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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Kingdom of Varanthus

The Kingdom of Varanthus

The Kingdom of Varanthus, to the Valloreans, is a harsh backwater outpost of civilization in a dark sea of barbarism and primordial savagery. Varanthus is a large border kingdom of numerous mountain ranges, rolling hills, and dark forests. Varanthus is rich in natural resources and holds immense potential for fabulous wealth and prosperity. Varanthus has many large lakes, as well as numerous rivers and streams throughout the land that provides plenty of water for both animals and people. Varanthus provides huge resources of woods and excellent timber. The hills and mountain regions of Varanthus provide great potential in good stone, minerals, as well as iron, silver, and gold. Throughout Varanthus, various herd beasts, birds, and animals are plentiful and prosperous. In the more gentle regions of Varanthus, there is good supply of wild grains, as well as a large variety of herbs, plants, and berries. Furthermore, the lakes and rivers hold huge populations of various fish, amphibians, and some reptiles.

Varanthus is a fairly temperate region in climate, embracing all four distinct seasons of the year—spring, summer, autumn and winter. The south-western regions of Varanthus, especially along the coasts, are often warm, balmy, and generally very pleasant. The mountainous areas, while rugged, cool, and heavily forested, are generally hospitable and pleasant, as well as inspiring in scenic beauty. The interior lands of Varanthus are generally dominated by dense woodlands and dark, mist-shrouded forests. Deeper into the forested interior are damp, wet meadowlands and dense marshes, often swept by heavy rainfall.

Historically, the Kingdom of Varanthus was established by an expedition of Vallorean explorers, merchants, soldiers and knights, as well as priests, after a huge Vallorean army spent several years campaigning against the Nemberi and the Gharnoth tribes. Previously, the Varanar chieftains had invited the Valloreans to help them against the Nemberi and the Gharnoth, as the Varanar tribes had been engaged in wars with both the Nemberi and the Gharnoth, and were fearful of ultimately being overwhelmed and destroyed. The Vallorean emperor agreed to help the Varanar tribes, and before too long, a vast Vallorean fleet arrived off the shores of Varanar in the Argerren Sea, and a huge Vallorean army of some twelve legions marched ashore in the spring of DC 1310. The Vallorean legions marched against the Nemberi and the Gharnoth, and pushed the tribes back over a campaign that lasted nearly six years. Once the Vallorean legions had secured peace in the region, the armies climbed aboard their great warships, and returned to Vallorea. The year was DC 1316.

However, many Valloreans chose to remain in the region, and soon established several communities of villages and towns throughout the years of DC 1317-1321. During the years of the Vallorean expedition, the legions had built several fortresses, supply depots, and fortified towers and encampments. At nearly all of these locations, entirely new villages and towns developed around the fortresses, towers and encampments. During the Vallorean expedition, thousands of Vallorean soldiers and merchants, as well as foreign mercenaries recruited from distant provinces of the empire had intermarried and intermixed with the local Varanar barbarian populations. In addition, during the Vallorean expedition, the Vallorean legions brought back thousands of barbarian women from the Nemberi and Gharnoth tribes as slaves and booty. The Vallorean soldiers, merchants, and foreign mercenaries intermixed and interbred with the many thousands of barbarian women, and vast hordes of children were born to the barbarian slave women. Many of the Valloreans had also married and formed families, and had chosen to remain after they were discharged from service in the legions. In the years immediately after the departure of the Vallorean legions, the scattered communities of new and recent Vallorean immigrants, as well as communities of Valloreans mixed with barbarians of various tribes, were gripped by a mixture of feelings, from hope and euphoria, to uncertainty and fear. The scattered communities were often politically fragmented, competitive, squabbling, and at odds against each other over a variety of issues—from political and economic, to cultural issues, race-relations, social order, and religion.

Into this arena of fear, uncertainty and petty rivalries, stepped to the forefront a man of vision, leadership, and ambition. Lord Gandor Tarberus—a Vallorean nobleman—and commander of the great fortress and port of Darthan, emerged as a powerful leader and declared himself the new king of a glorious, unified realm—the Kingdom of Varanthus. The year was DC 1322.

King Gandor’s bold declaration of kingship—and the establishment of the Kingdom of Varanthus—did not immediately resolve all the problems or issues dividing the various communities. In fact, vocal and passionate opposition rose almost immediately to challenge his presumed authority. However, despite such vocal and passionate opposition, King Gandor held several important advantages over the scattered resistance. The young king already held control of the fortress of Darthan—which was also the regions only sea-going port—as well as several other key fortresses and towers in the region, along with important crossroads and stretches of rivers fortified by loyal troops. Nonetheless, opposition intensified and bloody fighting broke out between the two factions, and open war raged for many months. The opposition forces formed a formidable obstacle to the dream of a united kingdom becoming a reality.

During King Gandor’s rise to power, Bargatus, the High Chieftain of the Varanar tribes—approached Gandor with a marriage proposal for his youngest daughter, Sarganna. Gandor quickly grasped the potential as an opportunity that might serve to provide him with sufficient resources and advantages to ensure victory over his zealous enemies—and he was reminded of such salient advantages by many of his entourage, retainers and friends. Gandor agreed to the marriage, and the next year, in the spring of DC 1324, Gandor and Sarganna were officially married. A great celebration followed, and many fine gifts were exchanged. The gods were praised and called upon to anoint and bless them, and wine and drink flowed like rivers. More than a few friendships were formed during this time between members of Gandor’s entourage and barbarian nobles of the Varanar tribes, as well as a good number of additional romances and marriages were arranged. The Kingdom of Varanthus had gained great strength virtually overnight.

Gandor’s knights and soldiers gained the help of many bands of Varanar warriors—as well as the respect and support of many of the common people living amongst the forces of the opposition. Many people living amongst the forces of the opposition—and even heretofore supporting the opposition faction—were of mixed Vallorean and Varanar blood, and with the official support of the Varanar High Chieftain for Gandor’s cause, abandoned the opposition forces, and rallied to the call of Bargatus, Gandor—and the greatly loved barbarian princess, Sarganna. Within the year, the opposition forces had been defeated in a series of fierce, hard-fought battles, and many of the leaders had been killed or executed. The opposition forces to Gandor collapsed, and the Kingdom of Varanthus was finally at peace—and united in the year of DC 1325.

