes in dark red and black colors. He always displays a diamond earring, originally belonging to Azirun I, a custom carried down the family line.
Background: Azirun is descendant of an Alphatian lord settling the shores of Great Bay in the latter half of the 9th century AC. Azirun I, first lord of his line, was a warrior from Notrion founding the domain of Khemyr on the southeastern shore of Great Bay, yet forced to abandon it soon after the Long Winter began. With aid of a valiant group of companions, he fought against the Witch Queen, Frota, and her minions; eventually defeating her and liberating his domain. Despite the overall failure of Alphatian colonization, Azirun chose to stay in Khemyr protecting the sparse hamlets of the area, whose inhabitants gradually accepted him as their lord. Thus the young Azirunides dynasty was born. Current ruler, Azirun IV, came to power in 989 AC. Previously, young Azirun had spent time adventuring within the wilderness of Norwold, Alphatia, and even the Plane of Air, following a conjurer companion in his struggle against enemy djinn. The eldest among his siblings, he was schooled in the rule of Khemyr by his ederly father Theradun II, and ultimately inherited the domain, Theradun dying of natural causes. In 992 AC, Azirun greeted the Kingdom of Norwold’s establishment with hope and joy; the new king appointing him Baron of Khemyr. Since then Azirun has become one of the king’s staunchest supporters among minor Norwold noblemen. Azirun, is married to Ermonya (Chaotic 14th level Thief), a forty-five year old fellow adventuress from Dawnrim. They have a twenty year old daughter named Shala (Lawful 7th level Fighter). Azirun rules Khemyr with the aid of his two younger brothers, Assuryon (Chaotic 4th level Fighter) and Qurdyan (Lawful 9th level Magic-User), and his sister Naira (Lawful 13th level Cleric of Ixion), each having their own family.
Personality: Straightforward and organized, Azirun upholds the honorable warrior code he inherited from his ancestors; aspiring to live up to them. Proud of his heritage, Azirun will not miss an opportunity to mention his heritage in front of newly anointed noblemen, sometimes presenting his stature in a haughty manner. Azirun’s ambition is to build Khemyr into a powerful and respected dominion, and thinks the Kingdom of Norwold’s establishment is the perfect time. However; Azirun is aware he is growing older, and desires his daughter Shala retire from her adventuring, and take the reins of government, marrying an honorable lord as soon as possible.
Dominion: Khemyr is located directly south of Alpha in a forested stretch of coastland along the strait separating Great Bay from the Gulf of Wrecks. Its population is mostly native, with additional Alphatian immigrants. The barony’s industries revolve around fishing, farming, logging, and sparse mining, with most raw materials sent to Alpha. Azirunide house is quite united, and the baron entrusts his siblings with most governmental duties. A reclusive elven Foresthome is located in the forests beyond Khemir’s southern borders; and thus far having not trespassed into elven territory, the elves are indifferent to Khemir’s presence.
Special Features: If required to engage in combat, Azirun fights from horseback using lance, sword and shield. To overcome his handicap, Azirun straps his shield tightly to his arm. An astonishingly skilled rider Azirun is able to maneuver his horse using only his knees. A natural leader, Azirun breeds confidence among his soldiers in battle.
Relevant Possessions: Censer of controlling air elementals, native drums,32 normal sword +2/+4 vs genies,33 plate mail +1.
Sources: NPC from Simone Neri’s own campaign.
Ragnar Blueshoulder, Lord (Jarl) of Noskien
Neutral 15th level Thief
Str 15, Int 13, Wis 10, Dex 17, Con 15, Cha 15
Appearance: Ragnar is thirty-two years old, fair skin with medium height and build at 5’10” tall, weighing 156 pounds, and an overall unremarkable appearance. Ragnar has blue eyes, unruly dark blond hair bound into a large ponytail, and a long mustache. Losing his right eye in combat, he now wears an eyepatch over it. Ragnar usually wears roughspun clothes in the Northmen traditional style.
Background: Askel, Ragnar’s father, was a member of the clan ruling Haltford in Soderfjord. After numerous quarrels with his relatives, Askel felt he had nothing to gain by staying in Haltford. Stealing one of the clan’s longships, Askel fled north with his wife and small band of followers. For years after they lived raiding the coasts of Helskir, Redstone and Oceansend; establishing a hideaway among the northwestern coastal marshes of the Isle of Dawn. After seven years, in 974 AC, they founded an additional northern outpost for their raids against Norwold, settling a fortified camp they called Noskien at the northern tip of the Tranquil Coast. When the Alphatians returned in 985 AC, Askel kept a low profile, directing his raids only against non-Alphatian convoys, allowing him to avoid Ostmark’s fate, conquered in 985 AC. (See Tralkar Fenn’s background above). Some years later, Askel died fighting against the Thyatian navy, which had discovered his hideout amid the Isle of Dawn’s marshes and there cornered him. Ragnar, then twenty-three years old, had remained in Noskien, taking lead of the rest of his clan and supplementing it with other Northmen vikings, securing alliance with local interior native tribes. Not fearing Ericall’s retaliation, he began staging daring raids against trading vessels passing nearby Noskien; also hitting coastal villages on the northern Isle of Dawn. Begrudgingly following the advice of his counselors, Ericall ultimately agreed it was better to buy Ragnar’s alliance than start a costly military campaign against him. Thus, in 998 AC, Ericall offered Ragnar absolution; if the Soderfjordan pirate would pledge fealty and stop his raids against Alphatian and Norwold shipping, the king would spare him from the might of his navy. Ragnar agreed, and since then has mostly directed his raids against foreign shipping; specifically Oceansend, the Heldannic Territories, Helskir, and northern countries of the Western Sea of Dawn; but also often attacks ships from the Alphatian mainland or the Isle of Dawn, and the most isolated villages upon Norwold’s coasts, when the opportunity arises.
Personality: Ragnar is a thoughtful and calculating man, ruthless and authoritarian, whose desire for wealth is never sated. Despite his behavior, he holds a surprisingly strict notion of Northmen honor. Once giving his word, Ragnar’s loyalty is absolute. Of course, this means the opposite is also true, his threats unconditional as well.
Dominion: Ragnar’s jarldom consists of a sandy stretch of coast along the Tranquil Coast’s northern end. The sea around Noskien is treacherous, and quite difficult to navigate unless one knows where the various shallows and seamounts are located. The plain is swept by strong winds; resulting in stubby plants covering the soil, giving way to woodland only far inland. The village of Noskien lies beneath one of the few coastal cliffs in the dominion. Ragnar keeps a small flotilla of viking longships there. A steep path rises above the village to a line of hills beyond, and on the highest of these is where Ragnar has built his keep. Noskien’s population is made up of many natives and Northmen, and a small percentage of foreigners captured during raids brought here as slaves. Only the “feoffees” class, Northman warriors and leaders appointed by the jarl, are allowed to own land in the dominion; also forming the backbone of Ragnar’s advisors, lieutenants, and sea captains.
Special Features: Because of having been raised as a raider, Ragnar always favors swiftness over brute force, learning the value of performing feats of agility and dexterity over brute strength. In combat, he prefers wearing light armor and fights in a two-weapon style, using sword and dagger. Ragnar’s most trusted advisors are Mads Ditmerson (Chaotic 8th level Cleric of Thanatos, worshipped in the Immortal’s northern guise of Darga), a former comrade of Ragnar’s father; and Thomara Lhenic (Chaotic 7th level Magic-User). While Ragnar is not a follower of Darga, he allows Mads to run a half sunken temple in Noskien, in his Immortal’s name, where the cleric secretly practices human sacrifice by drowning. Thomara; a beautiful young woman of mixed Norwolder-Alphatian descent from Oceansend, whom Ragnar captured, making her his slave; became his favorite concubine. Afterwards “freeing” her, when she became his favorite mistress. Thomara still harbors a secret desire for revenge against him.
Relevant Possessions: Leather armor +2, normal sword +2,34 ring of protection +2, ring of water breathing.
Sources: NPC from Tharquil’s homepage, in French, and not available anymore on the web. (http://www.oocities.org/Area51/Shire/7837/jdr.html)
Rolland Adlamson, Baron of Nevoshed
Neutral 8th level Fighter
Str 17, Int 16, Wis 9, Dex 17, Con 13, Cha 12
Appearance: Thirty-two years old, six feet tall and slender weighing 168 pounds. Although having handsome features, Rolland is an albino, with light gray eyes having a reddish tint, and completely white hair. He wears his straight hair down his back, and goes clean shaven. Despite a sickly appearance, Rolland is wiry and swift. He does not usually venture forth before sunset, as prolonged exposure to sunlight hurts his pallid skin. When under the sun, Rolland dons magical plate mail engraved with golden lion heads, the baron’s coat of arms, and wrapping himself in a satin purple cloak.
Background: Born in a rural village in Kendach, Rolland Adlamson was son of a peasant family. After his parents died, he was cast out from his village because of his odd albino appearance. Fleeing into the Dunadale Bogs’ wilderness, he lived among groups of bandits. Following the bandits defeat by local forces, the boy was spared and taken in by an Alphatian warrior. Seeing potential in the boy, the warrior decided to educate and train him. Acting as the warrior’s squire, Rolland became a proficient fighter in his own right. Having taught Rolland everything he knew, his benefactor finally bid he go off in search of adventure, and make his own fortunes. Rolland had many escapades in the Known World and the north until 991 AC, when he stumbled upon the tiny village of Nevoshed, nestled in a mountain valley near the Great Bay of Norwold. Nevoshed’s lord had a daughter, Galathea, whose husband had been killed by raiding frost giant weeks earlier, her lord father having been seriously wounded as well. Though mortally wounded, the lord hastily organized a tournament in which competitors would fight against a champion for his daughter’s hand, as local tradition required. It fell upon Lord Nevoshed’s champion Pongo, a dwarf, to decide who would be his daughter’s husband. By chance, Rolland met Galathea, falling deeply in love with her. Galathea loved Rolland in return, despite his appearance, and asked he take part in the tournament. The evening before the event, Galathea secretly drugged Pongo, and after defeating the other competitors, Rolland easily defeated the ailing dwarf. Thus, Rolland became husband to Galathea, and when Galathea’s father died weeks later, Rolland also became Lord of Nevoshed. In the following years, Rolland and Galathea (Neutral Normal Woman) pledged fealty to King Ericall, earning them baronial status. They also have a daughter, Lina, born in 994 AC. Today, Rolland and his beautiful wife are content ruling their secluded dominion, and are seldom seen at court unless summoned by the king. In most instances, Galathea more often shows up in the capital alone.
