The Truth of Dragons and the Origin of the World

In Ethren, there has lived a long-told lie… that the dragons were no more or those that propagated that lie and hid their kind were doing a great disservice to the gentlefolk. This could be no further from the truth than the sun is from the moon. Herein is the true tale of the scaled ones, and the originators of the world.

Nearly ten thousand years ago the world was formed not from the void, but from the hands of the Pentaprimordials, known to some as the Paragons. These infinite beings, living beyond time and space, spun the thread that held the universe together. Both attracted and repelled, they barely knew of the others.  

In the center of it all, slowly spinning in circles was the Navigator. Covered in the dust of the weave, he became restless and a shiver erupted from his ancient hide. Those tiny particles, pinpricks of light and magic were caught in the spin and formed what was called Celestasphere. Inside it, motes of power – freesouls, which would become the Celestials – drifted and spun, causing powerful light to radiate across the darkness. Caught in the drift, their threads entangled and each of them was drawn in.

Once in, however, the Celestasphere held them tight. Even at the resistance of the Navigator, they pulled and tugged, but in the tangle of the threads, new forms emerged.

First Father’s magic became the mountains and the stone on which the world rested. World Mother reached down upon it to breathe life and greenery. The Old Form, confused by the union between them, spat out in disgust all the oceans and waters that ooze across the world. The Navigator struggled under these new materials and pushed hard to create the skies.  Ever after, this has been known as the Material Plane.

But what of Teeth-in-Darkness? It’s jealous gaze burned deep into the rock and beneath it started a fire. From that flame and envy came dark beings, demons, and keepers of hells, living beneath all that was good, occasionally bursting forth in the form of fiery stone pillars, belching fire on those in its path.

So then the Navigator inadvertently tightened its mass trapping the Pentaprimordial into a reality shared by them all. First Father was the first to escape it, breathing life into the stone – Avatars of himself – to shape and contain the fire. As they looked to the heavens to see his face, their light opened a path for him to return to his Far Place. These stonefolk were the first of the dwarven gods.

Noting what he had done, World Mother too shaped the trees into lithe bodies which wrapped themselves around the drifting souls in the Celestasphere. These bright and pure folk gave way to the elves. The songs of the forest allowed her to return to her place among things as well.

Struggling to also create something and free itself of this world, the Old Form twisted and turned, first forming creatures under the sea. As he gripped at the edges of reality, out of him also fell the first humanoids; not noblemen, but stunted, grunting nearly amphibious things. As they fell across the land, these curious savages settled into the forms of goblinoids and men. Its escape came not from songs or prayer, but in the darkest places where walking things forget. The rejection was its freedom and it sulked into the darkness in earnest.

But Teeth-in-Darkness did not want to leave. No, it had other ideas. It wanted the world badly and literally hatched its plan under the skin of the world. Millions of eggs, thick and leathery, absorbing the magicks from around them. As the world grew, constantly reforming, so did the eggs transform and become new things. Corrupted avatars emerged, adapting to the places where they lay. Red Furies, belching smoke and flame from their fiery dens. Black Terrors, corrupting pools and groves where they emerged. Stone Chewers, under the earth and destroying the perfectly formed crystals. These primeval beasts were the first of Wyrms; horrors meant to corrupt the places held sacred, tearing a hole so Teeth-in-Darkness may return to the void.

For three thousand years the Dragonlords served Teeth-in-Darkness, as she toyed with the creations of the other Four. Her wickedness knew no bounds, but the forms of Ethren were strong and resisted her corruption. She twisted her dragon-forms, over and over, seeking just the right combination of hatred and greed, but the Navigator was bound to rebalance all things. From her discarded threads, he bound them to the perfect structures of metals formed by the First Father. Weaved them into the original Pure Dragons (Metallics); shining forms to set the scales right.

Teeth-in-Darkness tore her way out, leaving vast scars in the world, but she vowed to return someday. Thus, so does the arrogance of the Chromatic Dragons reflect her will in the world; to hoard, rebuke those unlike themselves and dominate.

So began the earliest Age of Dragons, when the Paragons departed and they were left to balance all that was. Chromatics worked to form the world into a twisted palace fit for Teeth-in-Darkness to return, while the Metallics fought to advance those beings remaining behind.

For thousands of years, there was strife, culminating in the war of the Dragon’s Claim. The two most powerful among their clans – Angralask the Icehearted and Silleskess the Silvertongued – made their way to the most northern reaches and began an epic struggle for control of the world. There were others who witness the fury and carnage. On the side of Chromatics, Azkhalak the Red, Shezret-Prince-of-the-Wind, The Black Matron, and Two-Lanterns-Hissing of the Aldaelfrenir. And on the side of Metallics, Lassranax Golden Mane, Karnhavarat Bronzeteeth, Tethis and Sithet (the Coppered Twins).

