Thursday, April 25, 2019

Warholds Map A - Upper Details

I've been wanting to share some of the details off of these maps for a long time.  This is one section of my Warholds regional map - Map A.  Map A is one map in a nine map set which put together forms a three by three map grid. 

Ostvick Warhold

Ostvick Warhold, sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Ostvick stands precariously and perhaps defiantly at the center of the nine Warholds of the Northmen.  Presently it is ruled by Gudbrand the Cruel, a seasoned chieftain who has successfully held the reins of power over Ostvick for the last thirty one years.  Gudbrand's wife, Queen Fiora, died when she drank a goblet of poisoned mead, most likely intended for Gudbrand.  During her life Fiora gave Gudbrand three children, one son and two daughters.  His son was killed at the Battle of Gudbrand fields where the King and his small army of Sworn Men turned the tables on the young and brash Chieftain Sigurd who rules over Hraedir Warhold which crouches on the Western border.  Gudbrand vanquished Sigurd, who managed to escape with his bodyguard but lost his only male heir.  Gudbrand's eldest daughter still lives.  She is now in her middle twenties and is married to the son of the Grand Duke of the Duchy of Rorgin, one of the so-called civilized Kingdoms of the South.  She left six years ago to join your husband and secure the trade and military alliance between the Warholds, especially Ostvick and the Duchy.  Gudbrand sometimes communicates back and forth with her in letters but has not seen her in all that time.  Gudbrand's youngest daughter Elisa is only sixteen.  She lives under the care and protection of her Father and a personal bodyguard at the main Warhold.

The Neighboring Warholds

The Warfang River acts as the Eastern border between the Kingdom of Ostvick and Morgwen Warhold to the East.  Further to the South the most remote corner of the wilderness included in King Gudbrand's claimed territory just reaches the most Northwest corner of Skyerga Warhold.

The Kingdom of Morgwen (Morgwen Warhold) is ruled by King Halfdan the Old.  Halfdan is the son of a Northern hero of questionable alignment, having built a reputation as a slaver and coastal raider, independent of the rule of any of the Warholds.  Halfdan's Father's name was Ringerik.  Ringerik married Shalash'nashum, who was the daughter of Vorger Iceheart, a Trollborn who is the scion of one of the great heroes of the legends of the North, cursed to mutate and become ever more monstrous with age.  Vorger Iceheart is a dark legend in the lands of the North.  He and his followers captured and conquered the strange Black City at the most remote edges of the howling snowfields of The Wintersmark.  There, beneath the obsidian buildings and streets of the Black City, the ancient goddess Aglaeca, the Mother of All Monsters, is said to be imprisoned deep within the bowls of the ancient volcano upon whose upper crater wall the city is constructed.

Halfdan the Old captured Morgwen Warhold almost forty years ago, wresting it out of the hands of the Angantyr the Berserker.  Angantyr was one of the last surviving Chieftains in the North who could trace his lineage back directly to The Necromaster of the now fallen Kingdom of Asmorgar, which once covered all of the lands currently claimed by Ostvick Warhold and Hraedir Warhold.  Like all of his family, Angantyr the Berserker was utterly ruthless and rumored to possess some small fraction of the necromantic power of his great, great, grand-sire.

When Halfdan, in those days sometimes called Halfdan the Lesser, attacked and surprisingly, almost shockingly secured the Warhold and killed the giant warrior and chieftain Angantyr in personal combat, his neighbors were pleased with the change in government.

This was forty years ago and in all that time Halfdan the Old has managed to secure and slowly expand the territory of his Warhold further into the wilderness country on the Eastern border of his kingdom, opposite his border along the Warfang River with Ostvick.

Gudbrand the Cruel and Halfdan the Old are uneasy but peaceful neighbors at present.  The bridge crossing the Warfang between the two Kingdoms is always under careful guard by both Kings.  Gudbrand eyes Halfdan with care and there are rumors that Halfdan the Old has been behind a string of evil intrigues hatched within Ostvick Warhold over the years.  Halfdan the Old and Queen Gerrid, who rules over Skyerga Warhold on Halfdan's Southern border have been at odds and actively engaging in raids and on and off war against one another for twenty years. 