Personality: Rolland is forthright, solemn, and reserved; often behaving callously when dealing with people of lower status or rank. Nevoshed justice is extremely severe toward lawbreakers and criminals. His albinism and strange appearance do not endear him to others, either. The people of Nevoshed do not love him, but respect and fear his leadership and authority; Rolland being an efficient ruler who has successfully defended the dominion from giant and humanoid raids in the past. Rolland deeply loves his wife Galathea and daughter Lina, and will stop at nothing—even jeopardizing friends, dominion, and king – to protect them.
Dominion: Nevoshed is an old dominion also dating back to the latter half of the 9th century AC, during the last Norwold colonization before Eriadna’s reign. The purpose of the dominion was to establish a route between Foxes’ River and Kilmik Vale through Green Pass; but when the Long Winter came the entire plan faltered. Nevoshed survived Witch Queen Frota’s reign, but remained an isolated wilderness outpost. Shandril, widow of the original Lord of Nevoshed, had only a young daughter. Deeming the girl would not survive to rule Nevoshed, Shandril decided to follow local marriage custom, staging a tournament to decide her husband. Since Shandril’s time, over a century ago, Nevoshed has continued the custom of matrilineal succession, the crown passing to the eldest daughter, whose husband is chosen through tournament.
The Barony of Nevoshed is located among forested mountains along the Foxes’ River. Deep snow blankets the dominion in winter, and bitter winds blow down from the heights. The principal village of the barony, also named Nevoshed, is a fortified settlement located at the confluence of the Foxes’ and Blue Rivers, which flows from Eagles’ Barrier to the northeast. The Foxes’ River being the larger of the two. The baron’s castle rests upon a high hummock towering over the village. The barony’s inhabitants are mostly Norwolders and Vrodniki, with Alphatians making up the bulk of the castle’s personnel. Foxfolk lupin inhabit the domain’s fringes. Hunting, logging, and trapping are Nevoshed’s main occupations; the products often shipped on log barges downriver to the coast and onwards to Alpha; often accompanied by what little trade products are gained from neighboring Norwolder and Vrodniki tribes. The dominion is harassed by raiding frost giants in winter, and humanoid (mostly troll) marauders, but they rarely attack Nevoshed, defended by the baroness’ veteran guard and a hardy and well-armed militia.
Special Features: Baron Rolland’s champion, and his predecessor’s as well, is a hideous dwarf hunchback nicknamed Pongo (Lawful 9th level Dwarf), and despite being utterly stupid is extremely faithful and monstrously strong. Rolland defeated Pongo, in part thanks to Galathea’s treachery, in the last tournament held in Nevoshed. Pongo pledged his loyalty afterwards and has been Rolland’s faithful servant ever since. Baroness Galathea’s love for Rolland has diminished these past years, and she has become somewhat distant toward him, which grieves the baron as he still has strong love for her. While feeling connected to Nevoshed and her family’s history, Galathea does not care for baronial administration, leaving the duties to her husband, enjoying every chance she has to journey to Alpha. Taking in the pleasures a more civilized place, as well as affording her the opportunity to frolic with the men of Alpha’s court. Nevertheless, she loves her daughter Lina, wanting to raise her according to Nevoshed custom, and would never abandon Rolland or the dominion.
Relevant Possessions: Amulet of protection against undead,35 plate mail +1, ring of protection +2, two-handed sword +3.
Sources: NPC from Simone Neri’s own campaign, after an NPC of the adventure “La maledizione del divoratore d’anime” by R. Di Meglio and S. Peruzzi, in “Kaos”, an Italian fanzine of the 1990s, Issue No. 17.
Sabatio the Fiend, Lord of Somyra
Chaotic 9th level Fighter
Str 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Dex 12, Con 9, Cha 12
Appearance: Sabatio is sixty-three years old, and of average height at 5’9”, yet rotund and burly weighing 190 pounds, with a squat appearance and unattractive features. Sabatio has strong wide jaw, and low forehead with bushy eyebrows. His eyes are brown, and his hair white worn shoulder length, with a thick beard and mustache. Almost never takes off his armor, and always sports a golden coronet as a token of his authority.
Background: Sabatio de Florio was born in Oreggiano, Caurenze Principality; son of a local stonecutter. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps, Sabatio found intimidation and bullying easier, earning money taking disreputable jobs blackmailing and robbing people for his clients. Once coming of age, he enlisted in Caurenze’s army, increasing his meagre officer’s wage through extortion. Sabatio’s military career ended after he and his band robbed a man turning out to have powerful connections with the wizard elite. Sabatio and some of his men deserted instead of facing capture and trial, fleeing to Darokin. In the following years, Sabatio hired out the services of his small mercenary band to the highest bidder; typically crime kingpins, unscrupulous noblemen, and brigand chiefs; touring Darokin, Thyatis, the Heldannic Territories, and parts of the Isle of Dawn. Around 976 AC, Sabatio’s band decided to head to Norwold, a land left lawless by the last war between Thyatis and Alphatia two decades before. Hired as mercenaries, squeezing goods from peasants and plundering helpless villages, Sabatio’s band toured the eastern coast of Norwold northward. Infamously known as “the Fiend” due to the wicked and brutal actions carried out by his band. Eventually, in 982 AC, they arrived in the domain of Somyra, whose lord had been killed and being ravaged by orcs and giants descending from the Dragon Spur Hills. Utilizing a magical belt’s power found during his travels, Sabatio managed to extend control over the orc chieftains, turning them against the giants, and chasing them out of the dominion. Sabatio then decided they should seize the domain; occupying the castle of the late Alphatian lords. Sabatio claimed title of Lord of Somyra, imposing his tyrannical rule over its inhabitants. When Alphatia started recolonizing Norwold in 985 AC, “the Fiend” paid his due, secure the coasts near his dominion and Kilmik Vale to the south using his human and orc troops; earning the Alphatians’ trust. When Ericall became King of Norwold in 992 AC, Sabatio was reluctantly confirmed as Lord of Somyra, earning the lowest rank of landed nobility. Sabatio cares little about his rank so long as he is able to rule his dominion in any fashion he sees fit. Currently a widower; Sabatio leaves increasing governmental duties to his son Aloiso ‘the Hawk’ (Chaotic 6th level Fighter), a thirty-five year old possessing worse traits than his father. Aloiso is a treacherous opponent, with an interest in necromancy.
Personality: Sabatio cares about little and no one, only respecting those stronger than himself. Always scheming, he seeks to gain the upper hand in all his interactions. Constantly wary and trusting no one, including his own son and former comrades, Sabatio favors the company of his orc minions over all others. Sabatio is content to silently rule Somyra, allowing his men to abuse the local population, so long as it does not result in open rebellion. However; his men freely raid settlements outside Somyra’s borders, taking slaves to trade, and participating in any number of disreputable activities as long as blame does not reach their lord. Sabatio has neither love nor respect for King Ericall, but fears the eventual solidification of the king’s power over Norwold, doing his best to keep the king weak in order to continue his depredations undisturbed.
Dominion: The Lordship of Somyra is located on the coast south of Raiders’ Point and the Eagles’ Barrier, reaching inland toward the Dragon Spur Hills. The original dominion was colonized less than a century ago by settlers migrating from Oceansend and the Thyatian Empire, establishing the outpost of Adia. Some years after 912 AC, the small dominion was seized by Someys of Arogansa, an Alphatian exile given the task of eliminating Thyatian control over Adia by Imperial Prince Tylion, to earn a pardon for his misdeeds. Someys conquered the area, installing himself as eponymous Lord of Somyra. For over a generation Someys’ descendants ruled Somyra, ignored by the Alphatian Empire. In 980 AC, the domain came under attack from giant controlled orc tribes of the Dragon Spur Hills. The current Lord Somyra was killed, and the countryside ravaged. The dominion was spared total annihilation by Sabatio’s timely arrival. Yet falling under his iron fist, life improved little. Somyra’s population fears Sabatio and has suffered their abuses, but as the dominion was preserved, many view Sabatio’s men as the lesser evil.
The dominion includes villages along the coastal plain, and other farming settlements round Deepwater Lake, located in the southwestern forest. There the small fortified settlement of Adia is found, surrounded by a few manor houses dating back to Thyatian occupation. Three Stones’ Clearing, an ancient stone henge consisting of three standing stones, lays nearby. Local superstition considers the site cursed, and could well be true as the stones lay over an ancient Norwolder burial site, unbeknownst to most of the population. The wooded hills to the northwest are only sparsely settled, and below the mountain slopes lies a castle built by the Lords of Somyra; now Sabatio’s residence. The castle boasts many magically crafted devices left by its Alphatian lords; including magical traps, golems, and an unusual technomantic flying machine (see the sidebar) assembled by gnomes of Stoutfellow. Half the inhabitants of the dominion are descendants of Thyatian and Oceansendian settlers, with Norwolders comprising the other half. Somyra’s subjects are mostly farmers and shepherds, hunting and fishing to supplement these livelihoods.
Special Features: Aloiso has uncovered the necromantic power of Three Stones’ Clearing and is trying to discover a ritual to tap into its energy; transforming his father’s comrades into his undead minions. A now ederly Sabatio fears someone among them may rise against him, and would rather Aloiso succeed him, not realizing his son would probably dispose of him. Untrusting his own men, Sabatio prefers stationing them far from the castle, which at present is defended by his orc warriors. His only trusted advisor is Selenican mage Musad ibn Wathil (Chaotic 5th level Magic-User), nicknamed “Sepia” due his skin coloration, and is actually in league with Aloiso.
Relevant Possessions: Battle axe +2 of slicing, belt of the orc king,36 chain mail +3.
Sources: NPC from Simone Neri’s own campaign, after an NPC of the adventure “I cavalieri dell’ombra” by C.L. Pancini, B. Sidoti, and S. Peruzzi, in “Kaos”, an Italian fanzine of the 1990s, Issue No. 16.
Sidebar: Brandiggan’s Flying Machine
This odd machine was assembled by half-genius half-madman Brandiggan, a gnome from Stoutfellow. Appearing as a thirty foot long twelve foot wide boat hull, having two wood and metal wheels on the underlying side, complete with four huge mechanical wings. The front three-quarters are covered by a large cabin featuring a number of thick glass portholes, and the bow is adorned by a figurehead fashioned in the shape of a large hoopoe. The remaining rear quarter of the hull is uncovered, and appears like the deck of a normal ship.
