The Crusader Kingdoms: A Primer

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Overview
The Crusader Kingdoms is the name given to those frontier realms north of the coastal, civilized lands of New Aenoch. The Crusader Kingdoms derive their name from Empress Pryzmira’s relatively recent call for explorers, adventurers and fortune-seekers to go forth and re-tame sundered lands that were crushed under the heel of Unklar’s Armies during the long years of the Winters Dark. What they conquer is theirs; they have but to swear fealty to the old empress and she will grant them title to the land. It is a land rich in opportunity for those brave enough to strike out into the wilds.

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Places of Interest
Blacktooth Ridge: A low-lying ridge of forested hills demarking the Crusader Kingdom’s northern extent. Beyond the ridge lies the dread realm of Aufstrag, seat of Unklar’s power, before that God was banished to the Void. The ridge itself is known to be occupied by numerous evil humanoids, hold-outs from Unklar’s host, chief among them, a notorious clan of goblins (The Red-Caps) and the savage orcs of the Gouged Eye clan, to name but a few.

East March: A fertile region of lowland along the Drunderry River, consisting of several small hamlets and villages. This land owes fealty to Empress Pryzmira, but like other settlements in the region, they are mostly independent and left to their own devices to defend against bandits and other threats. The largest village of consequence within the East March is Malforten.

Fallow Hills: Rolling hill country between demarking the boundary between the Hruesen River Valley and The East March. This is mostly unsettled countryside, save for a small community of halflings at Newbriar, refugees whom managed to escape the Horned One’s torture at his citadel of hell, Aufstrag. This land was not always wild however, if the numerous ruins throughout the region are any indication.

Hruesen River Valley: The northern-most extent of the Crusader Kingdoms, consisting of a scattered few settlements along the stretch of the Hruesen River, nestled between the sprawling Barren Wood to the west and the Old Forest and Witchwood to the east. The people who dwell in these lands nominally owe fealty to Empress Pryzmira of Ascalon, having won their holdings through taming a land that suffered greatly under the iron fist of The Horned One during the Winter Dark. In practice however, this is a largely independent land, where local militias can expect little aid from their benefactor, far to the south. Danger lurks everywhere here, with stubborn factions of that dark power still present within the shadows of the nearby forests and hills.

Hrueset: In civilized lands, this small town of over 1,000 people would be hardly remarkable, but it is a metropolis in the sparsely populated Crusader Kingdoms. The town is surrounded by a sturdy stone wall and serves as a base of operations for numerous adventuring bands, mercenaries and freebooters.

Nyv: A small hamlet of perhaps 200 people, Nyv exists as little more than a stopover point for travelers along the West Way. There hamlet proper consists of a score or so stone buildings huddled within a wooden palisade. It contains but a single small inn and tavern, The Spotted Weasel, and a handful of shops, the rest of its population consisting of farmers, some of whom live in the outlying country. The hamlet is known for its excellent mead, courtesy of a half-orc outcast by the name of Aggratha.

Old Forest: An ancient forest along the eastern shores of the Hruesen River. In days past, wood elves and fey held sway over this land, but these people suffered mightily with the rise of The Horned One. Today, little remains of those more peaceful times, though echoes of the forest’s former occupants may be found here or there. In recent years, small groups of elves have returned to the Old Forest in hopes of reclaiming their holdings, though their efforts have been thwarted by all manner of fell beasts now occupying the wood.

Tilver: A small village of perhaps 600 people, Tilver lies at the edge of the Old Forest, and largely subsists through its trade in woodcraft and the taming of Fallow Hill Ponies. The village maintains a defensible wooden palisade, complete with several watchtowers, where sentinels keep a vigilant eye for trouble on the horizon. Tilver was ground zero for the recent plague that swept through the region, with most families suffering losses during that time. Similar to other settlements in the area, worship of Ore-Tsar, The Horse Lord, is widespread here; though a pilgrim has recently come to the village to establish a temple devoted to Pelor, The Shining One.

West Way: A mostly cleared stretch of land between the Old Forest and Witchwood, a consequence of an ancient trade road built by dwarf engineers to connect their clan-holds in the Aratok Mountains with the emerging human and elf civilizations to the west. The road has stood the test of time quite well, though it now passes through far fewer settlements than in ages past.

Witchwood: A large forest occupying the southeastern banks of the Hruesen River, this land is technically part of the Old Forest, as it is barely separated from that forest by a narrow swath of cleared land, courtesy of The West Way, an ancient dwarven trade-road. The Witchwood is a foreboding, magical realm, owing its name to an evil cabal of witches that once practiced their craft here.

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The Gods
Numerous deities are worshipped across the world, though listed below are a few of the more widely known Gods.

Burasil “Lord of Battle”
Corthain “The Justice Maker”
Dolgan “The Forge King”
Ealor “Lord of Seas”
Ea-Raena “The Moon Maiden”
Ea-Vette “The Sun Maiden”
Frafnog “Lord of Dragons”
Hroth “The Earth Mother”
Mordius “Our Lady of the Lake”
Narrheit “The Abyssal Lord”
Ore-Tsar “The Horse Lord”
Rhealth “Blackheart”
Tefnut “Handmaiden of the All Father”
Toth “Keeper of the Dead”
Unklar “The Horned One”
Wenafar “The Faery Queen”
Wulfad “First Walker”

Armchair Crusaders