Warlords Of Kruhl 3e EN:Setting
The World Of Kruhl
Warlords Of Kruhl is set in the world of Kruhl. Kruhl is wide and deep, populated by savage beasts and monstrous creatures. Civilization is an isolated and often temporary condition: the natural state of Kruhl is wilderness.
Countless civilizations have risen and fallen across the face of Kruhl, their remnants buried by the shifting of mountains, hidden within primeval forests, and waiting in the watery silence beneath the waves. Only two of these ancient civilizations are known by name: the Khultheans and the Thane.
No one knows what the Khultheans were like, nor even if they were human. All that remains of them are their ruins, which spread across northern Archaea. Most of these ruins are little more than crumbled stone with carvings in the inscrutable Khulthean language, but from time to time a hitherto-unknown ruin is discovered, and who knows what may be found within? Popular folklore says that finding an inscription in Khulthean is bad luck.
Some time after the fall of the Khultheans, the Thane arose. Most believe they were human, or nearly so. The Thane spread their culture and their language scross western Archaea, unifying all of the human kingdoms under their banner. The Thane ushered in an epoch of peace and prosperity -- or so the legends say. A cataclysm ended the hegemony of the Thane, although the written records from that time never describe the event in detail. The heritage of the Thane persists in the languages and religions of Archaea, many of which are founded upon those of the Thane.
A generation ago, a plague swept through the western lands of Kruhl... the Scourge.
No one knows what or who caused the Scourge. No medicine or magic was proof against it, and all who caught it died within a few months. Some people fled to isolated castles to escape it, while others closed the gates to their towns and cities to prevent it from coming for them. Nothing worked. There was no escape.
In a little over three years, the Scourge killed four-fifths of the population. Towns were left abandoned, castles became tombs, and the Khuraghol Empire fell silent.
Then, as suddenly as it began, the Scourge ended. The survivors gathered in small settlements, and began putting their lives back together.
Karelia is a cold, predominantly human country at the northwest edge of the Khuraghol Empire, bordered by the Great Western Sea to the west and the Varangian Gulf to the north. Its diverse terrain spans rocky beaches, old-growth forest, and vast bogs, in addition to hundreds of nearby islands.
Across the Varangian Gulf is the predominantly human country of Varangia, named for the Vaeringjar who live there. Varangia's frigid terrain includes mountains, glaciers, and deep coastal fjords.
The southern boundary of Karelia is defined by the Urtasvaara Mountains, so named for the dwarven kingdom of Urtasvaar, which extends deep under the mountains. The Urtasvaara Mountains stretch along the border between Karelia and Miravore, from the Great Western Sea to far within Khuraghol.
South of the Urtasvaara Mountains is the predominantly elven country of Miravore (or as the elves call it, Miruvorenande, meaning roughly, "valley of sweet wine"). Its landscape is marked by wide beaches and dense, sprawling forests.
Barter is the most common form of exchange, but wealthy merchants mint metal coins to facilitate trade. The most common of these coins in human lands are the gold sol, the silver luna, and the copper grain, but every variety of coin in every land has a different proper name. For this reason, coins are often referred to as simply "gold", "silver", and "copper", particularly by travelers who have no interest in remembering the official names for dozens of different coins.
- A "gold" (g) is a coin of gold or (more commonly) gold mixed with silver, large enough to cover the sun when held at arm's length (about the size of a US dime). A gold is worth 10 silver. There are approximately 29 gold to the kilogram.
- A "silver" (s) is a coin of silver, large enough to cover the sun when held at arm's length (about the size of a US dime). A silver is worth 10 copper. There are approximately 54 silver to the kilogram.
- A "copper" (c) is a coin of copper or bronze, large enough to completely cover an adult human's eye (about the size of a US quarter). There are approximately 16 copper to the kilogram.
- A "copper bit" (cb) is one-quarter of a copper coin. A copper bit is worth roughly enough food to keep one person alive one day (just barely). There are approximately 64 copper bits to the kilogram.
There are a score or so major gods, and hundreds of minor gods. Each town, village, or even crossroads also has a patron god, which is usually a minor god concerned only with that location.
With the exception of priests, it is extremely unusual to find someone who reveres only a single deity. You are as likely to find someone who eats only oats, or wears only green. It does stand to reason that a midwife would make offerings to Anasara (goddess of families and fertility) more frequently than to Skudra (god of smiths and of scholars), but the gods all have different areas of influence, and it would make no sense for a typical person to reject all others in favor of a single deity.
Priests are another matter. Priests do devote themselves to a single deity, or to a small group of related deities, and they might place themselves in opposition to priests of an opposing deity. But a priest of Anasara would still pray to Azif when trying to light the hearth on a cold winter morning.
To put it another way, someone who works for one brewery might refuse to drink the beer from a competing brewery, but they still drink water, wine, and so on.