Inside the cabin, the machine has a control panel featuring pulls, levers, rollers, and pulleys which allow the crew to move the machine’s mechanical wings. The entire contraption has a technomantic framework, built along the lines of devices Serraine’s gnomes might assemble using the Fantasy Physics General Skill from PC2, Top Ballista. The two large underlying wheels allow the machine to land freely if a long enough level landing place is present.
The flying machine has an Armor Class of 5 and 65 Hull Points. It can carry up to nine people in addition to 30,000 coins of weight. It can reach a maximum speed of six miles per hour (80’ per round) if wind strength is normal or lighter, but this speed is modified like a normal ship if the wind is stronger, behaving similar to a sailing ship during gales or storms. In order to make the machine fly, three crewmen are needed, one of which must assume the pilot’s role. The pilot must have an Intelligence score of 17 and Dexterity score of 15, or a dedicated Piloting General Skill.
The Vatski Princes
Five Vatski principalities are found in the so-called Vatskiy Rodina (“Vatski homeland”) located in the lower Ransarn River valley. These domains were created when local Vanatic clans and tribes decided to civilize over the course of the last two centuries, developing a culture and customs which are quite different from neighboring peoples, much less the Alphatians. Five larger domains are found in this region, each ruled by a knyaz – Vyolstagrad and Stamtral being the largest, with Gunvolod, Lazarsk, and Odna following – and numerous smaller dominions ruled by a boyarin. Knyaz is usually rendered in Thyatian and Alphatian tongues with the words meaning “duke” or “prince”, while boyarin is translated with “baron” or with the neologism “boyar”. Gunvolod’s ruler, being of Heldanner origin, styles himself jarl, but his Vatski subjects still use the term knyaz when referring to him.
When King Ericall established rule over Norwold, he sent emissaries to the Vatski princes of the region, asking them to join his newly founded realm. Most Vatski rulers politely received Ericall’s ambassadors, ensured alliance with Alpha, and gifted the envoys presents for the king, but refused to recognize the King of Norwold as their liege. Two however; namely the knyaz of Lazarsk and Vyolstagrad, agreed to become Ericall’s vassals if the king would support them against the rival princes. As a result, both the knyaz of Lazarsk and Vyolstagrad are titled counts in Norwold’s noble hierarchy, while other knyaz are considered allied client rulers, and treated with the respect due a landed lord in Norwold hierarchy. The rulers of Vyolstagrad and Lazarsk, as well as other Vatski princes, exclusively use the traditional title of knyaz; generating a lot of confusion at Alpha’s court, since knyaz translates to “duke” in Alphatian, still the Vatski princes are considered counts within Norwold’s hierarchy.
Note that besides the five knyaz described below, a number of lesser domains ruled by boyarin exist in the Vatskiy Rodina, in the area found between the principalities of Odna, Stamtral, and Vyolstagrad.
Avel Vankomirovich, Knyaz of Odna
Chaotic 7th level Cleric of Pearl
Str 13, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 10, Con 17, Cha 16
Appearance: Thirty years old, with ice gray eyes and fair complexion, Avel is thought attractive by most Vatski. Though of medium height he is strongly built at 5’8” and 141 pounds. Avel keeps his black hair, beard, and mustache cropped, in contrast from the traditional fashion followed by most Vatski boyarin. He also bears a large burn mark on his left arm. Avel favors furs and garments in various shades of brown; his magical ring always displayed on his left hand. The knyaz’s unusual golden crown is fashioned into a snake swallowing its tail, with an orb ornamenting its head, and is also Avel’s holy symbol.
Background: Avel is first son of Vankomir, former knyaz of Odna. Though in truth Natasha, Avel’s mother, gave birth to twins. However Vankomir, a harsh man aware ruling Odna allowed for no internal strife, had Avel’s twin taken away soon after the infant was born, abandoning him in the wilderness of the southern mountains. Neither Vankomir nor Natasha ever spoke of this, and few know the truth about the twins’ birth. Another son, Gennadiy, was born six years later. Together Avel and Gennadiy were schooled in administration and trained in combat. Vankomir also taught his sons the necessary respect shown dragonkind and the importance of their good relations in the future. During his youth, Avel grew fond of Aglaja, a boyarin’s daughter; the two becoming close friends, and eventually lovers. In 990 AC, Aglaja’s family manor was plundered by raiders from Stamtral, and she was raped and killed along with most of her family. Odna’s army, aided by a blue dragon from the Wyrm’s Head, tracked down and massacred the raiders, but for Avel’s true love it was too late. The young prince’s hatred and resentment of Stamtral only grew. In the subsequent years, Avel traveled throughout the nearby Isbreidd and Wyrm’s Head Mountains pleading the dragons help take revenge against Knyaz Stano of Stamtral, promising all Stamtral’s power and riches if they supported Avel in the future. Avel also promised to adopt Volos, the Vatski dragon-god (an alias of the Immortal Pearl) as his patron. When Vankomir died in 998 AC, Avel became knyaz of Odna. Despite pressure from his mother, and several Odna boyarin, he did not wed, saddened by the loss of Aglaja. A couple of years ago; however, he met Stasya, a beautiful and mysterious Vrodniki woman claiming to have lived among the dragons. Stasya claimed she was sent by the dragons to aid Avel in his quest for revenge, giving him the magical ring of dragonshape as gift. Stasya quickly became Avel’s most trusted advisor, and soon after his lover.
Stasya in truth is Eshritheren, a large female white dragon under suzerain of a dragon ruler of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains. This dragon king wishes control over the entire Vatskiy Rodina, using both open alliance and intimidation when appropriate. He employs subtlety as well, using his dragon subjects to infiltrate various levels of Vatski society. The magical ring Stasya gave Avel, compels the knyaz to honor his allegiance with the dragons, and Stasya is additionally charged ensuring Avel does not discard it. Stasya is often seen in Odnagrad’s court, but is absent just as often, allegedly wandering the mountainous wilderness consorting with her beloved dragons.
Avel’s mother, Natasha Savelyevna (Neutral 4th level Fighter, sixty-one years old), is concerned by Stasya’s influence over the knyaz, wanting to discover more about this mysterious woman. Avel’s younger brother Gennadiy—a twenty-four year old Neutral 10th level Fighter— though loyal fears his brother’s desire for revenge might bring hardship to the duchy. Gennadiy is popular among Odna’s subjects, and currently leads the duchy’s armed forces. He is married to Borislava Filatyevna (Lawful Normal Woman, twenty-three years old), daughter of a boyarin family. They have two children; three year old son Timofiy, and daughter Ogafia, age one year.
Personality: Avel is a self-assured, focused, and able manipulator. The tragic events of his youth molded his harsh and heartless personality. Avel is single-minded, enacting revenge upon Knyaz Stano of Stamtral his only concern; and would sacrifice all, including friends and family, to reach it. Even though Avel has become Stasya’s lover, their relationship is based on passion and mutual objectives, not true love. Avel feels he will never love again, his heart dying with Aglaja. He has completely given himself over to the Immortal Volos, whom he believes is a powerful and vindictive god, in the hopes the dragon deity might help him achieve his revenge. Avel often performs ceremonies and sacrifices to Volos in a secluded temple in his castle, surrounded only by a handful of Vatski priests. Praying dragons of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains unleash their wrath upon Stamtral. Avel secretly trades away most of Odna’s precious gold and silver, coveted by dragons in order to complete their Ceremonies of Sublimation. Obviously, the dragons have no intention of raiding Stamtral unless absolute success is guaranteed, but will defend their pawn Avel should any threat or coup endanger his role as knyaz.
Dominon: The Duchy of Odna was established in the first half of the 10th century AC, when a boyarin of the Vatskiy Rodina managed to expand his realm through marriage and conquest, enveloping nearby dominions. With Stamtral looming from the northwest, Odna existence had always been precarious. Over the years Odna has attempted alliance with Gunvolod and Vyolstagrad, to the south and northeast respectively, to halt Stamtral’s expansion. Long coveted by Stamtral the knyaz of Odna controls the mountain passes over the westernmost spur of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains’ leading from Vatskiy Rodina to Ransarn River Valley. Stamtral’s desire to conquer Odna further increased decades ago, when veins of gold and silver were discovered in the mountain slopes south of Odna. The knyaz of Odna able to dissuade Stamtral from invading only by seeking support from dragons living in the eastern mountains, promising gold and silver in return. One dragon among them even helped Odna’s soldiers thwart a number of raids launched into Odna’s territory. Withn the last few years, since Gunvolod’s alliance with Stamtral, rumor relates Odna’s new knyaz has further strengthened his alliance with the dragons, but the terms of this agreement remain shrouded in mystery.
Odna is a small domain whose population is almost entirely Vatski. Interestingly, a sizeable dwarven minority lives there, mostly immigrants come in the last fifty years after discovery of gold and silver. The dwarves manage a great deal of the duchy’s mining activity, having precise arrangements with the knyaz regulating number of mining sites, quantity of metal, and share of profit. Unintegrated with the Vatski population, the dwarves tend to keep to the mines. The duchy’s most important and largest mining settlement Zmeynk, lies in the southern foothills. Odnagrad, largest village of the domain, is the location of the knyaz’s castle and court. The few boyarin holding land in the duchy are fervently loyal to the knyaz, aware that if Knyaz Stano of Stamtral conquered Odna, they would suffer the same fate.
Special Features: Rarely entering combat in human form, Avel prefers using his magical ring, polymorphing into white dragon form. When forced to fight in human form, he makes ample use of his clerical spells, protecting and healing his troops, rather than engaging in direct combat. In melee, he wears chain mail and fights with a magical two-handed mace.
Relevant Possessions: Mace +2, ring of dragonshape.37
Sources: “The Skaufskogr and Beyond” by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” Issue No. 7.
Dagur “Widechest” Froðisson, Jarl of Gunvolod
Lawful 15th level Fighter
Str 15, Int 10, Wis 11, Dex 7, Con 12, Cha 12
Appearance: Thirty-nine years old and fair skinned, at 6’9” tall and 273 pounds, Dagur’s impressive build warrants comparison to a small giant. Broad-shouldered, large-chested, and overweight, Dagur’s enormous figure towers over even the tallest Heldanner warrior. Dagur has green eyes and long, blonde hair usually tied in a variety of braids and pigtails in Heldanner fashion, with medium-length beard and mustache. His nose, crushed by a blow during a past battle, gives Dagur a particularly unattractive face; often being compared to an orc in appearance by his enemies. Because of his large build, Dagur is slow, often assuming an off-balance stance from an old wound to his right knee. He usually wears rich, heavy furs and dark clothes, coupled with golden coronet and jeweled necklace, tokens displaying his rank.
