Roads to the North
Capital: Agrawel (81,662)
Notable Settlements: Ayles (1,824), Bregate (26,131), Caer Sól (65,330), Deminster (3,762), Maycott (4,130), Mirfield (1,094), Newport (10,452), Ryfall (4,180), Swindon (2,606), Swampton (1,200), Wallow (2,896)
Ruler: King Richard II of the Great House Arvendon
Government: Feudal Monarchy
Set against rugged highland and ancient woodland, the realm of Noslith sits astride the Sea of Saints, one of the largest kingdoms in the Shrinelands. The arable land and many rivers around the holy Lake Loinnir have allowed for its great prosperity, while the massive cathedral city of Caer Sól has attracted crusaders and servants of God from across Frey to the rising kingdom. Although this has made the realm a symbol of civilization’s return, Noslith is not without its wildlands, and its great mountains and old forests are home to numerous humanoids and dangerous monsters, making knights-errant and adventurers a common sight.
The known history of Noslith stretches back to the days after the collapse of the Shadowmaker’s empire. After the rise of the Phoenix and the resulting First Crusade, only the crusaders were left to trudge through the ashes and rebuild. As in the North, many of the crusaders used their war spoils to found small feudal kingdoms of their own. The former slaves of Shadowthrone had little choice but to serve their new crusader kings, for great danger lurked still in Frey, danger even greater now that the old order had fallen utterly.
Bregate and Agrawel
Among the crusader kings were Islwyn Gardner and Elric Thrussell, who founded their neighboring realms of Bregate and Agrawel in 732 and 790, respectively. Islwyn formed his kingdom with holy guidance from St. Arathir, one of the first cardinals of the reformed Solist church, who sought to protect the holy city of Caer Sól from foreign invasions. When Agrawel began to rise, Islwyn II rode to Elric’s palace, and the two formed a valuable alliance; successfully defeating multiple Nordling invasions. Islwyn II would later marry Elric’s daughter, who would give birth to Aeron.
Throughout most of the ninth century, the two kingdoms would be allies. The only exception was the occupation of Bregate by Ghamorz, in which Elric II refused to aid Aeron in defeating his army of ten thousand orcs. The end of the ninth century, however, brought the end of peace. In 907, the heroic warrior Ardal Arvendon would rise to save the city of Agrawel from the powerful necromancer and lich, Theseus; in the aftermath, Ardal staged a non-violent coup and usurped the throne from Elric IV, who had failed to defend his kingdom. Ardal then set off to form the kingdom of Noslith; by 913, Ardal would be successful in uniting much of the Shrinelands, conquering Bregate and stretching his realm from the Cumber River in the north to the Savage Mountains in the south, and from the shores of the Sea of Saints in the west to the Ethereal Mountains in the east.
The Arvendon Dynasty
After Ardal’s death, the Arvendon dynasty was established; some of its greatest kings would include Doran, the secondborn son of Ardal who lead the Second Crusade against demihuman religion before his assassination at the hands of the Black Brace; Alastar, who ruled in 1097 when the Phoenix arose and joined Dragomir III in his Third Crusade; Rodric, the mad tyrant who took the throne at the end of the Third Crusade who laughed while Noslith burned until his brother Gerwyn slew him; and Robert, who successfully defeated the united barbarians in the Andarian Wars.
Today, Richard II of House Arvendon rules as King in troubled times. The Half-Moon Heresy, a full-blown invasion of the Shrinelands by lycanthropes, nearly tore the realm apart, while the first outbreak decimated the kingdom’s revenue and population. Only fourteen when he took the throne, Richard II is now nearing fifty, and now relies more on his courtiers, while his new Archmage, Tegwen, who was controversially appointed after the end of the first appearance of the Rasping pox, is granted even greater agency. Now, the return of the plague spells doom for the kingdom’s squabbling aristocracy and its beleaguered peasantry.
Noslith is split into numerous counties – the largest of them the twin dukedoms of Bregate and Agrawel. Each noble is titled and the feudal lord of their estate, and weaker nobles often fight bloody wars to increase their holdings. The clergy also has an active role in governing Noslith and form the principal advisory body to the monarchy and the aristocracy.