  Queen Gerrid is rules over Skyerga Warhold, a smaller but fiercely independent land which shares a border with Morgwen Warhold and whose Kingdom's lands just meet with the most South Western lands of Ostvick Warhold.

Queen Gerrid is currently the only female chieftain of all the nine Warholds.  Not only is she a talented warrior in her own right, and a brilliant strategist, she is also the high priestess of the Cult of the Ragged Cloak Druids.  The Ragged Cloak Druids claim to be the oldest order of Druids in the world and say that their ancient rites and traditions were the original old religion of men when they first ventured into these lands a thousand years ago, or more.

Gerrid is also gifted with The Sight, an ability to glimpse future events before they unfold.  Gerrid has long been a close and dependable ally of King Gudbrand.  Her council has protected the Kingdom of Ostvick on at least a half dozen occasions where vile intrigues and plots were thwarted which might have toppled Gudbrand from his throne.  Gerrid believes that Halfdan the Old is actually a puppet ruler working as an agent of Vorger Iceheart, the fearful, tremendously evil ruler of The Black City.  She has warned Gudbrand and others not to trust Halfdan because of what she has seen in her visions.  Halfdan the Old has made several attempts to invade Gerrid's lands but Gerrid has always managed to thwart his efforts, in large part because of the strength of the Ragged Cloaked Druids, who are known to be shape-shifters.

Queen Gerrid looks to be a middle-aged woman of perhaps fifty.  She has a noble bearing and is calm and wise.  In reality she is older even than Halfdan the Old, who is now sixty two winters old.  Gerrid has ruled over Skyerga Warhold for approximately eighty years, give or take a few years.  There are whispers that her unusually slow aging has to do with her magic, and also that perhaps she has some faerie or elvish blood flowing in her veins.  If this last rumor were true, she would be the very last ruler of elvish blood enthroned over any kingdom, anywhere in the entire world.

The Sodden Ride

The Sodden Ride is the major arterial road which crosses the Kingdom of Ostvick starting in the West just within the Widow's Hills and near the site of the battle of Gudbrand Fields and all the way across Ostvick, and across the Warfang river to the Morgwen Warhold town of Soddenford.

It is a lonely, partially sunken road of dirt and gravel (and often mud) which makes for a passable road in the Summer months but which is either a soggy, muddy, frustrating route during the short months of Spring and Fall or a snow covered, frozen and barely visible rut during the long Northern Winters.

Here and there along the road, especially large trees of Oak are sometimes used as semi-permanent gibbets where the bodies of bandits are hung on display.  After the Battle of Gudbrand Fields, King Gudbrand made it a point to pile all fifty four slain Sworn Warriors of his defeated enemy, King Sigurd Snake In Eye onto wagons and haul them along the entire length of The Sodden Ride, stopping at regular intervals to hang up on gibbets the bodies of the slain so that they could be picked at by carrion birds.  Refusing to provide traditional cremations and burials for the slain warriors of his enemy was a bold move which caused a sink in the King's popularity.  Given that Sigurd was attempting to sneak into the Kingdom through a back route rather than arranging for a formal battle and that King Gudbrand's only son and heir had been killed in the fighting probably saved the King's reputation from being completely soiled but still, four years later there is still secretive grumbling about the affair.  It has not helped matters that Gudbrand has refused to take down the now skeletal remains, some of which still hang, partially intact from where they were strung up.

Banditry is rare in the Kingdom of Ostvick, partially due to the severity of punishments within the Kingdom.

Beneath many of these gallows trees a native herb called Gallow's Thorn grows.  Gallow's Thorn seems oddly attracted to battlefields and execution yards and its uses within Alchemy and Herbalism have a dark and sinister reputation about them.