Background: Dagur, son of Froði, is one of the hofdhingi from Stamtral; abandoning the duchy after a failed coup against its new knyaz Stano in 980 AC. Dagur, already blessed with enormous stature, was proudly raised by his father to be the ultimate warrior, claiming his son had been blessed by the Immortals with the blood of giants. In his youth, Dagur learned little else besides fierceness in battle, honing his weapon and combat skills; constantly unable to appease his insatiable appetite when not in training. Dagur was twenty-two when his father led his warband, alongside those of other Heldanner chieftains, to conquer the eastern shores of Lake Gunaald establishing the domain of Gunvolod. Like other hofdhingi, Froði seized lands in the new duchy, and he and Dagur both took noble Vatski wives belonging to local clans. As Jarl Vígharður grew older, Froði began playing a prominent role at court. One of the jarl’s army leaders, Froði managed placement of his son as captain of Vígharður’s personal guard. During those years, Dagur took part in many battles against rebel Vatski, humanoid warbands, and Vrodniki hosts from the east; becoming a respected and feared figure in the jarl’s court. Gradually receiving greater recognition by Vígharður, over his own sons. When Vígharður died in 994 AC, the Heldanner leaders quarreled amongst themselves over selection of a new jarl. Dagur challenged the late jarl’s sons for the right to rule the duchy; killing the elder, Áskell. Younger brother Hálfdan saw it better to flee finding refuge at Stamtral court. Thus, Dagur became the new jarl. His rule has been characterized by excessive force against insurrection, donations to friends and relatives, wild excess at court, and deceitful trading policies with neighboring peoples. Dagur’s finest achievement is the trade agreement struck with Knyaz Stano of Stamtral, temporarily halting the continuing enmity between Gunvolod and the northern duchy, present since 980 AC. The deal included assassination of late Jarl Vígharður’s younger son Hálfdan, mercilessly carried out by Knyaz Stano.
Both Dagur and younger brother Aðalsteinn were married to older women by their father. Widows of noble Vatski, whose husbands were killed in recent skirmishes with Heldanners. While Agrafena has adapted, Iskra has never warmed to Dagur, finding his behavior repulsive.
Dagur wife, Iskra Volyinichna (Chaotic Normal Woman, fifty-one years old), has given him two sons. Froði (Chaotic 5th level Thief, twenty years old) and Ingimar, a twelve year old boy. Dagur also has a son from a former concubine. Halldór (Neutral 6th level Fighter), already a formidable warrior at eighteen years, happens to be the jarl’s favorite son. Dagur is often seen in the company of one of his concubines, as his wife is much older. Most often gorgeous yet miserable Nadezhda (Chaotic Normal Woman, twenty-eight years old), Áskell’s widow. Now living as de facto prisoner at Dagur’s court, and forced to please her master, offered the chance she would likely murder him.
Dagur’s brother Aðalsteinn (Chaotic 13th level Thief, thirty-one year of age), is married to Agrafena Demyanovna (Neutral Normal Woman, forty years old). They have two sons; thirteen year old Úlfur, and eleven year old Þorvaldur. Aðalsteinn is an expert wilderness scout, skilled in light weapons and ranged combat, which he has taught his nephew Froði, much to Dagur’s chagrin.
Lastly, Hildur is Dagur’s and Aðalsteinn’s younger sister (Chaotic Normal Woman, thirty-one years old), and Aðalsteinn’s twin. An alluring woman, exerting great influence over Aðalsteinn, and schemes to place him on the throne. Fearing her intrigues, Dagur has recently managed to send her away, marrying Hildur with Bogatyr (Lawful 16th level Fighter, forty-eight years old), knyaz of a Vrodniki tribe living east of Gunvolod. Alliance with Bogatyr is of great importance to Gunvolod, nonetheless Hildur deeply resents her brother sending her to live with Vrodniki barbarians. Though Hildur’s honeyed persuasion is slowly bending Bogatyr’s ear in Aðalsteinn direction. Hildur promising Aðalsteinn would reward him for his support with lands and title.
Personality: Despite lawful alignment, Dagur is not a good-hearted man. Tyrannically ruling through the strength of his Heldanner warbands and their chiefs, who fervently support him. He despises dissent to his rule, and hates being made a fool. Aware he is unable to grasp the subtly stratagems of court, he has become more paranoid with the passing of years, fearing deception or betrayal, even by those close to him. Proud and vengeful, Dagur rarely forgives slights to his authority or intelligence. His honor does not well suffer failures and defeats. When his underlings suffer setbacks, punishment is usually mete out harshly. Facing defeat, he is likely to retreat; seeking revenge against opponents when finally gaining the upper hand, though through darker means if his adversary is too powerful.
Dominion: Founders of Gunvolod descend from Heldanner exiles finding asylum in the Duchy of Stamtral during the reign of Knyaz Boroda (953-977 AC). The Heldanner captains, called hofdhingi, supported Boroda; yet a rift occurred when many allied with numerous rebel boyarin switched allegiance to Stano. When Stano overthrew Boroda, the hofdhingi supporting the former knyaz initially bent the knee to Stano. But soon after, in 980 AC, stage a failed coup, forcing them to flee Stamtral to avoid persecution. The Heldanner warbands sailed upriver, following the course of the Ransarn River, finally entering Lake Gunaald; the eastern shores of which were settled by Vatski and ruled by independent boyarin. The Heldanners indiscriminately attacked these domains, quickly conquering them. Installing their strongest leader, Vígharður ‘Longbeard’, as jarl—equivalent of the Vatski knyaz or “duke”. Vígharður ruled until he died in 998 AC. The warband leaders turned feudal lords then chose Dagur as jarl.
Ruled by Heldanners, Gunvolod is unique among Vatski domains. Despite Vatski population majority, the ruling class and bulk of the militia are comprised of Heldanner mercenaries and their families. A trait Gunvolod shares with the Duchy of Stamtral to the north. Many Heldanners have taken Vatski wives, and have integrated reasonably well with the Vatski majority, despite Gunvolod’s resentful boyarin, still perceiving the Heldanners as foreign barbarians.
As is customary in Heldannic tradition, Gunvolod’s jarl is chosen by majority vote among warband leaders, most often falling upon the strongest or most battle tested among them. A jarl, in fact, is more a first among peers than a true prince. This does not mean Dagur ‘Widechest’ does not harbor dynastic ambitions, but whether one of his sons will succeed him remains to be seen.
The Duchy of Gunvolod is strategically located midway along the trade route following the Ransarn River. Both of Gunvolod’s jarls have tried improving the trading vocation of the domain, but most the Vatski inhabitants of Gunvolod are farmers and fishermen, while many Heldanners have become the traders, building sturdy smaller versions of Northman longships to sail the rivers and lakes of the region. The route east ascends upriver along the Ransarn, to a post where the river becomes unnavigable, then proceeds overland to the town of Saffir, beyond the Lirovka’s Alps. Besides the traders of Saffir, Gunvolod’s trading partners include Vrodniki tribes dwelling in the Ransarn River valley. Sparse trade is conducted between Gunvolod and the Strelets Hetmanate on the opposite shores of Gunaald Lake. The most important trade route; however, runs northward to Azure Lake and down to the halfling town of Leeha and Great Bay beyond. Gunvolod competes fiercely with Stamtral for control of the trade route.
Recently, through the mediation of a foreigner named Rurik Heilagurson (see Stamtral’s description below), Gunvolod and Stamtral have reached an agreement over trade and other issues, making the two duchies uneasy allies and freeing Stamtral from enemy threat toward the south. Since treaty with Stamtral, Gunvolod lacks many enemies, and Vrodniki tribes to the east recognize the importance of mutual trade.
Special Features: Though Dagur is an enormous man, he is big-boned and obese rather than muscular or physically powerful. His very presence exerts fear in lesser men, and while an excellent combatant with poleaxe and long sword, is not as strong as one would expect. His physique also makes him sluggish in combat, nonetheless the jarl of Gunvolod is quite capable of defeating most opponents in melee, thanks to his intense training. Dagur is also skilled with a throwing axe. Dagur prefers fighting afoot, it being quite difficult to find a horse large enough to bear him, charging into combat fearless of missile fire, thanks to his magical shirt. Donning magical splint mail without shield; Dagur usually makes use of his ball of power to terrify opponents.
Relevant Possessions: Ball of power,38 normal sword +2, ring of command,39 silken shirt of invulnerability to missile weapons,40 splint mail +2.41
Sources: “The Skaufskogr and Beyond” by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” Issue No. 7.
Nevik II Volodyich, Count (Knyaz) of Vyolstagrad
Lawful 13th level Fighter
Str 12, Int 12, Wis 7, Dex 15, Con 15, Cha 16
Appearance: Nevik II is a thirty-four year old, charming man of average height at 5’9” tall, and slender, nearly feminine build, weighing 144 pounds. He has knowing, light-green eyes, defined cheekbones, and short red hair, with full mustache and cropped beard. Nevik customarily wears rich, heavy, traditional clothes of a knyaz at court, liking excessive jewelry. The knyaz wears more practical, yet not less refined, clothes for informal occasions or combat.
Background: Nevik is younger son of Knyaz Volodya III of Vyolstagrad. Alongside brother Volodymyr, he was raised absorbing aristocratic Vatski tradition. During the Vrodniki invasion of 987 AC, Volodymyr was slain in battle, leaving Nevik as heir to Vyolstagrad. Stamtral’s machinations and expansion, after defeating the Vrodniki horde, threatened Vyolstagrad’s very existence. Leveraging the nobility’s fear of Stano, Stamtral’s knyaz, Nevik garnered their support under his banner. Brilliantly leading Vyolstagrad’s forces in skirmishes against Stamtral’s army, Nevik repelled Stano from the western border. Upon his father’s death in 989 AC, Nevik ascended as knyaz of the duchy. Aware of Vyolstagrad’s powerful and belligerent neighbor to the west, Nevik began a process of centralization, ensuring better defense and development of the realm. These measures conflicted with the boyarin’s traditional rights and privileges, which Nevik was determined to curtail. Gaining additional support from a rising mercantile and artisan class and formation of a unified Vyolstagrad church, all benefiting from his expanding sphere of influence, Nevik’s centralization plan is currently working. In part because most boyarin fear internal conflict would allow Stamtral’s armies to seize the realm. Despite the present situation, a small number boyarin are conspiring to undermine Nevik’s growing power.