The battle between the two giants lasted for 200 years, and the world shook while all in it trembled. Surely, this would tear the fabric of all things apart if it didn’t stop. So the armies of men, elves, and dwarves, marched to end it.The dwarves tried to overcome them with the force of hammer and axe, only to be driven underground for the rest of modern times. The elves moved on the two with magic, only to be scattered across all of Ethren. Their efforts had borne fruit, however, because badly wounded, Angralask returned to the icy north, laid her eggs and died.

Great strife continued, but being the most dominant, strongest, and still merciful, Silleskess proposed a code of rules; designating territories and protected lands. The dragons then left what was known as the Mainland and scattered into the far corners of Ethren. But Sillesskess had also been mortally wounded, slipping into death, but her young kin worked to keep the treaty alive. Emboldened, greed again overtook the chromatics and they slithered their way back into the lands of the Good Folk, bringing with them some terrible things.

So began what was known as the Deception, by a clever king named Herras. He would use the union of his family with dragons, and his position, to create a system to pacify the younger, more impetuous spawn of the great old wyrms. He created a force of “Tabardeers”, sworn knights to protect (in reality, tax collectors to distribute the kingdom’s wealth to the beasts, keeping their desire to raid at bay). Seemingly treacherous, no one could know the true mind and long plans of a Silver dragon’s servant. While his court sold “the lie”, clever magics were being woven around the capital city of Glimring, to keep it safe from the future fury of the Wyrms.

Only a handful of mages still know the truth, as do their defenders and confidants in The Dragon’s Heart. Only they know still what keeps the darkness at bay and the walls of Glimring standing.

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The Greycloaks of Glimring

As it follows with the oldest of cities, as folk begin to gather into large permanent settlements, crime is close behind. Early in the development of Glimring, this problem was easily managed by the King’s Own Guard. But as the capital grew and bifurcated into different districts, the presence of a non-magical force became ineffective. Simple prestidigitation tricks could distract the best of veteran guards, so it was necessary to counter magic with magic. Of course, the mastery of arcana was not as common as the sword, and the most powerful of sorcerers, wizards and warlocks had more lofty aspirations or interests.

The solution was the deputization of local Rangers. Once a large force made up of elves and men (loyal to the Elvenqueen) these magically trained warriors proved loyal and capable. But the filth and congestion of constricted street, the choking smoke of city fires, and the lack of natural spaces made it difficult for those unused to such conditions (later, those that bailed or returned to a life outside the city would organize into a brotherhood known as ‘The Greenhand’).

Enter, the Gloom Stalkers – Rangers equipped to deal with the treacherous and tight conditions of the modern city. Using the shadows of the alleys and magic learned on the darkest of under-dwellings, these few began to spearhead the streets and clean up crime among Glimring. The first of these was a group of scouts from Low Hollow. Originally a motley pack of dwarves and men, unafraid of what lay beneath the cracks of Rumbletop. But within a generation of men, they’d evolved into a sophisticated detective force.

The group took on the name “Greycloaks” as they all wore dull hooded cloaks, better to blend in with the shadows. While many Greycloaks still follow the path of the Gloom Stalkers, any Rangers are welcome that can tolerate city life.

The Greycloaks are paid a small stipend at the mercy of the King’s Guard, budgeted to supplement the more sophisticated investigations. Greycloaks very rarely enforce the mundane law (that’s left to the City Guard, paid for by the taxes of the Merchant class). However, if Greycloak is present, it’s most likely because something arcane has transpired. They are trusted in most of the Edelrend, but wield no power outside the boundaries of that kingdom.

 

Religion Focus: Raast

Beliefs:
The current beliefs in the Raastic (ROSS-tic) cult are based on a small number of very dedicated followers who believe Dava’s brother (named only once in the Davan Cycle) was cursed with an eternal sleep. Thought to be in a dreamless sleep, his follower profess to be able to hear his voice in the Great Dream. However, the current faith speaks of a resurgence of his presence in the aether and shadow realms not since he was first revealed to the “Madarama Martyr” (see below).

The connection to this “Great Dream” is what binds all followers together. Most believe this very world is nothing more than an echo of Raast’s awakening dream. The sect is scorned by the Davanic faith as a heresy, so they often keep congregational assemblies very small and private.  The believers think that someday Raast will wake and take his place at the side of his brother to oversee the Bright Kingdom (afterlife for the Davans).