The Old Wood

The Old Wood is not one of the great and ancient forests of the Northern region.  It covers an area of perhaps only fifty miles if every square mile of this deep woodland were marked and added together.

Yet...and yet, there is something eldritch and wizened about the dark trees which make up most of this woods.  If it ever had another name, that title has vanished from the memories of the men living within Ostvick.  It is possible that the elves had a name for the place once, oh ever so long and a long ago.  Today it is only called the old wood, necessarily THE old wood. 

Three human steadings exist within the woods, stretched out along a thin whisper of a trail which departs the Sodden Ride a few miles before it reaches East Bridge and crosses The Warfang River into Morgwen.  These farm communities dwell together within wooden palisade walls and only venture forth beyond the walls of their steadings to work their fields and take their cattle to pasture during the warm safety which daylight affords.

The folk of the farm steadings within the woods are described as backwards and queer, suspicious of outsiders, even dangerous at times.  For the most part they keep to themselves, only venturing down their trail a few times a year to take goods or cattle for sale and trade to places like the village of Hotoft or the largest human village in this part of the Kingdom, the Village of Bolgrad.

Some say that the farmers dwelling within the shadows cast by the old woods are wick.  The term wick in this case implies that while they make offerings to the immortals which every proper Northman revers that they also make secret offerings and prayers to the Hags.  The Hags are an ancient power in the lands of the North.  They are an older power than the Druids of the Henge and are at least equally as old and possibly older still than the order of the Ragged Cloak Druids.  The Hags have a human female aspect to them but they are tremendous in size and cannot possibly be descended of purely human stock.  The Hags are considered by most to be malevolent and cruel.  While worship of the Hags is not strictly illegal it is a practice heavily frowned upon by most of the Northmen dwelling in this part of the world.

It is said that along with making offerings to the Hags that the wick open their homes to the Corby, the wandering, strange hermits with magical powers who act almost like priests for the Hags.  The Corby are few in number but feared.  They do not travel within the borders of Queen Gerrid's land for the shape shifting werewolves, wereboar and werebears of the Ragged Cloak Druids will hunt and kill them, if possible, whenever and wherever they find them.  The Corby stick to the wilderness or occasionally wander into a small steading or village on some errand for the Hags.  They sometimes travel within the lands of the Kingdom of Ostvick and the Kingdom of Hraedir but they are also seen in the lands of Morgwen Warhold and perhaps in these times are more numerous in that Kingdom than in other places.

A hundred years ago there used to be an active grove of the Druids of the Henge, a splinter faction of the old religion of the Druids located somewhere in the Old Woods.  This grove was once the primary grove of Druids within the Kingdom of Ostvick and once every few years the old Kings of Ostvick would bring the Druids a human to be sacrificed on the solstice to insure good crops in the coming years.  The old grove was attacked and destroyed quite suddenly and viciously by one faction or another, some say it was the King's Father behind the attack others say it was the Ragged Cloak Druids.  Most of the thirteen members of that grove were killed but three survived.  One, a woman, wanders the mist shrouded hill country of the Ravenfeud which begins just a few miles to the Northwest of the Old Forest.  The old master of the grove is said to sometimes appear within Ostvick, Hraedir and Morgwen and his appearance is always a foreshadowing of some dark matter.  The third and last Druid who survived from the old grove is said to still dwell somewhere beneath the dark trees of the Old Woods. 

Very few outsiders step onto the trail which leads up into the Old Woods.  No one has gone looking for the Druids of the Henge or their secret grove for at least the last seventy years. 

For the most part King Gudbrand keeps his Sworn Men out of the Old Woods and allows the small human communities there to take care of their own affairs.  Lately however, there have been rumors that some new and creeping and a horrible evil has been rising within the Old Woods.  It may be that the King sends forth a group of heroes to investigate what has been happening there, since the Old Woods sits well within the boundary of his lands.

Wrap Up:  Well that's it for this blog entry.  Later in the week I may expand further on this map section and the different encounters and sites contained therein.

Happy gaming, your friend in adventuring,

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