Nevik II is married to Knyagynia Luba (Lawful Normal Woman), a strong mother for their two sons; Volodymyr, ten years old; and Vaclav, age six; and daughter Vesela, four years. The rest of the knyaz’s household consists of the families of his two cousins. Nadia (Lawful Normal Woman), the younger, is wife of Aethelwulf Eahlmundsson (Lawful 7th level Fighter), Chief Magistrate of the realm. Zora (Neutral Normal Woman), the elder, is married to Barnim Draganev (Chaotic 3rd level Fighter). Their son Velibor (Lawful 12th level Fighter), is Vyolstagrad’s army commander. Knyagynia Luba’s brother, Bogdan Zdravkov (Lawful 6th level Thief), administers the knyaz’s finances. Aethelwulf, Barnim, Velibor, and Bogdan are all honorary members of the knyaz’s druzhina (armed retinue) as well. Also a member of the druzhina is the knyaz’s trusted companion, Ispan adventurer Alphonso Rodophino (Lawful 14th level Fighter),42 an enormously muscled man from Thyatis, but nonetheless an extremely kind character.
Personality: Nevik’s ultimate goal is to strengthen his hold over Vyolstagrad in order to subjugate the knyaz of Stamtral, reducing that duchy to a vassal state. This would make him most powerful of the Vatski princes, and allow creation of a united Vatski realm under his leadership. Nevik considers the infighting boyarin a quarrelsome lot, keeping Vyolstagrad regressive and divided, doomed to fall under oppressive control of a foreign power. Currently Nevik considers subinfeudination under King Ericall copasetic; stalling Stano’s expansion, besides suppressing the boyarin’s opposition, and placing the knyaz in high standing within Norwold’s hierarchy. Nevik is an upright and honorable Vatski ruler trusted by his subjects, and will remain loyal to the king so long as it does not hamper his aims. Though resourceful and adaptable, the knyaz is also irresolute, vacillating, and often influenced by conflicting opinions; and therefore prone to leaving deeds unfinished and goals unrealized, despite his dream of a unified and powerful Vyolstagrad. Nevik’s vision for a united Rodina is ambitious, but only the fates can tell if he will succeed.
Dominon: Vyolstagrad is the oldest, largest and most politically stable Vatski principalities of the Rodina. Founded by Knyaz Volodya I Volodymyrovich in 840 AC, it soon grew to include many smaller domains ruled by boyarin established around the same time in the Vatskiy Rodina. Distinct from other principalities, most notably Stamtral, Vyolstagrad has had a stable government over the entire course, over a century and a half, of its existence. Its knyaz falling only once to a boyarin usurper. Current knyaz, Nevik II, inheriting the throne from his father Volodya III in 989 AC, pledging fealty to King Ericall in 994 AC; being rewarded with title of count, and countering the aggressive expansion of nearby Stamtral.
Vyolstagrad is easternmost of the Vatskiy Rodina principalities, bordering the Severnaya Polovina to the east, traversed by fierce Vrodniki tribes. North lay the Bloody Scythe and Valley of the Wind, both plagued by dangerous denizens such as dragons, humanoids, and giants. The duchy enjoys good relations with the nearby principalities of Lazarsk and Odna, and small boyarin freeholds lying southwest. Vyolstagrad’s interactions with eastern Vrodniki tribes are generally amicable, and a stable trade exists between them. Border skirmishes and invasion are infrequent occurrences nevertheless. Having recently become a trade partner of Stamtral, Gunvolod is currently mistrusted.
The duchy’s population is predominantly of Vatski descent, with a Heldanner minority. In the east, many families descend from Vrodniki clans civilizing in Vyolstagrad and becoming farmers over the last century. Vyolstagrad’s many boyarin and okolnichy (landed lords) form the Duma, an assembly typically exerting a good deal of control over the knyaz. During the reigns of Volodya III, and especially Nevik II; however, the Duma’s role has been progressively marginalized, favoring a body of appointed officials (the namestnik), having administrative authority over various districts of the duchy; in particular its towns and villages. The namestnik’s authority often conflicts with the traditional rights of local boyarin. Nevik even forbid marriage between members of the druzhina (the knyaz’s armed retinue) and the boyarin’s families, in order to prevent the latter from allying with the knyaz’s commanders. Nevik also promoted the rise of a fledgling merchant and artisan class, with the aim of using its support to augment the knyaz’s power and further curtail the aristocracy. The knyaz has also tried to strengthen the unity of the realm through formation of an organized Church of Vyolstagrad, and the building of temples devoted to the Immortals Yaro and Yara (Frey and Freyja). Nevik expects Patriarch Alexis Vatutin (Neutral 12th level Cleric of Frey) and the neonate church’s full support toward his plans of centralization.43
These developments have spurred some discontent among boyarin not represented in the druzhina, who resent the autocratic turn of the last two knyaz and would like to bring the Duma back into a prominent role in Vyolstagrad. Most boyarin; however, continue to support Nevik out of concern toward nearby Stamtral; nonetheless a couple of their colleagues have begun weaving treacherous plots with foreign forces, Stamtral above all.
Logging and farming are the main occupations of the duchy, with meagre mining operations southeast. Trade along Stryna River to Azure Lake is obstructed by the hostile Duchy of Stamtral; so the overland route through Ransarn Valley, passing through the Duchy of Odna, is commonly taken. King Ericall’s colonization decree and subsequent establishment of additional dominions, may increase traffic along the route linking the Vatski Rodina with Skogenvår. This trail travels northeast from Vyolstagrad, ascending High Pass, being the major saddle of the Bloody Scythe.
Vyolstagrad is the duchy’s fortified capital and the site of Nevik’s castle, found dangerously close to the slopes of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains, its people always on the lookout for rogue dragons, despite dragon attacks being rare. Obechek, laying in the heart of the northwestern woods, is a village famous for its archers and crossbowmen. It is also known for its bowers, fletchers and trapping and logging industries. The settlement is plagued by werewolves, unknown the local boyarin and his relatives are their leaders. The village of Depoksna, in the northeast, is trade center for exchanges with tribes of the Severnaya Polovina. The mining village of Sumarokoyva, on the eastern border, contains freemen and slaves, some bought from the Vrodniki, mining iron and gold. Bityansk and the surrounding plains produce the duchy’s grain, milk, cheese, and meat. Stryna, a beleaguered community often hit by raids from Stamtral’s reavers, is famous for the prized Strynaski horse breed. Vyzama, a fishing community on the southern border, is ruled by a boyarin puppet in the hands of the Immortal Mara’s (Hel) worshippers, promised great power after recovering a magical helm sacred to Mara, allowing him to control of vast numbers of undead. Vyzama’s priest of Hel has struck secret alliance with Knyaz Stano of Stamtral. The village of Selchnogorsky, on the southern border, is haven for every sort of fugitive, criminal and outlaw; which during a long struggle for succession over the last several years, brought to power a treacherous and evil boyarin with plans to destabilize Vyolstagrad from within, then allying himself with Stano of Stamtral.
Special Features: Nevik usually enters combat on horseback, his choice weapons include a short bow at distance, even having some skill firing from horseback, then wielding a lance closing combat. In prolonged battles, Nevik wields his legendary sword of the giants, keeping an axe as weapon of last resort, either used in melee or thrown. He commonly wears a beautifully ornate set of chain and lamellar armor, consider this armor as banded mail, preferably carrying a shield only when fighting afoot.
Relevant Possessions: Hand axe +3 of healing, sword of the giants.44
Sources: CM4 Earthshaker!, “The Skaufskogr and Beyond” by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” Issue No. 7, description of Volstagrad from the Mystara section of the Italian Games Academy forum by Corann.
Nazariy Zhucharnov, Count (Knyaz) of Lazarsk
Neutral 3rd level Fighter
Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 11, Con 16, Cha 11
Appearance: Nazariy is forty-seven years old, with a 6’2” tall fit figure, weighing 176 pounds. This contrasts with his pale sickly complexion. He has greying black frizzy hair, distrustful light brown eyes, and goes clean shaven. Nazariy, often mistaken for a girl during his youth, was praised for his “beautiful” appearance, and is still striking, albeit in an androgynous way, having a delicate triangular face, small nose, and rounded jaw. He usually wears clothing in black hues.