King Gandor, and his wife, Queen Sarganna, proceeded to unify and strengthen the kingdom. Many Vallorean knights and merchant-lords serving King Gandor had families and connections back in Vallorea, far across the Dragon Sea to the north and west, and over the next several years, many of these families and households immigrated to the new kingdom. Gandor built and fortified more villages and towns, spreading further east and into the north. Increasingly, more Varanar barbarians joined with the Valloreans in marriages and settled throughout the prosperous villages and towns, and the kingdom was soon experiencing a large population boom from so many children being born.

Some 5 years after the kingdom was established, Gandor had learned of a group of Haeghenti tribes from lands to the far south, in Aghanda, that were desperate for new lands to settle in. Gandor made various negotiations, and over the next year and a half, the six tribes of the Haeghenti Confederation—soon changed to the Parrallian Confederation after some 8 years—migrated into the area, and settled in the woodlands and fields around the Parrallian Hills. The Parrallian Halflings were soon productive contributors to the prosperity of the kingdom, as well as intriguing and interesting citizens. Various troupes of Parrallian Halflings also spread out from their settled lands, and lived amongst the Valloreans, and integrated into Vallorean culture. In addition, boats of traveling Parrallian Halflings were soon rowing and sailing up and down the rivers of Varanthus, trading and working amidst the Vallorean villages and towns. The Valloreans typically were warm and welcoming to the Parrallian Halflings, and over time, many friendships and social arrangements were developed between the two peoples.

The strange and exotic Parrallian Halflings served as a wondrous and intriguing sight to behold for many Valloreans, and the Parrallian Halflings were also often viewed as beautiful and sensual creatures. The often joyful and exuberant Parrallian Halflings often demonstrated a brazen and lascivious sexuality, and were often seductively eager and receptive to romantic and sexual relationships with humans. The Parrallian Halflings enjoyed intermixing and interbreeding with humans so much, that the Parrallian tribes organized travelling troupes of Parrallian dancers, musicians and entertainers to travel throughout the lands of the kingdom providing entertainment to their Vallorean lords—with the express intent of also interbreeding with the Vallorean population. The Vallorean nobles and lords patronized the troupes of Halfling entertainers, and enjoyed all of their contributions to the joy and merriment of their halls and communities.

The troupes of Halfling entertainers were always paid well for their services, and more than a few Halflings became wealthy and quite sophisticated. Parrallian Halfling communities of mixed Vallorean and Parrallian blood gradually formed throughout the kingdom, where they live and work amongst their fellow Vallorean citizens in a wide variety of professions and trades—as well as entertainers. Gradually, something of a sub-culture developed, with the urbanized, assimilated Halflings being called “Vallorean Halflings”—as they remained quite similar to their tribal relatives in the Parrallian Confederation, but over time developed several cultural distinctions, even while essentially remaining the same in appearance.

Gandor and Sarganna built temples, established fisheries, lumber mills, mines, and farms, as well as increased roads and established a line of fortified towers on the south-western borders. The kingdom was growing steadily in prosperity and wealth, carefully supervised by Gandor, while the population continued to boom year after year. Gandor was careful with expenses, and wisely invested in a progressive campaign of expanding the realm’s infrastructure and industries, which continued to attract frequent immigrants, many of which came by sea and through the harbor at Darthan, the capitol city of the kingdom.

Through the next ten years, from DC 1331-1340, High Chieftain Bargatus and the Varanar tribes increasingly enjoyed the benefits of Vallorean friendship, and Vallorean merchants brought a steady flow of fine-crafted goods into the villages and encampments of the Varanar. Two of Bargatus’ young sons were sent to Vallorea to be formally educated and to learn the ways of the Valloreans, as well as many other young tribal nobles, both men and women. Intermarriages between the Valloreans and the Varanar became more plentiful, as many Varanar women married to Vallorean husbands brought news of the bathhouses, fine perfumes, rich clothing, and wondrous foods available back to their sisters and kinsmen living in tribal areas. More and more Varanar women were wearing clothing made in distant provinces; wearing exotic cosmetics and perfumes from trade-partners of the Valloreans, such as the Tegheran Empire, and the Malbari kingdoms; drinking wine from provinces of the empire; and wearing jewelry made in Vallorea.

The Varanar tribes were flooded with all manner of goods from distant lands, and their native culture and way of life began to rapidly change. Increasingly, many Varanar women desired Vallorean husbands, and year after year, large processions of Varanar women would wander down from their tribal homes in the hills and forests and gather with the Vallorean populations during various festivals and celebrations, and many marriages were arranged every year. High Chieftain Bargatus became a strong friend and ally of Gandor, and fully encouraged his people to embrace the ways of the Valloreans. Gandor established an official Varanar Trade Council, with merchant-lords specifically appointed by the king, and instructed them to ensure not only favourable trade with the Varanar, but also to bring fine goods, tools, medicines, and other goods to the Varanar that would improve their lives in many ways. Naturally, all of the merchant-lords on the Varanar Trade Council became very wealthy from their exclusive royal trade contacts. The Varanar, too, became prosperous beyond their wildest fantasies, and their encampments and villages were virtually swimming in luxurious goods from all over the Vallorean Empire, and beyond.

However, not all was well within the Varanar tribes. The tribes closest in proximity to the Vallorean villages and towns—the Varanu, Ardani, Chalari, and Rhubaan—gained more of the wealth, prosperity, and luxury goods than tribes that lived deeper into the wilderness—the Arbalu, Dhalmar, and Naebas tribes. Many Varanar people were feeling left behind and alienated culturally by the massive changes in their society over the recent years, as well as the growing prosperity and changes amidst the Varanar tribes most involved with trading with the Valloreans. In addition, resentment was growing steadily from the frustrations experienced by so many male Varanar being rejected in marriage in favor of the Valloreans—or invited into a group marriage by the women that included and required that they move with them and live in the Vallorean towns and villages.

