Realms Beyond – A classic turn-based fantasy RPG

World Building #7: Kvenland

The realm of Kvenland, defined by its dense pine forests and tall mountains, is primarily settled by four major tribes.

Vadians

At the southern shore of lake Kallvatn, right in the heart of Kvenland, at a point where several rivers convene, a trading post named Vadaheim was built. After the Great Cataclysm, the sky had darkened for several years and the cold north missed out on a couple of summers. This led to large masses of ice forming in the mountains, and once the climate normalized the ice melted and raised the water level of the lake, flooding parts of Vadaheim. An enterprising people, not willing to give up their city and stop their profitable trading operations, the Vadians converted their ships into rudimentary homes. Still today many of them live in house-boats and use these mobile homes on their mercantile journeys, traveling down the rivers with their entire families. Most Vadians are in the service of one of the two powerful families ruling the city of Vadaheim. Those who live in the town are better off joining one of the two families than staying neutral – which risks attracting the wrath of both the Ingvarsons and the Grimharsons. For independence is only an option for those who can assert it. But since the long-running feud between the two houses had adverse effects on commerce, they agreed to an armistice and divided the city amongst themselves. But if there is an opportunity to siphon the other family’s profits into their own pockets, they always take it – there may be an armistice between them, but in business, everything is allowed.

A common saying among the Vadians is, “By Valon’s golden apples!” which is an expression of surprise over an unexpectedly profitable business transaction that pulled more gold out of their customer’s pocket than they anticipated.

The origin of this expression is the myth of Valon, patron deity of merchants as well as those who acquire the property of others by cunning means, who helped an impoverished old man. This man owned nothing but a barren, rocky piece of land with a single apple tree that no longer bore fruit. He desperately called for the aid of his god, and Valon finally heard his prayers. He gave the old man a basket with three golden apples which would turn to dust as soon as he gave them away. Valon also forbid him from telling anyone where he got the apples from, and he was not allowed to sell his land before three moons had passed. The old man shrugged, as nobody would want to buy his worthless piece of land anyway, and asked what use the apples would be to him if he couldn’t sell them. Valon merely told him to carry them through town in their basket, uncovered so all could see them, and have a cup of wine at the tavern. “But how should I pay for the wine?” asked the old man. “With the apples, without promising them to another,” was the god’s answer, and then he returned to his realm.

The old man did as he was told, and everyone was curious about the golden apples he carried in his basket. Indeed, the tavernkeep not only served him a cup of wine on the house, but also prepared a platter with the best food he had in stock. Soon more and more people asked the old man why he still lived in his rotten old hut and wanted to know whether his land was for sale. With a heavy heart he rejected all the offers he received, which led to the townspeople shoveling ever more gifts upon him in the hopes of gaining the old man’s favor. Soon he lived in one of the largest houses in town, and those who showered him with gifts hoped he would sell them his piece of land with the tree that, so they believed, would be rich with golden apples at the next harvest. Once three moons had passed, he accepted the best offer that was made to him, which was much higher than the best offer made to him three moons ago. Just at that moment his three golden apples vanished. The debts he had with others were not collected, since his creditors were happy to have such a wealthy man as their friend. Only to the poor soul who had purchased the worthless strip of land the old man gave a basket full of apples. Stingy as he now was, however, they were just normal apples, red and green instead of gold, as you can only be truly rich when others are poor – a popular saying among the people of Vadaheim.

Veštani

The Veštani are a peaceful people who value a honest heart over a sharp sword – for which they have little use, anyway, as they prefer to use spear and shield in combat.

Around the village Kvilu, which is located at the eastern end of the Lurking Forest, they herd their flocks of sheep and till the earth of their fields in peace. Their evenings they spend in community, listening to the music of the flute and stories of strange creatures and ominous events, which might stem from their tendency for superstition which their priests can only shake their heads over, try as they might, they cannot drive it out of them. It might be encouraged by their elders, whom they highly respect, as they warn the younger generations of all the dangers lurking in the depths of the forest, amongst the shadows of the trees.

But Kvilu is not as peaceful as it may seem, as the Veštani regularly fall victim to raids of the Gauds, a tribe they share a bitter enmity with.

But voices of reason no longer manage to calm those who lost their loved ones and their homes to the Gaudian raids. Especially the younger generations either support an escalation of the conflict to strike back at the hated enemy in force, or think of leaving their homes for greener pastures. From Vadian merchants they heard stories of prosperous towns and lives without hardship beyond the forests of Kvenland, and now grow weary of the simple and uncertain life in Kvilu.

Gauds

The Gauds are known as the most feared and remorseless warriors of Kvenland, settled in the rough lands to the north of the great lake. Ever since he had slain a dragon on the mountain of Dauganrög, they worship their king almost as a god. After his heroic deed the Gauds hailed King Odulf’s under his new name – Sigimer the Dragonslayer. Together with his retinue he founded the town of Güldinheim, which today has become the most important city of the Gauds.

The king’s treasury is filled to the brim with all kinds of riches, but also with plenty of curiosities – a collection he constantly seeks to expand. He is especially fond of artifacts from a long extinct tribe, whose king Hodar, for whose exploits there are no sources but the songs of bards, is said to have ruled the entirety of Kvenland and even projected the power of his kingdom deep into the lands of Cormac. This legendary king is, to Sigimer, an example to follow. He wants to forge a kingdom to rival Hodar‘s, and he is ready to ally with the Vresians and mercenaries of Vadaheim to take the rich lands of Cormac’s north under his control. But he will never make peace with the Veštani, as his son Sigurt lost his life on a cattle raid against them. Had he the resources for it, he would long ago have marched against Kvilu to raze it to the ground. But the day will come when his wrath will triumph over the worldly concerns of logistics, and for this day he is already prepared.

Even his daughter Siglind he kept from a woman’s comfortable life of home and marriage, so her sword would always be ready for war and not dulled by the need to care for offspring. So he declared her to be a sword maiden, and any men who dare touch her will be condemned to death by stoning.

Vresians

On a northern bay of the Galtan SeaVindeborg sits as the largest town of Kvenland as well as the most important settlement of the Vresians, who are known to be excellent shipwrights and seafarers as well as fearless explorers. The fishermen not only set out to drag their nets through the deep waters, but add to their catch by raiding and looting other ships. Their reputation of engaging in piracy is widespread and almost sealed their fate 200 years ago. Too long they provoked Cormac on the waters, which culminated in a crushing blow against their tribe. Once, they had reveled in their independence, their leaders chosen by election and ready to step down whenever the people grew unhappy with their rule; following this horrible defeat, they put their fate into the hands of the most charismatic among them. Unnar Usbek became the first king of the Vresians and swore on the ruins of old Vindeborg to take revenge on the Cormacian attackers, even if it took generations to pay them back for what they did.

Ever since, the Vresians have worked at erecting an impregnable fortress and training a formidable fighting force to bring the fire of vengeance against Cormac’s shores. They suffered a major setback thanks to the Great Cataclysm, but Bjar Rabek, the most influential advisor of king Hjör, claims that the time has come to make true the promise of the forefathers. He feels obligated to fulfill the old oath of vengeance, whereas the people are fearful of a war they consider to be hopeless, while a longing for the old freedom spreads through their hearts, symbolized by a white albatross – the animal that adorned the Vresian banners before they had a king, and which has now become a call for open resistance, scrawled on the walls in white chalk.

This blog post is also available in German language.

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