Background: Nazariy is first son of Zhucharn, the knyaz of Lazarsk. Growing up under the strong influence of his mother Grusha, the real ruler of the duchy. Raised together with his two younger twin sisters, Sofya and Valeriya. During his youth a submissive character made him the object of ridicule among his peers, and he came to detest the more brutal and savage traits of Vatski culture. Since a young age, his parents have attempted to prearrange marriage. Yet Nazariy showed little interest in women, neither was he interested in succeeding his father as knyaz of Lazarsk. While Grusha devoted great energy arranging profitable marriages for her daughters in order to produce an heir for Lazarsk, Nazariy spent most his time learning music, poetry, and dance. When Zhucharn died, Nazariy becoming the new knyaz of Lazarsk, Grusha still handled most administrative duties. Nazariy traveled to Alpha in 987 AC, and was fascinated by Alphatian culture; returning with a few cosmopolitan Alphatian friends; one of whom, Sarosh, became his lover. Grusha died two years later, her death threatening to sink Lazarsk into complete anarchy. Fortunately for the duchy, through marriage with the knyaz’s sister Valeriya in 987 AC, Kazimir Borisov became Nazariy’s brother-in-law. Already a powerful mage, Kazimir and his wife were determined to prevent Lazarsk falling prey to Stamtral and Zilantsk’s forces,45 and thus stepped into the knyaz’s role, obvious Nazariy uninterested in ruling. Kazimir’s initial act, in 992 AC, was forcing the knyaz to marry, signaling a change of tack in the soveriegn’s strategy to his boyarin. The old regent knyagynia having died, Nazariy at last decided to marry and produce an heir. Unfortunately, Nazariy’s arranged mate, Nika Kolzakovna, despite her best efforts, was disheartened the knyaz preferred his male lover to her bed, thus preventing conception of an heir. On the contrary, the “forced” marriage pushed Nazariy further into Sarosh’s arms, and after Nika’s arrival, he unsparingly staged dramatic acts of jealousy. Despite the failed match, Kazimir has strove to establish good relations with the Alphatians, ensuring Lazarsk’s allegiance with Alpha, and placing the knyaz’s younger brother, Viktor, at King Ericall’s court as King’s Master of Horse. Ironically, Kazimir’s seizure of Lazarsk’s régime, have made Nazariy and his ambitious lover Sarosh, envious and resentful. Today, Lazarsk is a hotbed of intrigue, where various factions of the knyaz’s family compete for power. Kazimir’s drive to make the duchy stronger, resisting Stamtral and Zilantsk’s influence, is mostly succeeding thanks to his commanding presence at court. Both Zilant and Stano fear the powerful wizard, but should Kazimir be removed…
Clan Zhucharnov is quite large. The knyaz has two twin sisters, Sofya and Valeriya. Sofya (Neutral Normal Woman, forty-five years old) is a widow, her husband having died eleven years prior; but has twin eighteen years old sons, Tikhon (Chaotic 4th level Cleric of Ixion) and Slava (Chaotic 5th level Thief). While Sofya loves her sister and believes Kazimir’s regency is best for Lazarsk, both her sons long to be knyaz. Both are so quarrelsome and selfish; however, they cannot manage to even ally with one another against common foes. Valeriya (Neutral 2nd level Thief, forty-five years old), whose first husband was an old boyarin, died eighteen years ago without giving her children. In 987 AC, she married her second husband, Kazimir Borisov (Neutral 17th level Magic-User, forty-two years old), an okolnichy and former adventurer, studying magic in Dunadale and Draco. Valeriya has four children with Kazimir. Three sons, Rostya age fourteen, Leontiy twelve, and eight year old Vadim; and a daughter Radinka, four years old. Since his marriage with Valeriya, Kazimir acts as regent of Lazarsk; considering most the Zhucharnov family unsuited to rule, and dreams of placing one of his sons upon the throne, though being more interested in the duchy’s welfare than in personal ambitions.
Zinoviy, a younger brother of the knyaz, died at sixteen in 977 AC. Nazariy’s other younger brother, Viktor (Chaotic 17th level Thief, thirty-seven years old), is a shrewd and charismatic man, managing to attain Kazimir’s trust, and through him, obtain charge as the King’s Master of Horse in Alpha. Viktor acts as Kazimir’s eyes and ears in Norwold’s capital, a vitally important role for the regent. Yet Viktor has goals of his own, planning to seize the throne of Lazarsk for himself, seeing his brother-in-law as the main obstacle in his quest. Using his position in Alpha, to Kazimir’s detriment, keeping important information from Kazimir, leaking interesting news and details to Kazimir’s foes, including Knyaz Stano of Stamtral. For now, Kazimir is unaware of Viktor’s treachery. Viktor is a megalomaniac and sees acquisition of Lazarsk as the first step toward even greater power, even dreaming of reign over Alpha! Viktor has had many affairs with women of various persuasion, but has never married, secretly in love with his sister Evgeniya (Chaotic Normal Woman, thirty-three years old), the youngest of Nazariy’s siblings. Their incestuous affair has endured since Evgeniya was twenty, managing to keep the dalliance secret. Viktor also ensured Evgeniya’s marriage to Ruslan (Neutral Normal Man, 26-years old), one of Nazariy’s former lovers, in order to keep her from other men. In fact, he is father of her children; Ksenya ten, and Olena, seven. Lately the two have curtailed their rendezvous, due to Viktor’s appointment in Alpha as court officer. Periodically he returns to Lazarsk, or Evgeniya visits him in the capital.
The current knyagynia Nika Kolzakovna (Neutral 6th level Fighter, thirty years old) hates both Nazariy and Kazimir, who persuaded her to marry the knyaz. She is trying to increase her position at court by taking an active role in government, but Kazimir is reluctant to share information because of her lack of experience and his lack of trust. Nika also endeavors to forge an alliance with Nazariy and his Alphatian lover Sarosh (Chaotic 5th level Fighter, thirty-five years old) against Kazimir. Should Nazariy finally resolve to rule, challenging Kazimir’s claim, he could afterwards banish Kazimir for alleged treason. Both the knyaz and his wife could then live as they please. Though after Kazimir’s disposal, both Nika and Sarosh would surely plan to eliminate the other. If her plan to ally with Nazariy and Sarosh fails, she might even garner the support of Tikhon or Slava and have Nazariy assassinated, making her available for another, more profitable marriage. Nika currently abates her unfulfilling sexual life entertaining handsome men of court with ephemeral affairs. Nika is additionally a skilled huntress and archer.
Personality: Nazariy is essentially a weakling. Though possessing the strength of character to bring forward a course of action, he lacks the conviction to take charge over those who oppose him. The result being he always avoids proceeding in order to escape judgment, unrealizing even that course is a decision, thereby exposing him to unfavorable opinion. Nazariy wishes only for a life faraway from his scheming family, but has never been brave enough to leave Lazarsk and resume life elsewhere. When time permits, regrettably about once a year, Nazariy enjoys travelling to Alpha to attend court entertainments. Recognizing he is unsuited to rule, Nazariy knows leaving Kazimir in charge of government is the best decision for Lazarsk, this also being the reason Nazariy is reluctant to dethrone him. Despite this, the knyaz is often coerced into hearing Sarosh’s criticisms, and to avoid displeasing his young lover, often ends up upsetting or hampering Kazimir’s work.
Dominon: The Duchy of Lazarsk was established around 940 AC by Stamtral boyarin Alexiy Zhucharnov. After being ousted from his lands, due to internal conflicts in Stamtral, Alexiy led his men to conquer the sparse Hengerian clans and Vatski settlers living in the plains southwest of Azure Lake, beyond the Ransarn River’s reach. Alexiy proclaimed himself knyaz, creating the new dominion of Lazarsk. During Alexiy’s reign, the duchy grew into an agricultural region, which started attracting immigration from Vatskiy Rodina. After Alexiy’s reign, the proceeding knyaz of Lazarsk were all weak individuals, including the duchy’s current heir. Though in actuality, Lazarsk current policies are dictated by Kazimir Borisov’s domineering personality. Shortly after Alexiy’s rule, Lazarsk fell under the influence of nearby Stamtral, paying tribute to Knyaz Boroda, ruler of Lazarsk’s more powerful neighbor. Moreover, Lazarsk had to contend with another powerful presence on its western border; draconic kingdom Zilantsk, ruled by the green dragon Zilant. Zilant held suzerain over many dragons, as well as various Hengerian clans of the Maghnar Valley. Ultimately Lazarsk’s knyaz yielded, offering Zilant tribute. Though Stamtral experienced debilitating internal strife, it was insufficient to allow cessation of Lazarsk’s tribute. Alphatia’s seizure of Norwold, and installment of King Ericall in 992 AC, presented new possibilities. Lazarsk’s knyaz decided to pledge fealty to King Ericall in AC 994, coinciding with the knyaz of Vyolstagrad’s oath. Afterwards Lazarsk stopped sending tribute to Stamtral, hoping alliance with Alpha would substantially dissuade Stamtral’s military ambitions. The tactic has been successful thus far, though the duchy has further fallen under Zilant’s sway.
The knyaz rules from his castle in the eponymous village of Lazarsk, upon the shores of Azure Lake. The rest of the duchy is cultivate fields; dotted with hamlets, thorps, and the manors of various boyarin and okolnichy. Like most the Rodina, Lazarsk’s population is mainly Vatski immigrants, while about a third of the population has Hengerian heritage. Despite the duchy’s ideal location along the trade route crossing Azure Lake, surprisingly little trade passes through Lazarsk, as Stamtral and Gunvolod to the south, defend their lake trade more actively, having larger armed fleets. Fishing is the only other activity of the duchy. The knyaz’s brother-in-law, Kazimir Borisov, is pressuring Alpha to increase Alphatian presence in the Azure Lake region, in order that Lazarsk have more opportunity to compete with Zilantsk and Stamtral, besides allaying their military presence.
Special Features: Nazariy disdains combat preferring flight or surrender. He gleaned some fighting ability in his youth, his father Zhucharn forcing him to drill under one of his best warriors, but has long abandoned any training with edged weapons. Nazariy ordinarily carries a magical dagger and naught else. When hunting, he dons leather armor and wields a bow, the only weapon he operates proficiently.
Relevant Possessions: Dagger +1, ring of protection +2.
Sources: “The Skaufskogr and Beyond” by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” Issue No. 7.
Stano Bolemirov, Knyaz of Stamtral
Chaotic 15th level Fighter
Str 13, Int 11, Wis 15, Dex 10, Con 13, Cha 13
Appearance: Forty-five years old, Stano has a rugged, tough and potbellied exterior, reaching 5’11” and weighing 198 pounds. Stano’s complexion is tanner than usual among Vatski. He has a long face with round chin, large reddish nose betraying a strong drinking habit, and droopy hazel eyes. Stano has curly brown hair worn short, and a thick beard and mustache as is customary among Vatski nobility. His clothes are usually quite tacky, preferring they be vividly dyed. Among his favorite jewelry is an eye-catching ivory earring.
Background: Firstborn son of Bolemir, a powerful boyarin of Stamtral who married a woman of Heldanner descent, at only twenty years of age, Stano rose to the throne through an alliance of boyarin and Heldanner mercenary captains; ousting the previous knyaz, Boroda, in 977 AC. Stano’s family was already very powerful in Stamtral, and Stano’s mixed heritage contributed to his rise, amenable to Vatski noblemen and Heldanners alike. Soon after; however, Stano managed to shed the yoke of boyarin’s control, playing rivals against one another, while preserving the greater duchy’s military cooperation. Since his first years as ruler, Stano has shown possession of the best, some would say worst, Vatski traits; being a cruel and merciless warrior, feared leader, and cunning conspirator. Thanks to outright military support, he was able to quell opposition, employing the most treacherous means without fear of retribution; having Blackrock’s boyarin poisoned then replaced with his cousin, an ally of Stano. Leading Stamtral’s military forces in many battles throughout his reign, Stano’s most successful exploit was routing the Vrodniki host which invaded the Vatskiy Rodina in 987 AC. Despite loss of control over the Duchy of Lazarsk, whose knyaz pledged fealty to King Ericall, Stano has managed to establish alliance with many of the independent boyarin of the Vatskiy Rodina. His spies have infiltrated the neighboring Duchy of Vyolstagrad, weaving intrigue and discontent; and he has made overtures toward Thyatian agents, promising allegiance, with the goal of expanding Stamtral into a united Vatski kingdom, with himself as king.