Noslith’s ruling house is House Arvendon, who has ruled the kingdom for all its five-hundred some years of history. Currently, Richard II, who took the throne in 1490 after the death of Richard I, rules as sovereign monarch; however, he has no male heirs, and Noslith follows the writ of primogeniture, meaning his daughter Calanthe would not be permitted to take the throne lest Richard II erased the writ. Nonetheless, Noslith was once ruled by queen Nuala after Doran’s assassination, and lead the kingdom to greater prosperity and out of the violence of the Second Crusade.
Richard II, now forty-five, is by all accounts a good and just king; under his rule, Noslith has faced and defeated two dangerous threats that could have destroyed the kingdom outright. Richard II is known for his booming voice, friendly demeanor and gaunt face and thick dark hair. He still stands an imposing figure, even moreso with his enchanted longsword Tyrung.
Agrawel: The metropolitan port of Agrawel is a city of rich culture and beauty that masks a darker side underneath. In the shadow of Castle Arvendon writhes poverty and plague, victims of feudalism and constant warfare. Elric Thrussell founded the city of Agrawel, yet his family lost the crown to House Arvendon, who forged the kingdom of Noslith with the fires of conquest. The city sprawls around the Harbor, which enjoys the waters of the Sea of Saints and the Westmoor River. Furthermore, the coastal plains of the Hinterlands are ideal for pastoral farming, and the salt deposits beneath the city are perfect for mining. While Bregate is known for its scholars and religious vitality, and Newport for its music, dance, and wine, Agrawel is known for its architecture, its poets and jesters, knights and jousters, and its overwhelming sense of romance.
Today, Agrawel is ruled by the loyal Duke Eldred of House Thrussell from the Thrussell Manor; presided over by King Richard II and Princess Calanthe themselves. The nobility distances themselves from the city yet there is hardly a week where the markets are not interrupted by a royal parade. Meanwhile, at the chapel of Carmarthen, built overlooking the river, the Archbishop Harald presides over the clergy of God’s kingdom. Agrawel’s market district is host to many guildhalls, including the headquarters to the Guild of Artisans, a massive trading company. In spite of being a bastion of royal wealth, power is still held by one or more powerful cults and criminal elements lurking like roaches beneath noble feet.
Border Wood: The huge Border Wood is a major forest and an intersection between Noslith, Traewyn, and Wraemore. Far removed from most major settlements, this dark patch of wilderness is essentially a blank spot on the map to most of the common folk, although its local inhabitants know better. The Border Wood is host to numerous gangs of highwaymen, some fringe cults, and dangerous beasts the former give a wide berth to. It is also the site of numerous fallen battlements from wars past, ruins of elven cities long abandoned by their peoples, and a great and mysterious citadel known only as the Lost Keep. Many bandits have attempted to claim the Lost Keep for themselves; its current inhabitants are the dangerous gang called the King’s Men, lead by the false king Kirk the Jester. The King’s Men are one of the fastest growing bandit tribes in the wilds, despite numerous attempts by Noslith to cull their numbers or remove their leader.
Bregate: One of the oldest cities in the Shrinelands, Bregate was founded by Islwyn Gardner some two hundred years before the founding of Noslith. It survived an orc occupation and an illegitimate regency, but could not survive Ardal Arvendon, who conquered the city after Elric IV abdicated the throne of Agrawel. Today, it is notorious for its expansive slums, cyclically rebuilt and destroyed in the shadow of its massive churches, priories, and noble estates. Surrounded by high, white walls, its three districts of Godsgrove, Lowport, and Highcrest are almost cities in and of themselves.
Aside from its numerous thieves guilds, Bregate is also home to a powerful branch of the Infernal Pact, hidden somewhere in the city’s shadows, who slowly encroach on the Duke’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, old, grieving, and incapable, Duke Duncan Gardner has been unable to stop them, focused too much on the disappearance of his daughter, the young and beautiful Dulcinea, leaving most of the rulership of the plagued city in the hands of its squabbling noble houses and its newly arrived court sorceress, the dark-haired and alluring Aeronwen.
Bregate is home to the sole university of magic in Noslith, the Arcane Academy, headed by the capricious elf wizard Anduil Amonwel. Conflict waxes and wanes between the Goldsworn (the elite city guard of Bregate), the Arcane Academy, the clergy, and the populace at large, sometimes peaking with massive, district-wide riots. Fortunately, even against a backdrop of chaos, Bregate maintains at least the outward appearance of law and order.