Origin:
First to have interpreted this dream is a holy woman named Edorastis (edo-RASS-tis), who fell into a coma for the span of a month. There, she met the avatar of Raast, a ghostly form who told her of the Awakening Dream. Her initial heresy was met with strong recourse from Paladins of Dava who had her tried and burned on a pyre. For this reason she is often referred to as the “Madarama Martyr” (Madama being a respectful title for an unmarried elderly woman in the old tongue).

But when her spirit remained over the pyre to speak from beyond for a week, many who came to see her were convinced this was not some latent magic or curse, but instead a sign. Early collections of Rasstic followers clashed with the more militant members of the Davan Church, but this persecution only fueled their faith.

Influence:
This faith has virtually NO influence in the culture or politics of Ethren, as it’s considered heresy by the Davanic followeItsIt’s members tend to conceal their beliefs, but occasionally you may meet a hermit who is instead, a holy man of Raast.

Reach:
The Daughters of Edorastis have a collection of shrines where fortune tellers will interpret dreams to fund the faith. But in general, you might only see these believers. In the last 200 years less and less has been written or spoken of Raast and it’s thought that the religion may fade into obscurity in another human lifetime.

Religion Focus: The All-Cloud of Infinite Points

Beliefs:
The All-Cloud worshippers are few but very dedicated to the ways of law. While they don’t necessarily believe in a central, overseeing god or goddess, they do agree that “The Structure” is an ordered way to view the universe. In the Structure, they see connections and relationships that others might not see. The religion is only loosely associated with a worship structure, but instead a reverence for things mathematical. Much of the congregating is based on debates about the fabric of reality and how the Structure plays into it. Sages, astrologers and other mathematically inclined professions see the value in this belief system and rally around it. The few who call themselves “clergy” are merely iconoclasts bent on spreading knowledge or those obsessed with perfection or order.

While considered “lawful” in their thinking, Structurists have little strictures on their lifestyles. Some are sagacious philosophers while others are shameless hedonists. But in all cases they exhibit an appreciation of great mathematical works; in architecture, poetry, naturally ordered systems (crystals, for example, are highly revered by them), or any such place where relationships and order exist. The worst crime in this worship system is to lack curiosity.

Origin:
In the earliest days of magic, those that practiced spell casting did so at the peril of disrupting the belief systems of early man. Tribal elders and shamen did a much better job of storytelling, healing and ensuring their flocks adhered to some sense of morality.

The first written account of the belief in an “All Cloud” was made by an astrologer named Demicartius (Dem-AH-carshus) who believed the alignment of the stars could infuse certain sensitive souls with power. As his studies progressed, he found the power in all ordered systems (how crystals could enhance spells, how light moved through glass, etc.) and concluded that this infinite flow of particles surely had to be some sort of divine flux. From there, the religion was born, less a belief in things material, but more the alignment of the preternatural.

Influence:
They have no interest in worldly politics or the maneuvering of governments. Such pursuits are seen to be wrangled out of chaos. Instead, they are found guiding the hands of architects, plotting navigational charts of great efficiency, seeking to better define the connections between all things, and looking for ways to increase the understanding of magic.

Reach:
There are thought to be less than two thousand total believers in all of Ethren and the majority of them are found in its cities. Of the races other than men, only the dwarves express similar passion and obsession with such order. Thus, it’s likely to see the occasional dwarven scholar or priest following the path of the All-Cloud.

A World Map of Ethren

GreaterEthren

While much of the information about the world beyond the seas is held as a very close secret amongst the Arcanica, this greater picture of Ethren has emerged from a series of Merchant Guild routes, adventurers maps, and confirmed rumors. Most citizens of a region will never know the world beyond their own, but to the bold and curious, Ethren is a much bigger place than imagined.

Where titles are in yellow, these represent the Faslduranic names for places that may be more often referred to by their Herrasian names.

 

fonts:
Main font – Warhorse BB by Nate Piekos,
Falsduranic Runes – Acadian Runes by Javier Ugarte del Corro

 

Notable Nobles of Glimring

While there are numerous noble families that control various elements of government in the Edeldale, Glimring holds the highest number of titled families. Each of these families holds some sort of sway through investment, influence or in some cases, intimidation. The major families are “bannered” and have served in fealty to the Royal cause. Other notable names either were granted title or lands for services rendered to the crown.

The Banner of Hawksblood
“Strike With Certainty”
Hawksblood is one of the oldest families to remain at the forefront of Nobility. In the earliest days of the Herassian reign, Edold Hawksblood proved a capable military leader and was promoted to Commander of the First Armies. While his descendants no longer hold that title, many of them are knights in service to the crown or are financiers of military affairs. The current Lord Hawksblood resides in his secondary estate in Glimring, but the family castle is nestled in the foothills of Low Hollow.

