The Mountains of Morpheus
Strigis in Detail
Strigis is the geo-political area of principal interest to this campaign, though the player characters’ travels may eventually take them elsewhere. It is one of the seven Azna kingdoms, and has been recently conquered and annexed by its ambitious neighboring kingdom, Kala Anar.
Population: ~24,000 in the city; ~40,000 in towns; ~450,000 in the countryside.
Residents: Azna humans, Soil-born and Sky-born settlers, some halflings.
Originally two settlements on the opposite side of the Arnca River, Strigis has now expanded into the third-largest of the Azna kingdoms. At its heart lies Fortress Strigia, a massive palace and military center built upon a small cliff overlooking the Arnca. The more prominent sites — temples, mansions, and government buildings — clustered around the hill side of that cliff. On the opposite side of the city lies a patchwork of slums, shantytowns, and tanneries and smiths. Tall stone walls and owl-decorated battlements surround the whole city. A significant portion of the city was destroyed during the Wheat-Harvest War, but the Monarch of Kala Anar has sent architects to rebuild the city according to a more pleasing design.
Strigis has long stood in a precarious geo-political position, with Kala Anar to the west, the city-states of the Tesia to the south, and its rival Sibarii to the north, and relations have rarely been peaceful. Before the Wheat-Harvest War, Azna would raid settlements in Kala Anar and the Tesia, creating vulnerable borderland settlements for an ambitious Azna lordling to dominate and exploit (often with those same raiders under her leadership). Such action was tacitly condoned by the former Prince of Strigis, who acted as a patron to many of these bandit-adventurers and upstart aristocrats.
Within Strigis, reverence of a pagan owl deity, Sha Strigia, is popular, especially among Azna warriors and aristocrats. The owl-cult is local to Strigis, and devotees make burnt offerings in exchange for the deity’s strength and vigilance, as well as arrange yearly autumn festivities commemorating the city’s founding by distant, mythologized warriors. Sha Strigia, whose fierce visage was depicted upon the city’s former coat of arms, is often worshipped as a deity of war, cunning, and retribution. Her and Strigis’s Azna have long prided themselves on invulnerability from outside threats, and answering violence with violence. Thus is the memory of the Wheat-Harvest War all the more bitter — but it is memory that drives vengeance, not defeatism.
Social and Political Struggles in Strigis
The postwar situation in Strigis and its surrounding countryside and towns is simultaneously more formal and more chaotic. The puppet Prince Atticus III and the Sky-born Lord Count Arawn, the the highest-ranking representative of the Monarch, seek to pacify the local Azna, and govern the kingdom with an iron fist. After the Wheat-Harvest War, three broad political coalitions have formed:
- The Sky-born coalition, consisting of foreign Sky-born military aristocrats and their hangers-on, their lower-caste (Soil-born) population, and their puppet Prince Atticus IIII and his fellow collaborator Azna. As victors of the recent war, they have what passes for official power, but their power is far from consolidated and they are still struggling to transform that power into an political consensus — by no means easy, having just won a war. There are (proportionally) many sorcerers and magic-types in this faction.
- Loyalist Azna aristocrats and gentry, who would like to restore the old regime but are willing to settle for preventing the further erosion of their power. They are in conflict with the foreign coalition, but it’s a conflict that runs a spectrum from “civil discourse” to espionage to brute force. This faction has a lot of popular support and force, but they’re disorganized, and individual power players are opportunistic about their allegiance. (Arguably, each lord’s concerns are both local and conservative, aiming to hold on to his remaining power/property).
- A fierce but disorganized Azna rebel movement intent on ousting the Sky-born — and, secondarily, punishing the quislings among their people, though that’s easier than the primary goal. The rebellion is the pivot of much direct violence in the kingdom, and its overt antagonism against the Sky-born attracts mercurial attention from Azna loyalists, who would like to wield the movement without being wounded by it. As outlaws thieving from an unpopular regime, members of this faction are the most polarizing, attracting admiration, fear, and loathing. They’re also quite polarized, spanning a gamut from egalitarian soldiers-turned-freedom fighters to murderous bandits. (GM Note: This is a feature of the setting where Eric Hobsbawm’s Bandits may be relevant — it’s a short and fun read.)
Minor Factions in Strigis
The four factions described above are not homogenous or even formally organized; each one is more a web of powerful interests than a perfect hierarchy. At the local level, smaller factions such as these can wield substantial power, and they are not necessarily aligned with any of the macro-factions. Given the feudal systems predominant in Strigis, it’s usually some warrior-aristocrat family or other who commands power through force, but that power is frequently shared, negotiated, or contested with other parties, including a rival aristocrat family. Some of the local interests are:
House Sata: The star of this large family of Sky-born nobles has risen dramatically after the Wheat-Harvest War. Their eldest scion, the ruthless, sorcerous Baron Lucian Sata, now rules over one of Strigis’s provinces. The family line has long had a talent for magic, and are now ready to reap the rewards due to their draconic ancestry.
Baron Sata may be the master of the barony of Illograno, but like most high-ranking aristocrats, his might only reaches as far as his ability to persuade and organize the lords and ladies immediately beneath him. Reflecting the conflicts between the Sky-born coalition and Azna loyalists, some nobles firmly back him, while others pay lip service to his newborn authority, hoping he has gathered enough rope with which to hang himself.
Ethnic affiliation: Sky-born.
Class affiliations: Clerics, fighters, rogues, sorcerers.
Religious affiliation: Ashoum.