Finally, the resentments mushroomed into a plot to assassinate Bargatus and usurp the leadership of the Varanar tribes. In the spring of DC 1341 the High Chieftain Bargatus was poisoned during the night of a great feast celebrating the marriage of two of his nieces to Vallorean adventurers. Two of his five sons were also killed, as well as most of their families in a savage attack by traitorous warriors that went throughout the great encampment, hunting them down and slaughtering them. However, Bargatus miraculously survived the poison, and he was taken by a few loyal supporters to Darthan, seeking refuge. Bargatus managed to recover enough to order a thorough investigation of the assassins, and they were soon discovered and attacked by warriors loyal to Bargatus. Three of the eight conspirators were tribal chieftains, two were priests, and two were priestesses—and the final conspiracy leader was one of Bargatus’ sons, Nargatus—and a prominent and powerful noble. Two of the priests and one of the chieftains were killed in the fighting, while the priestesses and two of the chieftains were captured. Nargatus, the son of Bargatus, managed to escape his captors’ enroute to Darthan in a daring escape. Gandor had agreed to have them brought to Darthan, where they could be securely imprisoned within the fortress. Within the week, Gandor had the two rebel chieftains and the surviving priestess all crucified on Raven’s Hill, just outside the walls of Darthan, overlooking the shimmering waters of Leviathan Bay far below.

Bargatus asked Gandor and his daughter Sarganna for refuge, and help in gaining vengeance against the assassins. Gandor and Sarganna agreed, and soon, columns of fierce Varanar warriors—armoured and equipped as Vallorean provincial troops—as well as troops of Vallorean knights, rode out through the countryside, and began a series of savage raids deep into the lands of the traitors. Over the next three months, in the summer of DC 1341 a bloody civil war erupted as the Varanar confederation was torn apart. In addition to Bargatus’s son Nargatus being a ring-leader of the conspiracy, other members of Bargatus’ household and family were also implicated in the plot. Large majorities of three ancient and powerful tribes were in full support of the rebellion. The three rebel tribes—the Arbalu, Dhalmar, and Naebas—were henceforth called the “Rebel Tribes”—while the other four loyal tribes—the Ardani, Chalari, Rhubaan, and Varanu—were called the “Loyal Tribes”. Bargatus negotiated with Gandor, and during the next year, the four “Loyal Tribes” were all granted citizenship in the Kingdom of Varanthus, and most of the members of the “Loyal Tribes” immigrated from their wilderness homes, much of which were the scenes of continuous battle and slaughter—and journeyed to the Vallorean lands, and began forming communities within the walls of Vallorean towns and castles. The ferocious and wily Nargatus replaced the fallen chieftain of the Arbalu tribe, and became the warlord of the entire rebel faction. The tribal civil war raged for some five years, from DC 1341-1346, with many nobles and warriors from each faction of tribes dying in the war, as well as many Valloreans. Three years into the Varanar civil war, in the spring of DC 1344, Gandor’s great friend and father-in-law, Bargatus, died in his new home of Darthan. Two years after his death, after another brutal campaign throughout the autumn and winter of DC 1346, Nargatus agreed to a peace treaty. The casualties had been great on both sides, and both sides were eager to have peace—at least for now.

The four “Loyal Tribes” over the years also began to be called the “Urban Tribes” as they were increasingly assimilated into the urban Vallorean communities. The loyal Varanar continued to learn the Vallorean language, and also to teach the Valloreans the Varanar language. The loyalist tribes gradually changed their styles of dress, and also began to learn advanced trades, professions and skills. While many still lived in their traditional encampments throughout the forests and hills of Varanthus—more and more Varanar people began to live in the Vallorean villages and towns, and began appearing more alike to the Valloreans.

The three “Rebel Tribes” retreated deeper into the dark wilderness, where they sought to recover from their losses, and worked to preserve their traditional tribal culture, religion, and way of life. The rebel tribes—also known as the traditional tribes—always hated the Valloreans, and grew to view their loyalist brethren as traitors. The rebel tribes violently rejected the Vallorean culture and religion, and maintained a constant and passionate rebellion against both the Valloreans and the loyalist tribes, even though open war was for now, avoided. The rebel tribes continued to launch sporadic raids against Vallorean caravans, as well as scattered encampments of the loyalist tribes throughout the years.

As the three rebel tribes retreated deeper into the harsh wilderness, they encountered several large tribes of ogres. Nargatus proposed a careful alliance with the ogres, and exchanged many gifts between the two peoples. Within a year, Nargatus had conceived of a new proposal, and discussed it with the elders, and gained their support. The ogres eagerly embraced the proposal as well. Nargatus, as the warlord of the rebel confederation, embraced a radical policy of having selected members of each of the three rebel tribes take to themselves ogres as mates, and interbreed and mix with them thoroughly. Each and every year, new Varanar people and new ogres would join in marriage, and breed prodigiously. Nargatus had not just the Varanar women interbreed with the ogres—but also the Varanar men. Many women died during the following pregnancies, though some always survived. The ogre women had no such trouble in bringing their half-ogre children into the world, and gradually, more and more half-ogres were born, and survived childhood. Nargatus continued to have Varanar women interbreed with the ogres, and then, eventually, half-ogres were interbreeding with both Varanar men and women. Over time, enough half-ogres were alive and strong, as to begin interbreeding with each other, and produce new lines of pure half-ogres, bred by half-ogre fathers and mothers. Nargatus was planning for the future, and envisioned the Valloreans and the loyalist tribes enjoying a certain surprise when they next engaged in battle. In the coming years, the rebel tribes would not only grow in vast number—but also in great strength and power.

Meanwhile, the Valloreans continued to build and expand their kingdom, establishing new towns, castles, and extending the outstanding Vallorean roads in nearly every direction. Gandor supervised the construction of a fleet of warships, as well as merchant ships, to increase foreign trade. Gandor also sponsored the settlement of two large islands to the north-west, and many new fisheries were established, and small fishing fleets were built to help expand the supply of salt-water fish and ocean-creatures to the kingdom. The coastal fisheries and fishing villages proceeded to cultivate skills in catching a variety of other strange ocean-creatures, from shrimp, crabs and lobster, to eels, sharks, and clams. The coastal communities also developed additional skills and industries, notably those of harvesting various poisons, glands, organs, coral, seaweed, salt, spines, among other resources from the sea creatures and the ocean environment.

Queen Sarganna was active and dynamic throughout her reign with Gandor, and contributed numerous policies, laws, and efforts that greatly enhanced the prosperity, harmony, and productivity of the entire kingdom. The Queen supported laws that promoted religious tolerance, as well as laws and policies aimed at reducing poverty, as well as increasing the social consciousness and shared responsibility for the general welfare of everyone in the kingdom. Queen Sarganna was passionate in promoting the harmony, happiness, and prosperity of everyone in the kingdom, and was greatly loved and celebrated for her passion, kindness, generosity—as well as her justice, dignity and stunning beauty.