Stano’s wife Knyagynia Rikissa (Neutral Normal Woman), is a forty year old charmer with expensive tastes. She is drawn to power, skillfully playing on her husband’s narcissism to influence his actions. Rikissa is stern and protective toward their four children. The eldest, Olga (Lawful Normal Woman, twenty-four years old), is a beautiful young woman despising her parents’ thirst for power, along with her current suitors; Ivor Heimgarlsson (see below) and son of Blackrock’s boyarin, Oleg Butrinev. She has instead instigated a secret affair with Rurik Heilagursson (see below). Olga’s younger sister, rebel Radmira (Chaotic Normal Woman, sixteen years old), is envious of her older sister. Next is ten year old Brana, a precocious little girl. The youngest, and prospective heir, is their only son. Eight year old Borimir is afflicted by a vengeful curse laid upon Stano by a Vrodniki shaman, when after defeat of the Vrodniki horde, the knyaz brutally impaled a Vrodniki infant with his lance as a cautionary warning. The curse foretold Stano’s only son would bleed profusely, to wash away his father’s sin, and that only a Vrodniki shaman’s magic could ease his pain. In fact, Borimir suffers hemophilia, needing herbal concoctions to stop the bleeding, with all clerical healing seemingly unable to help him. Only the spells of ostracized Vrodniki shaman Gorshavin (Neutral 13th level Shaman) seem to help him. Owing to his divine power, Gorshavin has found refuge in Stamtral, and is now a stable presence at Stano’s court. He is adored by Borimir and Brana, and has become confident and ally of Knyagynia Rikissa.
Personality: Stano is cruel and merciless, as is expected by the worst Vatski boyarin. Driven only by an unrestrained ambition to increase his power, fed by his egotism, Stano would sacrifice almost anyone and anything to further his goals. His youthful conduct as military commander, earned the respect of his brutal mercenaries, and fear from Stamtral’s nobility and subjects. Stano is cunning, pursuing his aims with icy determination, though volatile and quick to anger.
Stano’s goal is to raise Stamtral’s status to one of the most powerful realms of central Norwold, conquering rival Vatski duchies, Vyolstagrad in particular, in the process. Additionally subjugating smaller freeholds of the Rodina, and subduing the Vrodniki tribes of the Severnaya Polovina, making them his vassals. In the end, he foresees the Vatski Rodina as a large and powerful realm independent from Alpha, with himself as first Vatski monarch. Since coming to power, Stano has planned plots to weaken his more powerful neighbors, and conducted conspiracies to subvert weaker ones. Through blackmail and bribes, he has already struck alliance with several free boyarin of the southeast, of whose sons and daughters are “guests” at Stamtral’s court. He has contact with Viktor Zhucharnov, the ambitious and dangerous brother of Lazarsk’s knyaz living in Alpha. Stano has also played on the discontent of some of Vyolstagrad’s boyarin, hoping to sufficiently destabilize the duchy, allowing easy conquest. If this weren’t enough, he also entertains offers from Thyatian spies.
Only one thing worries Stano; the issue of succession. Due to Borimir’s failing health, should the boy die, Stano’s eldest daughter Olga would inherit the throne. Thus, Olga’s marriage constantly occupies the knyaz’s thoughts. Stano wants marry her to son of Blackrock’s boyarin or leader of his cavalry, Ivor Heimgarlson; but Olga loathes them both.
Dominon: The Duchy of Stamtral is one of two major Vatski principalities in the Vatskiy Rodina. It encompasses the entire southeastern shore of Azure Lake as well as much of the surrounding forest. The duchy was created around 900 AC, when Knyagynia Rada unified various Vatski tribes and clans of the area into one political entity. Her line quickly died out, and Stamtral’s saga over the last century is one power struggles and bloody coups between military factions and the noble elite. The last coup brought a young Stano to power in 977 AC. Fierce and feared even at the time, Stano managed to secure his throne despite opposition of a number of boyarin, whom he later coldly cut down.
Stamtral’s population includes a sizeable immigrant Heldanner minority, since from 953 AC mercenary bands have fled from Hattian conquest of the Heldann Freeholds. Most of those immigrants, and their descendants, live in settlements in Stamtral and Blackrock along the shores of Azure Lake. Despite common history and intermarriage in the last half-century, many Vatski still consider the Heldanner foreigners. More than one ruling boyarin in the eastern half of the duchy look down on them as crude barbarian warriors, unworthy of a place among Vatski society. Currently, hostile feelings toward Heldanners have been silenced, Knyaz Stano’s family intermarrying with Heldanners in the past. Yet those secretly opposing him, cite his Heldanner heritage as one of many reasons Stano is unsuitable as knyaz.
The duchy’s economy is agricultural, also exploiting the plentiful fish and timber resources. Stamtral also enjoys a desirable location along the trade route running from Ransarn River valley to Leeha and Great Bay; however, Stamtral’s knyaz has never invested much effort on improved trade. The duchy’s power is quite centralized, ruled with an iron fist by the knyaz and his army. Boyarin and okolnichy (landed lords) mostly with military backgrounds, and a number of Heldanner mercenary captains, called hofdhingi, round out the nobility; making the Duma, the nobles’ parliament, subservient to the knyaz’s will. The knyaz’s castle rests in the town of Stamtral, found at the point of the Ransarn River’s entry into Azure Lake. Other boyarin control parts of the duchy, but most are closely aligned with Knyaz Stano. The duchy is seen as one of the most aggressive in the Vatskiy Rodina; and until 994 AC, the Lazarsk’s knyaz paid tribute rather than face conquest. Stamtral possesses a steadfast army, of which the cavalry force is most feared. Led by an unforgiving man of Heldanner origins, Ivor Heimgarlson, uncompromisingly enforcing the will of his liege throughout the duchy, often leading his men on raids against neighboring dominions.
Special Features: Stano rarely takes the field, but despite lack of training over the last few years, he does not frown upon entering combat. When doing so, Stano uses his magical bridles with deadly cunning, converging on his victims from above. Entangling them with his net, he then finishes opponents with his magical sabre. Stano’s favorite combat tactic is to brandish his sabre astride his horse, but is also skilled with use of the lance and spear.
Ivor Heimgarlson (Chaotic 16th level Fighter), leader of Stamtral’s cavalry and the knyaz’s lieutenant, is as ambitious as Stano himself; hoping for Stano’s consent to marry daughter Olga as reward for his services. Once securing his ties to the throne, Ivor will first eliminate shaman Gorshavin, then the knyaz and his wife, finally finishing off young Borimir; though not necessarily in that order if other opportunities arise. Afterwards his ascension as the new knyaz would be certain. Ivor is charged with keeping up contact with Viktor Zhucharnov and the malcontent boyarin of Vyolstagrad. He anticipates help from those men given the right moment, assuring his rule of a much larger Stamtral, which encompasses neighboring lands as well.
Unfortunately, a newcomer stands in the path of Ivor’s success; Rurik Heilagursson (Neutral 13th level Fighter). Rurik is former member of the Antalian Guard,46 being employed as one of Thyatis’ agents in Norwold. His superior is Longtooth, one of the claimants showing up in Alpha on the occasion of Norwold’s Land Rush recently announced by King Ericall. Rurik has been given the task to establish ties between Thyatis and willing Vatski princes, fostering animosity from Alpha’s control. Rurik has managed to integrate himself into Stano’s court after having successfully mediated a trade agreement with the Duchy of Gunvolod, to the south. Rurik makes no secret of his past affiliation with the Antalian Guard, and has enthralled Stano with tales of Thincol Torion’s deeds, including those of ancient Thyatian emperors, particularly Zendrolion I. Historical figures Stano considers prime examples and past successes of political cynicism to be emulated. Currently, Rurik works to persuade the knyaz to improve the duchy’s military forces, readying Stamtral for conquest of neighboring principalities, coaxing Stano to entrust him with this task. In the meantime, Rurik has met the knyaz’s daughter Olga, and the two have fallen in love, beginning a secret affair. Despite the assumed secrecy, Olga’s affection for Rurik is quite evident at court. As Rurik’s feelings are sincere, this turn of events might hinder his mission. In fact, Rurik’s presence has made an enemy of Ivor Heimgarlson, seeing Rurik both as a rival for Stano’s favor and Olga’s affection.
Relevant Possessions: Bridle of soaring,47 chain mail +3 of energy drain, net +1 of flying, normal sword (sabre) +4.48
Sources: CM4 Earthshaker!, “The Skaufskogr and Beyond” by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” Issue no. 7, description of Stamtral from the Mystara section of the Italian Games Academy forum by Corann.
1 The reasons behind choosing to have CM1’s Spring Fair set in this year are explained in footnote 1 of the first installment of this article, The Great Land Rush of Norwold, featured in “Threshold” No. 7, Page 124.
2 I used Ericall’s height from the Poor Wizard’s Almanac series. In Dawn of the Emperors he was 1” shorter.
3 Dawn of the Emperors describes the king as belonging to the “pure Alphatian strain, pale of complexion, black hair and eyes”, while in the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs he is “Hair: Brown. Eyes: Brown. [...] Copper-skinned [...]”, and in the novel Rogues to Riches he has “bronze skin, piercing brown hair, and dark hair”. The king’s black-and-white picture found on page 11 of CM1 Test of the Warlords, instead, portrays him with fair hair and eyes. I chose to disregard the Dawn of the Emperor description, because the other sources are more or less consistent with each other.
4 In CM1 Test of the Warlords, Landfall is described as a “dominion”, and Lernal as its “lord” in a couple of passages; thus, I chose to make Lernal the Duke of Landfall, besides assigning him the governorship of the larger province around the town. This is also consistent with the fact that Lernal, the king’s half-brother, should have a higher noble rank than other Norwold lords, and thus would be the only duke of the realm at the moment.
5 The character of Erise comes from the novel Rogues to Riches, set in AC 1010. In the book, the girl is of a marriageable age, around 18 years old, so her birth must be set around AC 992; for this reason I changed Erise’s and her mother’s origins from the ones featured in [http://pandius.com/landfall_gaz.pdf, GAZF8 The Streets of Landfall (by JTR)].
