The Nightmare Before the Dream
The Kingdom of Man
No more than fifty years ago humans lived in small scattered settlements throughout the northern continent of Norand. The race’s towns and villages were few and far between, with most occupying the frigid lands beyond the borders of the orcish nation of Blackreign. Even those pinpricks of civilization were plagued by fractious infighting and petty disputes. Things changed when a young man named Roderick Gantry began traveling between towns, selling the idea of unification.
Roderick was possessed with unbelievable skill at arms, a mind for battle tactics and an even more extraordinary charisma. His passion and fury could not be stopped. Within months Roderick had gathered the men and women from all but a few of the most remote or hostile settlements. His great army, then complete, turned its attention south to the once-grand cities of Blackreign.
The orcs of Blackreign had long ago fallen into a state of complete and utter debauchery. Their practices had become so chaotic and so profane that their cities rotted from the inside out. Roderick assaulted the most remote orc fortresses first and found them to be populated by unorganized savages more likely to kill and eat one another than defend their homes. Resistance was half-hearted. More orcs fled from Roderick’s army’s size rather than its steel.
Having scattered so many orcs, Roderick entered the heart of the orcish nation with confidence. He and his army zealously marched upon several larger villages, finding their fortifications to be sounder, but their defense forces to be just as cowardly as before. It wasn’t until Roderick assaulted Blackreign’s capital, the metropolis of Bloodsteps, that he encountered his first test since the unification – the Black Legion.
Long ago the Black Legion had represented the pinnacle of the orcs’ military might. Founded by the orcs’ greatest leader, Durog, the Black Legion operated with unmatched skill, bravery and battle-lust. It was the Black Legion that carved out the nation of Blackreign, and it was the Black Legion that waited for Roderick’s army in Bloodsteps.
Roderick’s initial assault on the orcish capital was repelled quickly. Humanity’s losses were severe but its spirit was not broken. Roderick ordered another assault on Bloodsteps, sure that the orcs would break and flee rather than face the still overwhelming numbers of his army. Roderick was wrong. Durog himself, an orc of absolutely massive proportions, lead the battle from Bloodsteps’ walls.
Casualties were even heavier after the second assault. Roderick’s advisers, a group known as the Inner Circle, warned against a third attempt. Some favored fleeing to settle the sizable territory already won, others pushed a prolonged siege despite the approaching winter and the immortal nature of their orcish foes. The Inner Circle was divided and Roderick was beside himself with anger. He could not stomach the thought of a defeat. It was a feeling unknown to him and something entirely terrible.
Roderick gathered the Inner Circle for one last meeting, announcing to the remnants of his army that when he emerged from this conference, victory would be theirs. None truly know what occurred within the command tent but Roderick and the Inner Circle. It was nearly a day before Roderick stepped from the tent, looking vigorous and confident. The memories of defeat had faded completely.
The battle following the secretive meeting was a glorious one. Roderick seemed possessed of a passion that could not have been stopped by the gods themselves. His demeanor was infectious. The armies around the would-be-king fought with similar fury and soon overtook Bloodsteps’ walls, despite insurmountable losses.
Once within the city, Roderick’s army smashed against the Black Legion, while Roderick himself charged at Durog. The orc met the human’s determination with powerful rage and equally impressive skill. The two battled for what seemed like hours, but Durog could not keep up. Roderick seemed not to tire and his strength never diminished despite the titanic blows the orc warlord delivered. In the end, Durog was defeated; taken alive and forced to watch his beloved Black Legion scattered or killed mercilessly.
Roderick claimed the city of Bloodsteps as his own capital and called an end to his crusade. He renamed his seat of power Endenmere, the Final City, and took the throne as his own.
In the five decades since, the Kingdom of Man, also known as Roderick’s Realm, has grown and prospered. Endenmere is a powerful center of trade and human culture has flourished. The arts and goods of man are coveted as much as almost anything produced by the elder races. The kingdom is wealthy, diverse and welcoming of almost every other race and culture within its cities. The realm also enjoys good relations with both the dwarves and the elves to their south. To further cement these ties, the humans have begun sending initiates to the Order Cerberus – a diverse group of arbitrators, peacekeepers and guardians that serve every kingdom selflessly.