In DC 1350, the Kingdom of Varanthus received a diplomatic delegation from the elven Kingdom of Gallarond. Over a period of some two years, Gallarond and Varanthus signed mutually beneficial diplomatic treaties and trade agreements, in addition to establishing an official Gallarond Embassy at Darthan. In DC 1358, Varanthus received a diplomatic delegation of Dharranim dwarfs from the Kingdom of Zharen-Darthach. By DC 1360, Varanthus and the Kingdom of Zharen-Darthach had several diplomatic treaties and trade agreements of mutual benefit and enrichment, as well as establishing an official Dharranim Embassy at Darthan.

Previously, in the year of DC 1349, Varanthus received several diplomatic delegations from various Archaedian city-states. Varanthus and the Archaedians embraced several diplomatic treaties and trade agreements of mutual benefit and enrichment, as well as an extensive immigration treaty which allowed open immigration of Archaedian people from the various Archaedian city-states to Varanthus throughout the years of DC 1351-1360.

In DC 1352, diplomatic delegations from several Malbari city-states joined in similar diplomatic treaties and trade agreements, as well as an extensive immigration treaty that allowed open immigration of Malbari people from various Malbari city-states into Varanthus throughout the years of DC 1353-1364. During these years, many thousands of Archaedian and Malbari people immigrated into the kingdom of Varanthus, and eagerly became citizens of the growing kingdom.

In both cases, the Malbari and the Archaedian city-states had experienced huge increases in population, and were incapable of providing open lands and richer opportunities for such huge increases in population, so quickly, and were thus desperate to send hordes of young, often impoverished people of their city-states to settle abroad in foreign lands. Varanthus, as a growing and prosperous kingdom with great expanses of open land and harsh wilderness, needed more and more people to work and forge the land and harvest the resources for the hungry appetite of the vibrant kingdom. Thus, the many thousands of Malbari and Archaedian immigrants were eagerly welcomed and warmly received.

In the years ahead, more rebellions, wars and strife would come to Varanthus, as well as plagues, pestilence, famine, floods, droughts and other natural disasters. Through it all, Varanthus endured, and grew strong under the lash of war, disaster and hardship. Gandor and Sarganna had forged a kingdom from the dark wilderness, and established a great and noble legacy that inspired the peoples of the kingdom to embrace a passionate love and reverence for their monarchs—and laid the foundations for a strong, prosperous kingdom that was loyal, passionate, and industrious. Gandor and Sarganna set a dynamic standard of leadership, dignity and devotion that has inspired their descendents to rule and govern with the same attributes, and to labor long and diligently—and with a jealous, passionate zeal to preserve the prosperity, harmony, and security of the Kingdom of Varanthus.

The Table of Royal Monarchs of Varanthus

King Gandor Saranus Tarberus DC 1322-1375;
Ascended the throne at age 28; Reign of 53 years; died in 1375 at the age of 81
Queen Sarganna Maygari DC 1324-1369;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Varanar
Ascended the throne at age 18; Reign of 45 years; died in 1369 at the age of 63

King Gandric Saranus Tarberus DC 1375-1401;
Ascended the throne at age 50; Reign of 26 years; died in 1401 at the age of 76
Queen Jhessenya Kaydari DC 1375-1401;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Varanar
Ascended the throne at age 46; Reign of 26 years; died in 1403 at the age of 74
Served as the Queen Mother during the last two years of her life

King Galthar Saranus Tarberus DC 1401-1420;
Ascended the throne at age 46; Reign of 19 years; died in 1420 at the age of 65
Queen Drusilla Vandus Negerus DC 1401-1420;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Vallorean
Ascended the throne at age 46; Reign of 19 years; died in 1425 at the age of 70
Served as the Queen Mother for the last five years of her life

King Gallion Saranus Tarberus DC 1420-1443;
Ascended the throne at age 45; Reign of 23 years; died in 1443 at the age of 68
Queen Meganta Vandus Dharmentor DC 1420-1443;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Vallorean
Ascended the throne at age 28; Reign of 23 years; died in 1458 at the age of 66
Served as the Queen Mother for the last fifteen years of her life.

King Gandathor Saranus Tarberus DC 1443-1461;
Ascended the throne at age 23; Reign of 18 years; died in 1461 at the age of 41
Queen Nemanthe Pallagos DC 1443-1461;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Archaedian
Description: 5’10”; 165-lbs; Olive-White Skin Tone; Ebony-Black Hair; Dark Brown Eyes. Nemanthe is gorgeous, voluptuous, and beautiful. Nemanthe has long, thick legs, and broad, curvaceous hips. Nemanthe has a plump, rounded belly, and large, dark brown eyes that have an alluring, sensual gaze. Nemanthe has smooth, beautiful skin, and a rich, bright laughter.
Ascended the throne at age 15; Reign of 18 years; currently living, age 42
Nemanthe Pallagos is the reigning Queen Mother, and has served for the last 9 years, to the present

King Garrius Saranus Tarberus DC 1461-Current year of 1470;
Ascended the throne at age 18; Reign of 9 years at present; currently age 27.
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Vallorean/Varanar/Archaedian
Description: 6’6”; 265-lbs. Ebony-Black Hair; Ice-Grey Eyes; Olive-White Skin Tone
Garrius is clean-shaven, muscular, and very handsome. Garrius has broad shoulders, and a strong, powerful physique. Garrius has a piercing gaze, and a bold, heroic demeanor. Garrius is charming, sensual, and romantic. Garrius is intelligent, and has great ambition. Garrius is eloquent and articulate in speech, and is a valiant, daring warrior.
Queen: Unmarried