6 [http://pandius.com/landfall_gaz.pdf, GAZF8 The Streets of Landfall (by JTR)] gave in depth details about Landfall’s criminal guilds; according to the GAZF, the two guilds which control Lernal would be Prince Joffa and La Familia Nostra.
7 Dolnarys is listed as Admiral of the Royal Fleet in module M2 Vengeance of Alphaks.
8 Finnister makes an appearance as trusted personal advisor to King Ericall in module M5 Talons of Night.
9 The character of Martigan comes from the (http://pandius.com/alm.html, Mystaran Almanac series); There, he is granted the dominion of Ersenbal on Walrus Island in AC 993, getting involved in a series of plots regarding the northern Foresthome elves, and then taking part in the war between Thyatis and Alphatia (1005-1009 AC) earning the rank of General in the Alphatian army, and eventually returning to Norwold in 1010 AC. While in the series he is listed as a Fighter, his original write-up in the Mystara Mailing List featured him as a Magic-User, which seems more fitting considering his later role as Alphatian General. Also, in this article Martigan does not yet rule a dominion, most likely receiving title to it after the wars against Thyatis featured in modules CM1 Test of the Warlord and M2 Vengeance of Alphaks, or the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set.
10 Use the advancement table and rules found in GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim, page 64, but with the normal Magic-User spell list. The character of Ori makes a brief appearance in the novel “Rogues to Riches” by J.R. King, set in 1010 AC. There, Ori is Ericall’s court magist and scribe. Madiera likely returned to Alphatia or was killed in the intervening years.
11 Mechanics for Elven Clerics under the BECMI rules are found in The Voyage of the Princess Ark - Part 25: Of Blood and Steel by B. Heard, in “Dragon Magazine” #178, Vol. XVI, No. 9 (February 1992).
12 This character is briefly mentioned in “Adventures in the Frozen North” by M. Fleet, in “Threshold” Issue No. 2, Page 131.
13 King Lornce’s surname is reported as N’Jozee in Dawn of the Emperors, and as M’Jozee in the Poor Wizard’s Almanac series. Likely the difference between the two stems from a lack of precise rules in transliteration between the Alphatian and Thyatian alphabets.
15 Rodnox is mentioned as the Regent Pass garrison commander both in CM1 Test of the Warlords and M2 Vengeance of Alphaks.
16 Here and in the rest of this article, the term “Norwolder” refers to a specific ethnic group. See my article A Traveller’s Guide to Norwold, in “Threshold” Issue No. 7, pages 50-51 for more details.
17 The character Viktor comes from the module CM4 Earthshaker! Set in the future with regard to this article, where he appears as one of the villains and is described as a “boyar” and a “nobleman” at Ericall’s court. I tied him to the ruling family of Lazarsk after an idea of Giampaolo Agosta’s.
18Alaniras’ ancestors could have been Alphatians from the Isle of Dawn, since they utilize a surname; a naming convention mainland Alphatians do not employ. Also, Beriak’s sister, a canon NPC from module CM1 Test of the Warlords - Christina Marie - clearly has Thyatian or at very least Dawnian roots, which are more easily applicable if the Alaniras’ origins can be traced back to Dunadale or Hillvale. The family could have migrated to Stonewall in the last century or two, keeping various customs, including naming traditions, from their ancestral homeland.
19 This character is described in CM1 Test of the Warlords.
20 Some people also say that Beriak invited a couple of gold dragons to live in the eastern mountains, in order to keep the dangers of the Ljallenvals at bay; it seems that these gold dragons receive a small amount of Draken's yearly income to patrol the region and eliminate dangerous monsters before they spread mayhem across the county.
21 Functions like a buckle of armor; see AC4 Book of Marvelous Magic, page 21.
22 This bastard sword, called “Red Scourge”, is a Therimar family heirloom.
23 The Faith of the Seven is the official religion of the Kingdom of Bettellyn. See [http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-alphatian-province-of-bettellyn.html, The Alphatian Province of Bettellyn (by B. Heard)].
25 Theobold’s dagger is called “Fang”, while his sword is called “Trollbane”. Both are old Dawnian weapons forged to repel humanoids and monsters of Bogland. Wounds inflicted by these weapons cannot be healed through regeneration.
26 This amulet grants the wearer immunity to all charm-like, mind controlling and reading spells and effects cast by spellcasters of 7th level or lower, or by monsters with seven or less HD. It also grants a +3 bonus on saving throws against all other charm-like, mind controlling and reading effects.
27 These gauntlets allow the wearer to deliver once per round, three times daily, a powerful electrical shock which may also be channeled through weapons the instant they hit their target. Each shock deals 1d8+6 points of damage. When donning the gauntlets, small non-damaging electrical sparks run across their surface.
28 See AC4 Book of Marvelous Magic, page 21.
29 If the user utters the command word and names a place, this magical compass immediately points its needle toward that location. The compass does not function underground.
30 This periapt repels all undead aquatic creatures; mesmers, velyas, devilfishes, and undead animated from those lost at sea; at a distance of ten feet from the wearer. Creatures forced inside this radius fight with a -2 penalty on attack rolls.
31 See boxed text.
32 See AC4 Book of Marvelous Magic, page 30.
33 This sword, called “Djinnslayer”, grants a +4 bonus to hit and damage rolls against djinn and efreet. Moreover it deals double damage against lesser and greater djinn.
34Ragnar’s sword is called “Talon” and allows its wielder to cast fly two times per day.
35 This amulet grants a +2 bonus on saves against undead special attacks --a ghoul’s paralysis, vampire’s gaze, etc. It also enables the wearer to avoid the effects of special attacks from undead which do not usually permit a saving throw (such as energy drain) if successfully making a save versus Spells with a -2 penalty.
36 Recovered by Sabatio in the Final Range, this belt was fashioned for an orc king of old. It grants the wearer powers identical to a ring of protection +1. Additionally, the wearer gains a +3 bonus on reaction rolls toward bugbears, goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs; and is able to cast mass charm at will. The maximum number affected by the charm at any given time is 100 Hit Die.
37 This beautiful platinum ring features a diamond carved in the shape of a dragon’s head. It allows the wearer to shape change into a small white dragon once per day. The effect functions identically to the 9th level magic-user spell shapechange, having a duration of one turn. The ring is also “cursed”, forcing an automatic friendly reaction toward dragons from the wearer, as if under the effects of a charm spell cast by the dragon in question. This curse acts involuntarily even if the wearer is unaware a dragon is present. For example, if the dragon has taken human form. The ring acts as a cursed item when trying to liberate the bearer from its effects.
38 See AC4 Book of Marvelous Magic, page 12.
39 This magical ring enables the wearer use of three charm-like powers, each of which consumes some of the ring’s 12 remaining charges. Though the ring is capable of being recharged by a magic-user. The three powers only function on humanoid creatures ogre-sized or smaller. The first, through expenditure of one charge, allows the wearer to issue a single-word command which a chosen target within hearing range is obliged to follow in the next round. Creatures with an Intelligence score of 13 or higher, or with 5 HD or more, are entitled a save vs spells to avoid effect. The second, allows the wearer to expend two charges to cast a charm spell, identical to the 1st level magic-user spell, yet lasting one full day. Additional charges may be spent to extend the spell’s duration one additional day per charge used. The third, allows the wearer to use two charges, implanting a suggestion in the target’s mind, forcing them to obey a course of action for one hour. Each additional charge spent extends the duration another hour. Targets of the second and third powers are entitled a save vs spells to resist the effects.
40 This magical silken shirt is worn beneath armor, and it grants the wearer total immunity from any type of non-magical missile weapon damage; acting like a permanent protection from normal missiles spell.
41 Splint mail is simply chain mail reinforced through the addition of vertical overlapping metal plates over the torso, arms, and legs. It should be considered identical to banded mail for game purposes.
42 Alphonso (or Alfonso) was featured in CM4 Earthshaker! as one of the pre-generated PCs. His level has been lowered to reflect the adventure takes place several years after the Great Land Rush.
43 The newfound Church of Vyolstagrad is based in the Duchy of Vyolstagrad, and its main temple is located in the domain’s capital. The Church reveres nature in all its various manifestations, considering its main Immortal patrons divine twins in the Vatski pantheon, Yaro and Yara (Frey and Freyja). The Church is a sort of formalized druidic hierarchy, and is considered part of the larger Druidic Circle of Norwold, including both regular clerics and druids. Its patriarch and high priests often perform ceremonies in concert with druids across Norwold. Knyaz Nevik II vied for the church’s establishment and consolidation to counter the influence and political power of the most politically active religious leaders in the area preaching traditional Vatski Immortals. The Church is popular among the common people, but priests of conventional Vatski Immortals - as well as their allies in the aristocracy - do not view its presence favorably.
44 This powerful ancient weapon was brandished by Nevik’s ancestor, and founder of Vyolstagrad’s ruling dynasty, Volodya I. According to legend, the weapon was crafted by giant weaponsmiths for Osmund, a mythical Antalian hero. The weapon glows with a faint golden light and functions as a normal sword +5, automatically severing a target’s head on an attack roll of a natural 18-20, or a 19-20 if the target is larger than man-sized, and is only successful on a roll of 20 if the victim is metal or stone. In addition, its wielder can breathe and act normally underwater, as if on land, even if restrained by spells such as web, hold person, slow.
45 Zilantsk is a draconic kingdom found west of Lazarsk; see The Skaufskogr and Beyond, by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” Issue No. 7.
46 The Antalian Guard is an elite fighting force of the Thyatian Empire, and de facto personal bodyguard of the Emperor, traditionally made up by warriors of northern ethnicity, hailing from the Northern Reaches, Heldann, and Norwold. The Antalian Guard traces its origins back to the end of the 7th century AC, when current emperor Giovanni I Porpora - using the (http://pandius.com/thy_hist.html, History of the Thyatian People [by J. Ruhland]) - decided to return home with the regiment of northern mercenaries he had gathered during his days as adventurer and imperial general.
47 See AC4 Book of Marvelous Magic, page 20.
48 Stano’s sabre “Dragonrage” is an heirloom from the time of Rada, first knyagynia of Stamtral. The sword’s power can be used three times per day, each use granting its wielder a choice of the following powers: (a) an additional attack during a single combat round; (b) causing fear in all creatures within 30’ of the wielder; (c) shooting a 60’ long line of fire dealing 6d6 points of damage, or half that amount if successfully saving vs. dragon breath.