The Banner of Boarheart
“We never back down.”
Another old legacy, the Boarhearts are descended from a bastard son of Gorrin Stronghand. They are considered influential in they hold much of the lands of Briarwood, which is prime hunting territory. All royal hunting edicts are managed through them and they retain a quarter share of all fees associated with hunting across the kingdom. The current Boarhearts still live in Briarwood, but there are a pair of younger sons that reside in Glimring.

The Banner of Lightstrung
“Defense against the Darkness”
When Ovandra abdicated in 342 H.E., a group of loyal knights provided her with the security she required. These knights, mostly descended from a single family, were granted title by the Davanic church, thus the Lightstrungs are often found funding pursuits related to that faith. They hold a special manor off Watcher’s Walk, which also serves as the compound for the High Priest of Dava. The family considers itself above political gain, but the connection to the church often brings them in conflict with this desire.

The Banner of Bellsweight
“Balance is our favor”
Once a great house of the Guilds, it’s now considered a failing house with only a handful of the Bellsweights remain in Glimring. The oldest member of the family is rarely seen in the machinations of the court, preferring to spend his time squandering his family’s fortune on the arts (and some say disreputable dancing girls.) A young member of the Bellsweight family pursues his career as a bard, serving as an agent of the Bard’s Guild, which could be a ploy to put them in contact with information to greater, hidden riches.

The Banner of Swansbreath
“All Action, Thoughtful”
Swansbreath is one of the few lines of nobility which draws upon elven heritage. Many of the males in this house take Elven wives and they too are major contributors to the arts. Their prime position though is to provide the crown with diplomats. Graceful and well spoken, Swansbreath House strongly emphasizes its lineage to pursue advanced education. So you may find them in such pursuits as arcana or engineering. The very first aqueducts of the realm were the product of Swansbreath architects and it was their innovation that created Moonhold.

The Banner of Markand
“We see the horizon”
House Markand is a relatively new house, whose family was granted lands after their support of King Valen II’s failed war against Drench. They are a quiet house with a small presence in Glimring, preferring to stay in their native lands by Strongwater Bay. Their current castle, a shell keep known as Grayfinger, is responsible for the security of the Western Coast. The current Lord Markand is in his early 30s and has only recently assumed power after the untimely death of his father, Bekket Markand.

The Banner of Hammerflung
“The Hammer rings true”
The original smiths of the ancient kingdoms, holding the knowledge of fire and steel gave them great power. Some believe they stole this from their first contact with Dwarves, but Hammerflung will laugh and tell you this is nonsense. An arrogant house, they hold many contracts with the Armorers and Hammerers guilds. So much so, that if they pulled support, they could presumably collapse the local economy. Thus, they retain a great amount of power over the Court. The current Lord Hammerflung has many offspring overseeing the businesses in Glimring and beyond and he resides close to the Moonhold.

The Banner of Bowsprit
“At Any Cost”
There is a great controversy about how the House Bowsprit grew to such power, but the current Lord Longbridge is actually of Bowsprit decent. Many assumed them to be thieves and murderers, living at the edges of society (the original Bowsprit was a robber Baron who’d terrorized the Tanglewood during the reign of King Taron). Eventually, they were able to secure their place along the western edges of the kingdom with legitimate business and were granted the lands south of the Hills of Howling. They currently are embroiled in the rebellion of Longbridge and have lost many of their troops, the Bowsprit Blades to barbarian rebel forces. Their position in the court is tenuous since they have amassed great debt while overseeing the former Longbridge.

Other noble names which hold no house but are recognized for some great deed or service are as follows:

Gambridge – Considered to be the most brave knights
A Gambridge to the Front!”

Lowencamp – Owners of many great historical texts
“There is power in knowledge”

Verenfield –  Great hunters; first rangers of the GreenHands
“The Old Ways serve us”

Kinstain – Violent, capable fighters of the Black Hold. Split allegiance (Suthicans)
“Defeat is for the dead”

Cloudwell – Magical family of Highspire; owed a blood debt by the Royal family.
“Our honor remains”

Maresworth – Legendary horsemen who provide the King’s stallions.
“Sturdy as a steed”

Oren – Long serving sages who were original to Herras’s court.
“We are bound by oath”

There are many others among the kingdoms, but these are likely the most encountered in the region.

Note also that Noble families with land or estates may display a banner, use the crest on all equipment and wear badges or colors of their station on their clothing. Nobles without land (“titled”) may still display the blazons on their heater shields and may wear their family colors (along with signet rings) and knights or low nobles (awarded not born into nobility) may display their blazon on round shields until they prove loyal in warfare to the crown; they would then usually be titled and thus, entitled to follow the rules of upper nobility.