Everyone knows that magic and sorcerers are real, but most normal people rarely see them. Someone flaunting their magical powers is likely to elicit a combination of wonder, fear, and hostility.
|Goblin||Goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, ogres||Runic|
|Deep Speech||Aboleths, cloakers, troglodytes||Khulthean|
|Mabrahoring||Demons, devils, dragons||Mabrahoring|
|Sylvan||Fey and associated creatures||Elesil|
|Thieves' Cant||Thieves, assassins||(Symbols for basic concepts)|
|Zinjan||Zinjan||(Symbols for basic concepts)|
Archaean is the common script used by the nations of Archaea (i.e., Thrace, Rugeland, Vharsa, and among the Kurags), and by the few nonhumans who mingle in those predominantly-human societies.
Elesil may be the oldest written script on Kruhl -- certainly, the elves claim so. It is used by the various elven cultures, as well as by corven, and fey folk and associated creatures.
Khitaj is the script used throughout the nations of Khitai (i.e., Scythia, Cinnabar, Kazarahn, and Symeria).
Khulthean is a dead language which exists only in the form of writing on ancient scrolls and monuments. It was the primary language of a civilization which once spread over most of northern Kruhl. Popular folklore says that finding an inscription in Khulthean is bad luck.
Mabrahoring is an ancient language known mainly by wizards, demons, dragons, and other such entities who value linguistic precision. Mabrahoring is an extraordinarily formal language, and it is quite difficult for a human to pronounce it properly.
Runic is an ancient script, possibly predating Thane. It is in use by a wide variety of cultures, including those of dwarves, giants, goblins, and some humans such as the Vaeringjar.
Shaen (sometimes called Jayen) is a logographic script used exclusively by druids. It has no verbal component, and is strictly a written language. Druids are very protective of the secret of Shaen, and only teach it to other druids. Some ecclesiastical scholars theorize that Shaen is an offshoot of Volex Pem.
Thane (sometimes called High Archaean) is an ancient language from which most modern human languages derive. Several religious texts are written in the Thane alphabet, and many of the larger and more respected religious sects use Thane during their rituals and ceremonies.
Thieves' Cant has no written script, although its speakers do use pictographs to communicate with each other by way of a system of cryptic signs, which are chalked in prominent or relevant places to clandestinely alert other speakers of Thieves' Cant about important local information. For example, a triangle with hands indicates, "resident is armed and dangerous".
Volex Pem is an ancient logographic language, older and less commonly used than Thane. Some of the most ancient and revered religious texts are written in Volex Pem, but it is rarely used in public rituals.
The zinjan of the Mrisinnian jungles speak a sibilant language which is difficult for non-zinjan to learn. The zinjan have no written script, although they do use pictographs to record the history of their tribes and their leaders. They also use pictographs to mark dangers or leave scouting notes for other zinjan. For example, a drawing of three spears over a wavy line indicates, "clean water may be found three spear-throws distance in that direction".
The fate of Archaea is guided by a small number of powerful people, called paragons. As the centuries pass, their titles may change, and the individuals who hold those titles may pass them to new generations, but the power and the influence of the paragons continues.
Khorvash of Symeria appears to be a human in late middle age, but he was present for the coronation of the last three Underkings, and he has been an advisor to the Emperor for as long as anyone in the imperial court can remember. Although human, his loyalties go beyond race or civilization: his ultimate loyalty is to Archaea itself. His counsel is always true, but it does not always serve the best interests of those he advises. For this reason, he is greatly respected, but never entirely trusted.
The Black Queen
Regine the vampire is the self-styled queen of the damned, and there are few who would dare to contest the title. Although she has no respect for life, and little affection for the living, she is an ironically stabilizing force on the legions of the undead. She values her own pleasure and longevity above all, and she is never as merciless as when dealing with an undead that threatens the security of her existence.
There has always been a Champion: the lone warrior who walks the world of Archaea, never seeking conflict, yet somehow always encountering those who are beset by injustice. Where there is a fight so that the hungry can eat, the Champion will be there. Where there is an overseer beating a laborer, the Champion will be there. And when what was wrong has been set right again, the Champion will laugh, and say goodbye, and walk toward the next people who need him. The current Champion is a khul named Prakash. He did not seek this burden: no Champion ever does. He accepts it because he can, and because it is his nature to do so.
The Demon King
Mephistoroth, the Demon King, leads the Ravenous Horde -- the demon beast army, which waits en masse just beyond the horizon of the world of Archaea. The Ravenous Horde exists to rape, corrupt, and consume, not just people, but entire planes of existence. Worlds beyond counting have been devoured by the Ravenous Horde, and if Mephistoroth has his way, Archaea will be next. He has yet to be able to open a burning gate large enough or persistent enough to establish a permanent beachhead for the demon beast invasion of Archaea, but it is only a matter of time.