Royal Mistress: Demanthe Khalledouris;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Archaedian
Description: 6’0”; 180-lbs; Olive-White Skin Tone; Ebony-Black Hair; Dark Brown Eyes; Demanthe wears her gorgeous black hair long and curly, reaching to her waist. Demanthe has a thick, voluptuous physique, and is very beautiful. Demanthe has long, curvaceous legs, a plump, rounded belly, and smooth, beautiful skin. Demanthe is regal, charming, smooth and manipulative. Demanthe is realistic, pragmatic, and politically shrewd. Demanthe has a dignified, polite and solicitous demeanor, while at the same time being forceful and dominant. Demanthe is perceptive, witty, and has a good sense of humour. Demanthe has a sharp, keen intellect, and is highly educated, knowledgeable and worldly. Demanthe is luxuriously sensual, sophisticated and decadent, and passionately hedonistic. In private, Demanthe is jealous, scheming, and effortlessly cunning, always seeking to ensure that she is three steps ahead of everyone around her. Demanthe’s driving ambition is to preserve her status and dominance, while indulging her every desire and passion. Demanthe is vigorous, shrewd, and persistent in knowing everything, taking the measure of anyone in her dominion, and manipulating people’s desires, thoughts and behavior in accordance with her own desires, ambition, and security. Demanthe’s age, experience and wisdom, as well as her pragmatic, cynical and worldly nature provides her with great insight into many people’s desires and fears, as well as what they are likely to do—and why they seek to do so.
Current Age: 42; serving for past 11 years, from 1459 to the present
Born 6 children to the king; (2) are identical twin girls (age 10); (2) sons (age 8 and 6); (2) daughters (age 4 and 2)

Royal Concubine: Nebuna Dusembe;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Mbornu
Description: 5’8”; 166-lbs; Ebony-Black Skin Tone; Ebony-Black Hair; Dark Brown Eyes; Nebuna is plump and voluptuous, with broad, curvaceous hips, thick legs, and a rounded, plump belly. Nebuna has large, round eyes with a warm, sensual gaze. Nebuna has a bright, attractive smile, and a deep, rich laughter. Nebuna is contagiously cheerful, with a seemingly unflappable demeanor that is effervescent, warm, sincere and kind. Nebuna is strong, maternal, and solicitous. Nebuna is deeply spiritual and devout, as well as wise and a shrewd judge of character. In private, Nebuna can be entirely sensual, direct, and very passionate.
Current Age: 36; serving for past 11 years, from 1459 to the present
Born 6 children to the king; (4) sons (age 7, 5, 3 and 1); (2) daughters (age 10 and 8)

Royal Concubine: Nebarra Sardanus Imberi;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Vallorean
Description: 5’10”; 165-lbs; Pale-White Skin Tone; Raven-Black Hair; Pale Amber-Golden Eyes; Nebarra is very attractive, and has a muscular, athletic physique. Nebarra has bright, intelligent eyes, and a piercing gaze. Nebarra is a graceful, sensual dancer, and has broad hips, and long, curvy legs. Nebarra wears her long, straight hair down to the waist, and has a smooth, rounded belly. Nebarra is proud, haughty, and assertive. In private, Nebarra is manipulative, scheming, jealous and greedy. Nebarra is thoroughly lascivious and hedonistic. Nebarra is typically uncompromising, unforgiving, and vengeful.
Current Age: 25; serving for past 10 years, from 1460 to the present
Born 4 children to the king; (4) sons (age 9, 7, 5 and 2)

Royal Concubine: Marsellia Sardanus Imberi;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Vallorean
Description: 5’10”; 185-lbs; Pale-White Skin Tone; Raven-Black Hair; Pale-Green Eyes; Marsellia is thick, curvaceous, and attractive. Marsellia has a large nose, and a wide mouth. Marsellia has a bright, high and beautiful voice, and is a fine singer. Marsellia has a sweet, innocent, and sincere demeanor. Marsellia is polite, solicitous, and graceful, as well as discreet, humble and devout. Marsellia is loyal to her friends and family, and is kind, generous and forgiving. Marsellia is wise and cautious, while also being na├»ve and relatively simple-minded. Marsellia is passionate, idealistic, and romantic.
Current Age: 23; serving for past 8 years, from 1462 to the present
Born 4 children to the king; (4) daughters (age 8, 6, 4 and 2)

Royal Concubine: Marzina Saydari
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Varanar
Description: 5’6”; 140-lbs; Olive-Brown Skin Tone; Black-Brown Hair; Dark Brown Eyes; Marzina has broad, curvaceous hips, thick, shapely legs, and a voluptuous physique. Marzina wears her dark hair in a wild, crazy mass that reaches her waist. Marzina has a deep, sensual voice, full lips, and large, dark eyes that have an alluring gaze. Marzina is deeply spiritual, devout, and passionate. Marzina is loud, outspoken, and emotional, as well as daring and dramatic. Marzina is a devoted hedonist, and can be brazen and lascivious. Marzina is a good singer, and a graceful, sensual dancer. Marzina is intelligent, eloquent, and perceptive. Marzina is artistic, creative and vibrant, and has a devoted, earthy passion for arts, crafts, poetry, and music. In private, Marzina is scheming, greedy, jealous and proud, as well as being thoroughly vengeful against her enemies. Marzina is ferociously loyal to her friends and family, and is protective and maternal.
Current Age: 20; serving for past 5 years, from 1466 to the present
Born 2 children to the king; (1) son (age 4); (1) daughter (age 2)

Royal Concubine: Danewulf Gallawyn;
Culture/Ethnic Heritage: Gharnoth
Description: 6’6”; 220-lbs; Pale-White Skin Tone; Platinum-Blonde Hair; Ice-Blue Eyes; Danewulf has a huge, arresting presence. Danewulf is a huge young woman—everything about her looks and feels huge, from her mouth, her eyes, her breasts, her legs, feet, and so on—without being fat or overweight in any sense. Most men would feel somewhat dwarfed and small by the simple gesture of shaking hands with Danewulf, as her hand typically swallows the hands of lesser men. While not terribly uncommon to meet a large, tall man—for most, meeting a woman that is as large and taller than most men, virtually anywhere throughout the land—is a novel and arresting experience as may be imagined. Most women often seem to appear more like children when they are around the huge Danewulf. Still, while huge, immensely tall, and quite broad and thickly-built, Danewulf is entirely a strong, attractive woman. Danewulf is voluptuous, muscular, and beautiful. Danewulf has a piercing gaze, a bright, attractive smile, and an alluring, mischievous laughter. Danewulf wears her long, gorgeous hair straight and braided to the middle of her back. Danewulf has a smooth, rounded belly, broad, curvaceous hips, and long, muscular legs.