The Poor Knights of St. Rostrus: A society of Soil-born warriors and paladins, the Poor Knights have enjoyed an elevation of status and wealth following the Wheat-Harvest War. Although firmly loyal to Sky-born dominance, the knights represent the elite of their Soil-born caste. The opportunities of war have benefited the knights significantly in the form of systematic land seizure, much of which is now farmed by Soil-born peasants. Although no Soil-born knight could ever herself rise to the station of a titled aristocrat, the knights enjoy quite a privileged position as officers and retainers. The society itself claims to defend the soul of the Soil-born people and preserve the just rule of the Sky-born Monarch, though others would view their operations as class collaboration at its finest.
Ethnic affiliation: Soil-born.
Class affiliations: Clerics, fighters, paladins.
Religious affiliations: Ashoum.
The Brotherhood of Sumac: Depending on whom one asks, the Brotherhood is either a benevolent society of woodsmen, or a corrupt secret police that literally murders dissent against Azna nobles. Since the Brotherhood is a secret society, specifics are uncertain, but they are widely known as a group of Azna rangers that receive patronage from unknown Azna aristocrats in eastern Strigis. It is also known that the Brotherhood sought to dissuade entry into the Mountains of Morpheus, occasionally murdering those who had entered, dreamed in, and returned from the Mountains. The Brotherhood is associated with Titus the Pale-Haired, a ranger of legendary reputation who lived some 20 years ago.
It is believed that, after the Wheat-Harvest War, the Brotherhood is now scattered or even effectively disbanded. Thanks in part to this (possible) change, journey into the Mountains of Morpheus has recently increased.
Ethnic affiliation: Azna.
Class affiliations: Barbarians, druids, rangers, rogues.
Religious affiliation: Old Faith.
The Creed of Kisiel: Some 150 years ago, when the monotheistic faith of Ashoum held weaker sway among the Azna, communities of displaced Ashoumite pilgrims began to settle in the eastern countryside of Strigis, near the Mountains of Morpheus. From them, several pilgrims adventured into the Mountains of Morpheus, where they reputedly encountered the angel Kisiel, a messenger of God, who revealed to them a holy creed for living and eschatological prophecies. The pilgrims reputedly returned from the Mountains working divine magic of miraculous power, swaying the faithful and heathens alike to the nascent Creed of Kisiel. Soon involved in several spontaneous peasants’ revolts in which the original pilgrims were martyred, the Creed successfully proselytized to villeins and householders dissatisfied with a sclerotic, conservative Old Faith.
The Kisielites are a peculiar denomination of Ashoumites concentrated in eastern Strigis. Though their faith is not radically in different in form from others’, they do stand out for their ideals of nonviolence, a distrust of druids and arcane magic, a history of revolt against aristocrats allied with the Old Faith, and belief in a coming Day of Judgment. Tensions between the Creed of Kisiel and other faiths break out into harassment, property destruction, and the occasional rural riot. Moreover, since Kisielites venerate the angel Kisiel alongside God, the mainstream Ashoumite priesthood has yet to embrace the Creed as fully one of their own. Today, the Creed is influential enough to include many landowners, and sway a local ruler’s decisions. Given the Sky-born’s affinity for sorcery, relations between the Sky-born aristocrats of Strigis and the Creed of Kisiel are likely to worsen in the coming years.
Ethnic affiliation: Azna.
Class affiliations: Clerics, paladins.
Religious affiliation: Their own branch of Ashoum.
Settlements in Strigis
Villages and small towns:
- Aiovra’s Dance: Small village worgs in nearby forests.
- Dasio’s Bridge: Small town, large bridge across the River Arnca that is currently under repair.
- Dona’s Solitude: Small town in moorlands, base of two warlock cults.
- Giavino: Small town, rumors of ghosts, dominated by a band of Azna mercenaries.
- Kiselia: Small town, founding town of Creed of Kisiel, limited Sky-born influence.
- Khrysmnara: Small town, ravaged after the Wheat-Harvest War, fortified castle.
- Maria’s Meet: Village, under patronage of Brixia vassal to Baron Sata.
- Middlemarch: Small town, site of Sky-born Baron Rahar’s newly acquired castle.
- Moros-Noza: Small town, under firm Sky-born control, nearby coal and iron mines, dwarvish miners.
- Northwater: Lakeside small town, amazing hallucinogenic honey, governed by Azna loyalists.
- Romero’s Meet: Village, base of warlock cult with allegiance to Azna loyalists.
- St. Albano: Small town, ravaged after the Wheat-Harvest War, Ashoum-dominant.
- St. Hermos: Village, halfling and dwarf minority, Ashoum-dominant.
- St. Moyros: Small town, site of Baron Sata’s castle and manors, resting place of important saint.
- St. Oranos: Small town, Ashoum-dominant, abandoned mines nearby.
- St. Poythora: Small town, important church of the Creed of Kisiel, base of paladin order.
- Trezzano: Village, nearby mines where Sky-born lords have recently instituted corvee of mining.
- Wyvern’s Eye: Lakeside small town, governed by Azna loyalists.
Villages have a population somewhere between 50 and 1,500; small towns have a population somewhere between 1,000 and 2,500. Usually, the larger population and a town market distinguishes a village from a small town, but there is no formal identification.
- Granite-Castle: Seaside town, rulership contested between Azna and Sky-born.
- Kasha’s Watch: Fortified town in hills, under Baron di Zhatto’s rule.
- Nardo-Nalia: Town near Azna moorlands, ransacked during Wheat-Harvest War, * destination for Ashoumite pilgrims.
- Sisziano: Town near swampland, ruled by Azna lords favoring the Sky-born coalition.
Towns have a population somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000.
- Strigis: Only city and administrative, military center of the kingdom of Strigis. Ruled by the Azna Prince Atticus III, but significant power lies with the Sky-born, foreign humans to the west. The city and nearby settlements are firmly allied with the ruling coalition. Population of about 24,000.