Wei Xiaodan is the most recent Ilwraithe Emperor in a line going back thousands of years: only the ice elves can claim a longer unbroken chain of succession. A young man, even by human standards, he is nonetheless a keen judge of character and a brilliant strategist. In a different world, he might have been a conqueror, or perhaps a merchant prince. Born into the royal family of Wei, heir to the Throne Of The Golden Phoenix, Xiaodan had a different destiny. He spends the bulk of his days analyzing intelligence reports, and dealing with internal unrest and external threats to the Empire.
The High Druid
Rhonwen of Eidyn is the most recent individual to earn the rank of High Druid. All druids are the voice of the animals, the hands of the earth, and the guardian of the trees, but the High Druid is not merely the head of her order. She is the embodiment of nature in Archaea. Her will is the will of the land, of the sky, and of the myriad creatures which grow, crawl, swim, or fly in between. She is the speaker of fire, the shaper of earth, the mover of water. She is quite possibly the single most powerful mortal in Archaea.
In each age, there is a single Zinjan who is the uncontested master of stealth and bloodletting: she is the Hunter. That Hunter is Zuri. Some say that the Hunter does not always kill her quarry, but that is probably wishful thinking. Zuri may be paid to hunt someone, but that is not why she hunts them. Someone who has enemies may find themselves hunted by Zuri, but that is not why she hunts them. Zuri may be hunting a notorious criminal, but that is not why she hunts them. Zuri does not care if the quarry is guilty or innocent, worshipped or reviled. Zuri hunts for sport.
The Pirate Queen
The seas of Archaea are the kingdom of the Pirate Queen, Zelda. Zelda is a rarity: a stone dwarf who left the darkness of the Mountain Kingdom when she reached adulthood. After working briefly as an apprentice shipwright, she was conscripted onto an Eidyn balinger. At sea, Zelda found her true home. In short order, she led the other conscripts in a mutiny, and they turned to piracy, preying on the ships of the merchant houses of Eidyn. Decades later, Zelda is now the mistress of her own pirate fleet, preying upon merchant ships from the rocky coast of Eidyn to the iceberg-filled waters of the ice elves.
The Spider Queen
In a world of secrets, the Spider Queen is at the center of the web. Some say she is an ice elf, but most people say that she is a human, for who but a human could be so duplicitous? It is said that the Spider Queen's agents are everywhere, from the depths of the Mountain King's halls to the frost-rimmed ballrooms of the ice elves. This may or may not be true, but no one doubts that wherever there are whispers, the Spider Queen is listening.
Raginwald Thunderdelve is the King Under The Mountain, like his father and his father's father. Raginwald is a wise ruler, but he is not as cunning as the Ilwaithe Emperor or the White Queen of the ice elves, and he knows it. For this reason, he is always suspicious where other races are concerned, particularly when it comes to humans and ice elves. Although he doesn't believe that either have designs on the subterranean civilization of the stone dwarves, he is sure that they would cheerfully manipulate the stone dwarves for their own ends.
The Warlock was once a young woman living in modest luxury on the edges of the ice elf kingdom. Her family worked in embroidery and enchantments, sewing intricate magics into the finery of the White Queen's court. That was until the Ravenous Horde came. It was a small incursion, but it was enough to destroy her home, her family, her friends, and everything she loved. She died on that day, and the Warlock was born. Since then, she has devoted herself to turning the power of the Ravenous Horde against itself. On certain nights, she can be seen flying across the skies of Archaea on the back of an enormous bat, a burning halo above her head, and a phalanx of her demons in her wake. She has sacrificed everything to fight the Ravenous Horde, and she will sacrifice anything or anyone in her quest to destroy them.
Rurik the ogre was not always the Warlord. As a child he was a slave in the Ilwraithe Empire, working as a laborer until his size and strength attracted the attention of the masters of the arena. Rurik grew in strength and skill as a gladiator, until the day he led a revolt against his Ilwraithe masters. Since that day, Rurik has wandered the world, always siding with the few against the many, and leaving a legacy of blood and victory in his path.
The Watcher is a sacred duty given to one alate in each generation. It is this alate's responsibility to travel the breadth of Archaea, to observe and remember everything of importance which happens during his or her lifetime, and then to pass that knowledge on to the next Watcher. The Watcher is the living record of the history of Archaea. Huitzilihuitl, the current Watcher, is still young as alates measure the years, but he has seen the rise of the Warlord and the Warlock, and the passing of two Ilwraithe Emperors. What other events will he witness, before his time as Watcher is done?
The White Queen
Asfridur has been the queen of the ice elves for thousands of years. In that time she has seen countless human civilizations rise and fall, along with more than a few Kings Under The Mountain. She is not the most powerful sorceress on Archaea, but she is arguably the most cunning living being in the world. The White Queen is ruthless, and she will stop at nothing to ensure the survival of her people.