Danewulf is friendly, charming, and polite. Danewulf is athletic, physical, and competitive—while also direct, unpretentious, and generous. Danewulf is loyal to her friends, family, and also to her religion, and is deeply spiritual, devout, and mystical. Danewulf is proud—of herself, but especially of her family and culture, but also her lineage and the particular traditions of her family and tribe. Danewulf is intelligent, outspoken and opinionated, as well as being wise and perceptive. Danewulf is a shrewd judge of character, and is discrete, honourable and trustworthy. In private, Danewulf is very passionate and romantic, as well as playful, sincere, and daring. While in public, Danewulf is more controlled, discrete, and charming—in private, Danewulf can be vengeful, jealous, and deeply emotional, as well as intimidating and violent. When happy, Danewulf is alluringly cheerful, pleasant, flirtatious and gracious. When angered, or otherwise offended, however, Danewulf has a furious temper that can enflame her to great passions and unleash a raging storm.
Current Age: 18; serving for past 3 years, from 1467 to the present
Born 2 children to the king; (1) son (age 3); (1) daughter (age 1)

Currently, the Kingdom of Varanthus is generally prosperous, strong, and secure. However, in recent years there have been several wars and campaigns that have sapped the royal treasuries, as well as an old, decaying infrastructure that demands attention and extensive resources to preserve and improve. Furthermore, in various areas there have been severe flooding, storms, and destruction, which has increased the costs and prices of many food items. Also in recent years, poverty has increased substantially under the pressures and ravages of war, natural disasters, and a deadly plague that swept the land and endured for some 12 years. In time, throughout the land, numerous bands of ruthless brigands have rose against the realm, fueled by lust, greed, and ambition, with their ranks strengthened and expanded by recruits gained from outlaws, criminals and rebels, foreign mercenaries, and isolated bands of barbarians.

In the northern forests, the ferocious Nemberi barbarians have grown strong, wealthy, and powerful, and launch frequent raids into the border regions of the kingdom, led by mighty chieftains and black-robed druids. The Nemberi have in recent years sacked entire villages and towns, plundering the wealth of the realm, and taking thousands of slaves. The cunning and shrewd Nemberi have often taken such slaves and sold them to foreign slave-merchants, and have thus enriched themselves greatly, as the slave-merchants pay very well for handsome, young Vallorean boys, and attractive, ripe young Vallorean girls. The greedy and powerful slave-merchants typically take the young Vallorean slaves to distant, strange shores where they are never to see their homeland again. In their darker moods, depending often on the season, the Nemberi also slaughter many slaves in great sacrificial celebrations in homage to their gods, often by burning them alive in rough, wicker cages that swing from chains on high from great trees, while the tribes dance and feast around roaring bonfires. Nemberi women-druids sing and lead the tribes in ritual chants in praise to their gods as the victims wail and scream in their dying agony. New, powerful chieftains have come to power in the Nemberi tribes, and are a severe and present danger to the whole realm.

In the north-east, powerful tribes of brutal and savage orcs have migrated into the mountains and hills, and often sweep down into the settled farmlands and villages of the kingdom to burn, rape and pillage. The orcs are from several tribes—while they are barbarians, they have also demonstrated that they possess more advanced skills of war, engineering, and siegecraft. The orcs have often established prodigious subterranean mines, plundering the earth of minerals, iron, and precious metals of copper, silver and gold. Humans—both male and female—are kept by the orcs as breeding stock, where the humans are interbred with during mass tribal orgies held by the flickering light of bonfires, amidst the deep tribal drumming. Rebellious slaves are simply ripped open on huge stone altars in sacrifice to the savage gods of the orcs. Others, however, are killed by having molten silver poured down their throats. Throughout the year, the orc tribes also have great feasts where groups of slaves are doused with huge sacks of pepper or barrels of wine for added flavour, and then they are seized by the savage horde and devoured. Halflings are also favoured, both as breeding slaves and as food. Rumours persist that the orc tribes have used captured families of Halflings to breed “herds” of more Halflings, which are kept enslaved as a source of food for the orc tribes throughout the year. The orc tribes are brutal, tenacious, and fearless, and are typically united under the ruthless leadership of powerful chieftains and warlords. The orc tribes also typically have vassal tribes of goblins that live amongst or near to them, and serve their more powerful masters as labourers, servants, raiders and skirmishers. The orcs often give Halfling slaves to the goblins as presents and signs of favour. The orc tribes are a powerful and growing threat to the entire northern borders of the kingdom, and potentially the entire realm.

Also in the north-east, the dark forests have been infiltrated with huge tribes of primordial beastmen. The dreaded beastmen boldly raid merchant caravans and even attack towers and fortified encampments, seeking to not only bring death and war to the kingdom, but also to capture slaves to bring back to their tribes deep in the forest, where they are kept enslaved in brutal servitude and often worked to death, or used as breeding stock in wild, barbaric orgies. Such hapless victims of the beastmen are often eaten alive in great, savage feasts held in honor to their dark and evil gods, or sacrificed on crude stone altars and earthen pits, blazing with fire. Through recent years, Vallorean soldiers have encountered more warbands of savage beastmen mixed in with horrifying human mutants, which are the visions of debauched and decadent madness given physical form. These savage bands of beastmen and mutants are often led by powerful and ferocious knights of darkness—known as champions, and self-styled knights. These powerful champions—fearsome warriors of dark power—are blood and oath-sworn members of ancient, mystical orders devoted in service to savage, eldritch gods and the primordial divine titans of chaos and darkness. The great champions of darkness are typically also mutated—blessed with such monstrous and blasphemous traits by their dark masters, and often possess awesome powers of dark sorcery. The great champions that lead these bands of savage beastmen and horrifying mutants are also served by evil, mystical priests, and groups of powerful, cunning and ruthless witches. These dark, evil witches are cruel mistresses, bloodthirsty and wicked in their plans and ambitions, and fervently devoted to their lascivious desires and blasphemous, whoring lust.