Roderick himself is never seen by anybody outside of his Inner Circle (what few of them remain) these days. Well into his eighties now, Roderick has lived longer than most humans and though his body is feeble, his mind is still sharp. The King of Man continues to rule from his secluded chambers, guiding the realm he forged with a steady hand.
Oddly enough, Roderick has no wife and no heir. The human nobility within Endenmere already have begun plotting and scheming to work their way into his position the moment his life ends. Roderick, however, has never issued a decree concerning an inheritor to his throne. It’s said by his most staunch supporters that not even the eventuality of death can break the King’s confidence. He simply believes that he will always endure. Even if the statement is true, the words cannot prevent the vultures from circling the sky, waiting for their chance to swoop in and claim the prize for their own.
- Endenmere: See Endenmere
- Seven Lakes: The Seven Lakes region is appropriately named after the seven bodies of water that support it. A number of small villages exist throughout the region but the largest, a city defended by a wood palisade, shares the region’s name and is thought of first by most outsiders. The region is heavily wooded and sparsely populated. Most of the villages subsist on fishing and hunting. Though coin exists, the barter system is far more common. Trade flows from Seven Lakes to Galfaland in the form of furs, fish and wild game while the region tends to import iron, hemp and a small amount of luxury goods. The people of Seven Lakes are hard and enduring but extremely loyal and tight-knit. Defense of the region is handled communally with rare assistance from the Order Cerberus. Most of the external threats faced by Seven Lakes take the shape of raiding orcs or goblins, but every once in a while more ferocious monsters will wander into the region.
- North’s End: North’s End is the last real city before a large tract of rugged, frozen wilderness extending all the way to the Giants. The city itself is a reflection of its people, a once tribal society of humans, with practical architecture and a simple, direct layout. However, a number of nobles retain hunting estates in North’s End due to the abundance and variety of wild game. In the summer the city is alive with celebration and feasting in an effort to entertain its wealthy visitors. North’s End’s main trade goods are tourism, lumber, fish and wild game. It’s quite common for the Lakerun River to be flooded with freshly hewn lumber on its way to Galfaland or Endenmere. Logging is a dangerous job, but the freezing, brutal and rapid waters of the Lakerun make it even more rigorous. North’s End’s imports tend to fluctuate largely due to how many and which noble families are visiting at the time, however, stone is a constant need. North’s End is protected by a large city guard commanded by a monstrous human known as Biguhn. The guard is efficient but direct like almost everything else in North’s End. Like the Seven Lakes region, North’s End faces frequent raids by orcs and goblins ranging south from the Giants. All manner of wild and monstrous game animals lurk in the woods around North’s End though, making it the hunting retreat that it is.
- Galfaland: The city of Galfaland rests between Galfal Lake’s northern shores and Galfal Run (a tributary of the Lakerun River). Its position makes it a perfect hub for trade flowing west from Shale and Endenmere as well as east from Icen Watch and Seven Lakes. Galfal Lake is the largest body of water on all of Norand and its waves reach untold depths. Fishing is Galfaland’s primary trade, though plying the lake’s vast surface is exceedingly treacherous. Captains willing to brave the frequent storms, writhing waves and icy waters are rewarded handsomely. Fish as long as twenty feet have been pulled from Galfal Lake’s interior, and in great numbers. This fact has given rise to native Galfalanders reputation for being fierce and vicious competitors – especially amongst the ship captains. Captains and their crews have been known to battle with their rivals on both land and sea. Maritime guilds (collections of ships that pool their resources – mainly knowledge about the dangerous lake) are always embroiled in political and martial maneuvering, constantly striving for a larger share of the profits and fame. Galfaland’s mayor is known as “First Captain.” The current First Captain is a devilishly clever woman named Fiona LeCroix. Her ship, The Red Hand is a mercenary vessel that only poses as a fishing galley. It’s well known that LeCroix made her mark by violently eliminating all rivals to her claim. That is not to say however, that she is not a skilled navigator that knows the lay of Galfal Lake like the back of her hand. Amongst the Kingdom of Man, Galfaland is thought of as a lawless place. King Roderick has left the Galfalanders alone for the majority of his reign, but more than one of the realm’s most powerful advisers believe that order needs to be brought to the city. It remains to be seen whether the king will listen to their demands or not.