Caer Sól: Few know how, or why, or when the ancient citadel of Caer Sól was built against Mount Loinnir, or even who built it, except perhaps the seven Cardinals who live in the deepest part of its halls, for much of the castle’s ancient archives were plundered or lost when Shadowthrone rose. Yet, when the brilliant Phoenix was born – or reborn – within the holy city of the sun god Sól, none could deny its brightness, and the resulting First Crusade that destroyed the Shadowmaker and dismantled his empire created a golden age of worship of Sól across Frey.
Today, Caer Sól is even greater than it was before the Shadowmaker rose to power. It supports the church’s three arms; the Inquisition, the knights, and the clergy; it also supports one of the largest urban populations in the Shrinelands. Unlike other cities in Noslith, it is not ruled by nobility, but instead by clergy; with the First Cardinal, an old, wizened and cryptic man named Iorwerth, leading both church and city. Caer Sól is not legitimately part of Noslith, and is technically its own independent state.
Ethereal Mountains: This eerie mountain range forms the bulk of Noslith’s eastern border, shared with Traewyn. The Ethereal Mountains once provided for both the defense and prosperity of Noslith, with its labyrinthine caverns containing massive natural mithril deposits. Allied with the mages of the Academy, the nobility of Bregate filled their coffers by producing mithril weapons and armor en masse while defended by arcane guardians called golems. The golems protected the miners against dangerous humanoids and aberrations, come to the surface by way of the Underdark, until a trickster named Rhuddlan stole the golems’ arcane controller and traded it to the Troll King, Hakon the Many-Clawed. Now, the mountains are ruled by monsters again.
Glass Isles: Within close reach of the Noslithic coast are the Glass Isles, a chain of three large, wild islands in the shadows of the southern highland and its great mountain ranges. The Glass Isles are largely unexplored yet supposedly the Shadowmaker had special interest in the region; since, adventurers have mentioned finding their way into undead infested ruins with strange, northern iconography. The Isles also seem to have ancient religious significance, containing three towers dedicated to the old elemental gods of Fire, Earth, and Air. Of these legendary towers little is known, for the intrepid travelers who venture beyond their doors never return.
Isle Merfin: Local legends hold that the lords of Merfin fell to their own folly; in the year 1311, the ruler of the isle, Murtagh Flann, kidnapped the Princess Deirdre and proclaimed himself sovereign and independent from Noslithic rule. In response, Alfred II attempted to cross the sea, yet his fleet was lost in a terrible storm. Murtagh decided that god had granted him rule over all of Noslith, and so he prepared to attack a defenseless Agrawel; yet instead the storm grew, and fell upon the isle, wreaking destruction and causing the deaths of Murtagh and Deirdre and countless other innocents. Those who survived fled to the mainland, and Merfin was called cursed, forbidden for assuming the will of god was on their side. Since, few have made expeditions to the forbidden isle, and even fewer have returned.
Newport: A small city on the Sea of Saints, Newport is a key part of the kingdom’s economy, as it allows imports from across Frey to be sent up the Cold River to Bregate. Saint Carrick founded the port during King Rodric’s rule, near the end of his reign in 1142, when the paranoid ruler closed the ports of Agrawel and sealed himself within Castle Arvendon. Today, the Marquess William Norwood is lord of Newport, a distant descendant of Saint Carrick. The handsome ruler is said to be friendly and display a kind heart to all visitors of Carrick’s Hall, but rumors portend that the lusty lord is unfaithful to his lady Alyce, dallying with the maidens of his hall and the whores of his city’s brothels.
The road across the Swampland to Newport is dangerous, but Newport is known across the Shrinelands for its massive, popular festivals that often draw bards and harlequins from across Noslith. It is also known for its vineyards, which have made winemaking an important part of the city’s culture; it is said that winemakers are treated like nobility, and wine treated much like gold, something the clergy despises. Below Newport lies its labyrinthine sewer system, and even deeper lies its nest of catacombs and tombs, once carefully patrolled, but now lost to disrepair and monster infestation, and now whispers say that the darkest shadows of the Newport underground conceal great evil – and possibly an entrance to the Underdark.