Throughout the forests, hills, and marshes to the north-east of the kingdom, especially around the ancient ruins of the blasphemous city of Khorzam, an ancient enemy of humanity long thought to have been defeated—the Lugonde, and the Segande, have again rose in power and continue to breed hordes of their vile and wicked offspring. The Lugonde—known to common folk as “Lizard-men”—are formed into large tribes, led by powerful chieftains. The evil Lugonde are an ancient race of evil, humanoid lizard-men, often of various vibrant colours and dispositions. Nonetheless, they are all evil, and savage, blood-thirsty barbarians that delight in human sacrifice, and holding ferocious feasts by torchlight and bonfires before their dark, inhuman gods. Each tribe is known to build great temples and labyrinths in honour to their gods, where the great worship-hall is dominated by a massive and huge stone idol carved into some monstrous and wicked image of their gods. Slaves and other such hapless, damned humanoids that have been captured are often cast about into the great horde during dark feasts, whereupon which they are ripped apart and devoured by the Lugonde. Others are dragged up blood-stained stairs to be stretched upon some great altar of stone, bronze and gold, which are typically arranged at the feet of the huge stone idol, and sacrificed to their gods by having their bodies ripped open with huge daggers.

The blasphemous and vile races of the Lugonde are also joined in damnation by their cousin-race, the Segande. The Segande—known most often to common folk as “Snake-men”—are an eldritch race of dark sorcery and savage lusts. The Segande have tribes led by powerful warrior-chieftains, and are bloodthirsty and cruel, delighting in all manner of tortures, debauched orgies, and horrific, sorcerous experiments. Perhaps the real power, however, is held by the shimmering and beautiful snake-women, who often serve as witches and priestesses to the whole Segande tribe. These evil snake-women priestesses are blasphemous in their desires and embrace such bestial, inhuman lusts as to be a wicked blight upon all the land. The shimmering snake-women are able to appear in human form, as ripe and voluptuous as anyone could desire. The shimmering snake-women are often possessed of cunning and shrewd intellect, and they fervently cherish their own savage desires and multitudes of evil plans. The Segande hold mass sacrifices, where dozens or hundreds of slaves are hacked to death or eaten in a frenzy of madness, and cast, often still alive and writhing in agony, into immense grills of iron and bronze, where they are roasted alive before the chanting horde.

Most wickedly, the shimmering snake-women organize blasphemous cults of lascivious decadence, where favoured human cultists are trained in the ways of their dark religion, and mixed and interbred with on a continuous basis, eagerly breeding hordes of snake-men mutant half-breeds. Even now, such cults of depraved humans mix with their snake-men masters and mistresses, breeding new spawn of damnation, and work to spread the worship of their foul religion. The shimmering snake-women use dark powers of sorcery as well as promoting debauched orgies and wicked sexual passions to entice the greedy, perverse, and the simple-minded into a savage enslavement to their ancient religion. Such cults are a desperate threat to humanity everywhere.

The evil snake-cults are often wealthy, as well as secretive and hidden. The snake-cults are often composed of seemingly unlikely members, who gather in secret at wealthy estates, hidden forest glades, as well as dark sewers and subterranean tunnels and chambers beneath urban towns and cities, where they join in worship to their foul gods, engage in their blasphemous orgies, and plot and scheme against humanity.

From the vast forests and rolling hill country of the east, farms and villages as well as caravans are often attacked in bold raids by savage warbands of Gharnoth barbarians, sweeping down upon them mounted on dark, swift warhorses, and unleashing a relentless fury upon the kingdom. The Gharnoth warbands strike their hapless prey with clouds of deadly, barbed arrows launched from their hordes of horse-archers, and are then crushed under the hooves of their heavy armored cavalry, who proceed to slaughter their enemies by huge swords, glittering, massive axes, and long, deadly spears. The Gharnoth warbands are often ruthless and brutal, killing most of their victims regardless of whether they are young or old, male or female—all are slaughtered and burned in merciless raids that leave a landscape of death and ashes. The young and ripe, the most beautiful of young girls or fine young boys are taken by the brutal horsemen back to their fortified camps and kept as slaves and breeding stock. The fury of the Gharnoth tribes has been growing, and is lashing the kingdom with wrath and despair year after year.

Savage pirate raids have in recent years become a threat to the kingdom, especially along the coastal regions in the south-west. Darmacian and Malyren pirates from the Syberri Islands to the north-west have established numerous fortified strongholds and ports throughout most of the islands, and have built great fleets of warships and swift raiders, as well as merchant ships, and smaller coastal raiders that allow them to travel through freshwater rivers with ease. The Darmacian and Malyren pirates are a wild, ruthless barbarian culture ruled by independent chieftains. The Darmacian and Malyren pirates not only sweep the seas of merchant ships, but have also begun to make raids further inland, as well as throughout the coastal communities of the kingdom.

The Syberri Islands are a large group of pleasant, forested and mountainous islands to the north-west of Varanthus. The Syberri Islands possess rich mines in silver, gold and gems, as well as great forests which supply abundant timber for ships. The Syberri Islands have many highland meadows and open, rolling hill-country that overlook scenic views of the broad, wine-dark sea below. The rugged mountain tribes of these islands also raise herds of cattle and sheep, as well as a variety of fruit orchards. Rumours insist that the fortified pirate-towns are filled with vast treasures, and tens of thousands of slaves. In the deeper, harsher regions of the Syberri Islands, legends relate that centuries ago, tribes of wild Minotaurs settled the islands, and dug great subterranean fortresses and labyrinth-temples to their gods. It is rumoured that these Minotaur tribes still dwell in the deep mountains and dark forests of the islands, and fill their fortresses with piles of gold and other hordes of glittering treasures. On dark nights of the full moon, the Minotaurs offer up fine, beautiful maidens in bloody sacrifice to their gods, as the Minotaurs chant and dance around the bonfires, feasting and drinking.

The ancient rebel Varanar tribes that rebelled against their high chieftain many years ago have risen up again in rebellion. Many years ago, the rebel tribes fought a vicious civil war against their brethren, as well as fighting against the Valloreans. The rebel tribes have never surrendered, though through the long years there have been periodic peace treaties, and for a time—typically a score or so of years, the two peoples have enjoyed a measure of peace and toleration. The rebel tribes have sought to preserve their ancient traditions, culture, and religion, and have fervently rejected the ways of the Valloreans, and scorn and hate the compromises and interbreeding their brethren have done through assimilating with the Valloreans. Through the years since the civil war between the Varanar tribes, the rebel Varanar have kept the rebellion alive and well, nurturing their hate, and frequently unleashing their vengeance against loyalist Varanar tribes, and Valloreans alike without mercy or remorse.