- Shale: Shale lies within the harsh, goblin-infested mountain range known as the Scales. It’s the former site of Blackreign’s most notorious (and productive) labor camp of the same name. When Roderick Gantry won Shale its independence, the freed slaves made a pact that under no circumstances would they ever be chained again. Shale is now governed by the wealthiest land owner in the area, Baron Viebel. The Baron is as harsh as his home, a former slave himself and on into his years. That being said, he is also a brutally efficient and steadfast leader. Not only has the Baron organized an extremely well-trained group of house guards, he has dispatched them on countless successful raids to hunt down and exterminate the goblin tribes that are thick in the area. The Baron, along with most residents of Shale, loath the Hoartooth tribe above all others for it was members of that group that once served as the Shale labor camp’s overseers. Shale exports vast quantities of metals, from iron to gold, despite innumerable years of mining in the area. Shale’s citizens are particularly fond of money, but are more likely to secret it away than spend it. That being said, Shale imports most of its food as both game and good soil are rare in the Scales. The Baron’s guards are an elite group of soldiers that are well suited for combat in mountainous terrain. They defend Shale with a passion that borders on zealousness and jump at any chance to strike out at the local goblin tribes. There is a saying in Shale that has become famous throughout the kingdom, “The only thing that digs deeper than a Hoartooth is a Shaleman.”
- Icen Watch: This small, isolated fortress is home to a group of human rangers and druids known as Sureflights, but most refer to them as “flighties.” Having existed for centuries, the organization is seen as archaic and obtuse for its traditional customs and opinions. Most of the druids practice ancient rituals not seen in the more civilized cities, including self-flagellation and fasting, all under the pretense of penance for the crimes committed upon the “Lord Earth.” As peculiar as most see the Sureflights, Roderick secured their support early in his campaign against the orcs of Blackreign, and it is known that those bonds remain strong. Sureflight rangers are the best scouts and archers in all of Norand and it’s not entirely unheard of for a few rangers a year to volunteer to join the Order Cerberus. Sureflights are largely neutral when it comes to political events, spending the bulk of their time preserving the natural world around them. They frequently trade with the plains tribes that roam the western portions of Norand, garnering horses for foodstuffs, metal weapons and hides. Icen Watch itself is a stone-walled fortress of intricate design. It’s so cleverly camouflaged into its surroundings, that visitors often miss it entirely. The buildings in Icen Watch are all made from still-living materials, carefully and artistically shaped using druidic magic.
Landmarks and Important Sites:
- The Giants: The Giants represent the top of the world. Beyond the extensive range lies an infinite sheet of glacial ice. Almost nothing is known to live that far north and those that have attempted expeditions onto the glaciers either die from exposure or starvation before they ever return to tell their tales. The mountains themselves are the tallest in all of Norand and Sorand (even more monstrous than the famed Creator’s Grave range). The mountain’s height is only one danger that exists within. Most of the orcs and goblins that fled Blackreign’s collapse now call the range home. Any of the valleys that can sustain life have been conquered by the competitive orc tribes and even more of the mountains’ caves, warrens and fissures have been occupied by the prolific goblins. Human legends tell of larger creatures that inhabit the hostile place, including dragons, giants, ogres, trolls and yeti. There are few who have attempted to explore the range to prove or disprove these monsters’ existences, but every year brave adventurers disappear into the stone wall seeking glory, treasure or both. Rumors persist that a civilization, once the pride of the Creator, was slaughtered by a dragon millennia before the first man took breath. This civilization’s riches were sealed within their mountain keeps awaiting those with the fortitude to retrieve them, or so the stories go.
- The Grueling Range:
- Lakerun River: The Lakerun River connects the Blackdepths Ocean on the eastern shores of Norand to the southwestern shores of Midden Reach. In essence, the river extends clear across the continent, winding its way through the Grueling Range, North’s End, Galfaland, Galfal Lake and the Frigid Mire. The river itself is wide and deep and can support all but the largest ocean faring vessels until it works its way into the Frigid Mire. Once within the swamp, the river narrows considerably while also becoming significantly more shallow. River pirates are common on the Lakerun River’s southern tributaries, most of which operate out of the haunted ruins of Crestfall. These pirates range as far north as Galfal Lake and Galfaland itself. the King’s Navy patrols the stretch of river from Galfaland to North’s End and Endenmere in quickly designed river schooners.