 

 

 

 

The Gods of the North

While many of the Southern gods have made their way into the Northlands, near the edges of the Angrelid, the peoples still follow the path of the original gods. These are the couple, Ustig and Silstig (first mother and first father). As legend has it, Ustig gave birth to the world and followed by bestowing it with 9 fair sons (Vanik, Orstag, Gessig, Urdag, Vorig, Kostan, Yeln, Tura and Grod). Silstig, jealous and bitter over the worship Ustig received, slew Grod who was the youngest and was cast from the Great Glacier by the other 8 sons. He landed in the lowest lands where great beasts tore his arms and legs from him; being a god of sorts, he escaped by taking the shape of a drake and slithered into the long passages of the Gallendaag. The spirit of Grod returned, but since he could no longer walk the path of the Great Glacier, he roamed the lands to guide the dead back to safety.

Ustig – FirstMother
Domains: Life, Ice
Polytheists
Holy symbol: A circle in a pair of hands

She is the mother of all things. Her cult primarily consists of females clerics and doulas, though men are not forbidden to serve. She’s the primary goddess when anyone prays or gives thanks. Her sons are considered demigods, each with his own special trait, but there are few clerics at all that still serve the sons. Her priestesses dress in loose animal skins and ritually paint their faces. Her holy symbol is a silver dagger in the shape of an icicle. (NG)

(Note: Some scholars believe Ustig and Aerthas are the same goddess in a different aspect, But neither religion would admit to such a thing.)

Son Servants – Followers of the Eight
Domains: Varies
Polytheists
Holy symbol: A bone square with the name of the demigod engraved on it

Typically, there are Soncults surrounding nearly every church or community. While they do NOT have any organized clergy, some talented individuals can call on the power of the eight if it serves the right purpose. The Eight remaining sons of Ustig each have a nickname that gives some idea as to what their influence is:

Vanik the Shieldbearer, Orstag the Runner, Gessig the Lover, Urdag the Brute, Vorig the Voice, Kostan the Trickster, Yeln the Puzzler, Turak the Archer. 

Since there is no organized church, there is no central worship site or temple for the Eight. Nor are there any sort of vestments. What passes for a holy symbol among their believers are small totemic representations of the sons, usually carved from some sort of animal bone. (No alignment affiliation)


Grod – The Ever Wandering
Domains: Death, Travel
Polytheists
Holy symbol: A primitive compass rose

Grod’s death is a tragic story, especially knowing that his spirit has no rest. His worshippers and clerics are a very somber lot. They typically handle the dead in the issuance of last rites. They paint themselves in ice and dress in white skins to honor Grod’s ever journey across the ice. The hold a round stone as their holy symbol, eternally rolling and never sitting still. They also consider the followers of Silstig their mortal enemies. (N)


Silssstig – The One Who Crawls Below

Domains: Trickery, War
Polytheists
Holy symbol: A thick, stone snake

There are a number of Northers who not only reject the teachings of Ustig as weak, but they embrace Silssstig, which they perceive to be a survivor. One may notice in the old texts that his name was extended to emulate the hissing of his eternal form. He is represented as a snake, naga-like, who’s skin is hard as stone. His clerics seek only power and to dominate those around them, driving their conquests into servitude. They dress in deep green robes and are adorned with many images of snakes. As a matter of rank, they are tattooed with images of serpents – the more tattoos, the more dangerous they will be.  The holy symbol of Silssstig’s followers is a stone snake. (NE)


The Old Gods – Those Who Whisper Beyond

Domains: Magic, Knowledge
Polytheists
Holy symbol: Typically, a petrified or mummified eye or finger

There are still some who follow the whispers in the darkness, whom they believe to be the Original Gods; formless, twisting shadows who gave form to Ulstig herself. The followers of the Old Gods are pragmatic and can be secretive. It’s unlikely one would ever see a cleric of the Old Gods, because they believe blending in is the most important sacrament. While some would call their worship pagan and barbaric, with blood sacrifice and little regard for life, the followers understand that these sacrifices keep the balance of all things.

It’s thought that the original followers of the Old Gods who pushed South were corrupted by the Spearfolk and it gave birth to the cult of Shta’Nodaen. While this could be true, there is little actual proof, save the similarity in the theme of dark tentacles.

The only holy symbol for worshippers of the Old Gods is some token taken from nature and blessed by a prayer; a special twig, a phial of dark water, etc. It varies from believer to believer. However, all of them believe in the idea of sacrifice, even if it means to lose one’s self.  (N)