The rebel tribes are periodically punished with raids and campaigns aimed at killing many of their warriors, or at the least killing or capturing powerful and influential chieftains and warlords, though they persist in their rebellion, and passionate rejection of the Valloreans. The rebel tribes are again led by a group of strong chieftains and priestesses, and have increased their raids and attacks upon merchant caravans and frontier villages and towers, and have even attacked several fortified towns. Such ferocious attacks threaten the prosperity and security of the kingdom, and pose a serious threat especially to the communities throughout the northern, north-western, and central regions of the kingdom.

To the far north-west, the Malbari city-states of Mhunassa, Zhumarra, Tarmina and Shunash occupy a coastal region that alternates between rugged mountains, dense forests, and open, plains that closer to the coast often features great expanses of thick, wild marshland. The city-state of Mhunassa is warlike and ambitious, renowned for its regiments of fierce soldiers and daring cavalry lancers; Shunash is also warlike and greedy, with many rich merchant-houses that build large fleets of merchant ships to trade and bring fabulous wealth back to the city. The great city-state of Shunash is so wealthy and powerful, it is said that their army boasts several hundred armoured war elephants! Zhumarra is a mystical city-state, famous for ancient schools of mages and sorcery. Tarmina, the city-state that boasts the great citadel of Marnash overlooking a sheer mountain cliff that plunges more than 1200 feet down into the roaring sea below. In recent years, raiding parties from Mhunassa have been encountered within the realm, taking game and large stores of timber. These raiding parties have also attacked and pillaged nearby farms, and have also raided several nearby villages and taken slaves. So far, while the two realms are not at war officially, tensions have continued to grow, as the king of Mhunassa’s explanation that the raiders were merely rebellious mercenaries, and thus there is no need for war, and such is not Mhunassa’s desire. Whether or not the other Malbari city-states in the region would support them in a war against Varanthus is uncertain.

To the west, is the land known as Talantha. Talantha is a great, rugged land of mountains, dense forests, and rich farmland and orchards that is the homeland of the Archaedian city-states of Mylon, Oballas, Marnippos, Gallantha, and Parthanya. In addition, to the south-west are the Metharna Islands, where the powerful Archaedian city-state of Palladas is located. The Archaedian city-states have been engaged in heated diplomacy with the various Malbari city-states over fishing rights in waters between them, as well as several mountainous areas in disputed and contested border regions, where rich mines have been discovered. There is talk of war coming soon to the region, and the Archaedian city-states are concerned where Varanthus will stand. Unfortunately, while Varanthus has a good diplomatic relationship with Gallantha, in recent months, warships from Mylon have boarded Varanthus merchant ships enroute between Varanthus and the Malbari city-states, and seized the cargoes. Mylon has claimed that these actions are necessary to reduce trade, profit, and restricted goods and resources from reaching the Malbari. While the Archaedians have instituted naval trade sanctions against the Malbari—at least the city-state of Mylon has done so—Mylon has claimed that no war with Varanthus is desired. It is unclear how much the other Archaedian city-states support Mylon, if they do so at all. Nonetheless, Mylon has increased their naval embargo, and clashes between Mylon warships and Varanthus warships on the high seas have been increasing recently.

Not very far to the east of the Metharna Islands, are another group of islands, known as the Hippallia Islands. The Hippallia Isles are believed to be enchanted, with mystical forests, orchards of beautiful, wondrous fruits, shimmering lakes of waters said to be blessed by Appollonia, an ancient Archaedian goddess of love, passion, beauty and fertility. Rumours insist that the enchanted islands have vibrant, lush groves where tribes of beautiful barbarian women live in glorious, sensual luxury. Old legends maintain that these tribes of barbarian women—while simple and primitive, are beautiful, charming, and friendly. The beautiful barbarian women are peaceful, joyful and sensual, and enjoy all manner of feasts, celebrations, and dancing as they sing, play music, and worship Appollonia. It is also said that these tribes of barbarian women diligently tend their flocks of enchanted sheep and herds of enchanted goats. The sheep have amber eyes, while the goats have rich black fur, and have ivory and golden horns. The legends say that the beautiful barbarian women are wondrous musicians, and weave fine, luxurious clothes made from the wool of their enchanted sheep.

Further to the south-east of the Hippallia Isles is the great island of Dharmea. Dharmea is a huge island, occupied by large, ancient mountains and dense, mystical forests. Dharmea is said to have many ruins of the ancient Marcenian Empire, with vast treasures of gold, jewels, fine armour and weapons of great power. The legends describe the ruins being guarded by terrible, mythological monsters that slaughter and kill anyone that dares to explore the ancient ruins of the Marcenians.

Thus, the Kingdom of Varanthus faces many foreign and domestic challenges that may ultimately prove to be glorious for Varanthus—or disastrous. Furthermore, while King Garrius has plenty to keep him busy, a significant portion of royal tax revenues and other resources have been mismanaged and squandered by various royal bureaucrats, and various powerful dukes and barons have increased their own taxes on the people, and in some cases imposed harsher restrictions and laws, which has made the common people resentful and growing in their frustrations. Various guilds and associations of commoners in different noble realms have occasionally been rioting, and fighting in street battles and urban brawls with the duke’s or the baron’s soldiers. Passionate demagogues claim that while the common people labour with great burdens, the help they need is denied to them by greedy noble lords that are far more interested in staying in their castles and palaces, indulging in decadent orgies, feasts, and lolling about in luxury than in genuinely helping the people. Many village elders and townsmen claim that greedy and corrupt tax collectors continue to oppress them unmercifully, and even imprison or enslave them and their families if they cannot pay their taxes. In several villages, tax collectors that are especially reviled have been strung up and whipped, before being robbed and dumped at the edge of the village outskirts. Noble lords, of course, have instituted harsh reprisals against the rebellious and recalcitrant villagers believed to be responsible for such insurrection and rebellion. Tensions and problems within the kingdom have continued to grow, with many solutions either difficult to implement fully, or difficult to see what the best response might be. Many learned sages and philosophers of the kingdom—as well as common people—have been wondering, fearfully and with great apprehension—if in this shifting twilight, the kingdom of Varanthus will fall into a dark age of savage barbarism—or emerge into the new dawn of an age of glory.

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