Ryfall: Built around the battlements of Galadhor’s Keep, a garrison during the Second Crusade, Ryfall is a walled-in town in the White Forest defined by deep-seated racial conflicts and tensions. It was founded by Sir Rayne of the White Rose in the crusade’s aftermath, and his descendant, Earl Piaras Rayne, rules the city today beside his wife, a beautiful Traewynian noble named Isabella, and the Argent Guard, a divinely inspired order of town guardsmen. Abbot Layton, an aging man, has watched over the Ryfall Priory for generations of students, while Father Braden cares for the town’s congregation. Ryfall is known for its logging industry, and also for its surprisingly large demihuman population who are constantly at odds with the rule of House Rayne. Supposedly, the Black Brace, a dangerous militant group of demihumans, is still alive and well in Ryfall, as are Second Crusade sympathizers. Ryfall is also not far from the famous headquarters of the Holy Chivalric Order of the White Rose, founded in antiquity by Cadogan.
Savage Mountains: The highlands of southern Bregate are rough and dangerous, forming two sister mountain ranges that sprawl to the east above the King’s River Valley collectively dubbed the Savage Mountains. These mountains, along with the King’s River, form the southern border of Noslith, shared with Wraemore, forming a natural wall between the two civilizations. The northern range of the Savage Mountains is dotted with the ruins of giant strongholds, massive citadels rivaling the size of the great mountains they are built upon. The most famous of these is Tarragon Citadel, now apparently the domain of a fearsome red dragon, the old wyrm Thargaryx. Meanwhile, legend tells that the southern Savage Mountains contain ancient dwarven ruins within their stony husks. Both ranges, however, and the King’s River, are infested with orc tribes, the most prominent among them the huge Broken Tooth, Splintered Spine, and Blood Wolf tribes.
Sylvan Forest: This stretch of charred forest lies past the Ethereal Mountains at the very fringe of Noslith. Few who travel to the Sylvan Forest return, and those who do come with stories of impossible things; describing its wooded paths changing before their eyes, its trees walking and staring back at them, and wisps of light leading them into certain death. This fey-haunted forest is one of the oldest in the world, and one of the most dangerous to those who lack cold iron arms, yet promises great wealth to those who can traverse the ancient weald and find the ruined elven capital of Gilariel.
Swampland: This massive stretch of marshland sits in the shadow of the fierce Savage Mountains and forms a huge part of the former kingdom of Bregate. It is said that before the rise of Bregate, a teeming lizardfolk civilization sat here, now left in shambles after the rise of man. The village of Swampton, and its lord Aevan Taggart’s castle, Caer Tegan, were built for this purpose: to defend Bregate from the rise of the dreadful swamp and its inhabitants. The fortification was also built to watch over the dangerous humanoids of the Savage Mountains that sit above the marsh. Today, Swampton mostly serves as a gathering of the rejects of Noslith, a place where people are less discriminatory, and thus it has the largest demihuman and nonhuman populations in the kingdom, something Baron Aevan tolerates only out of obligation to tradition.
Western Weald: The Western Weald was host to three deciding battles of King Ardal’s conquest of Bregate. These battles were so destructive and bloody that the forest has still not entirely recovered; indeed, even today the woodland serves as more of a mass grave, with its ancient fallen castles acting now as old crypts. The Weald is a forbidden, haunted grove, yet it also plays host to many of Noslith’s sacred tombs, its monuments to paladins fallen. St. Cadogan the Dragonslayer, the paladin who fought alongside King Ardal and founded the Order of the White Rose, was the first to buried here after he succumbed to wounds suffered during their final battle against Theseus, though the location of his tomb is now lost, along with all the holy artifacts contained within.
Wosswood: The Wosswood is an ancient forest filled with magic south of Lake Loinnir. Its aged, gnarled trees are thousands of years old, sitting in the shadow of Mt. Loinnir to the north and at the seat of Mt. Rann to the south. Legends say that the forest itself is alive, its branches and paths moving to confuse or trap wayward travelers. Other legends tell of ancient ruins of dwarven and elven architecture from before the rise of man, lying within the forest and in the stony caverns of Mt. Rann. Supposedly, the wood was once infested with humanoids, but a group of adventurers from Noslith culled the dangerous kobold and goblin populations. The nearby village of Blackbridge sits still on the Black River, under the careful guard of Father Balthasar and the rule of Baron Vern Denholm, who lives with his children William and Leah. Meanwhile, the village of Newstone, just outside the forest, has fallen to the wrath of the plague, and refugees tell tales of the walking dead emerging from Castle Corlach.