by Carteeg Struve
Population: 170,557 (Human 77%, Hartdar 9%, Sakkaran 4%, Oguna 4%, Half-Dwarf 3%, Gnome 2%, Other 1%)
Religions: major – Tashrama (Black branch), minor – Tao-Shin
Languages: Common, Dwarven, Trejori
Trade: Bass, Corn, Fur, Hides, Jewelry, Lumber, Slaves, Trout
Legions: North Watch, The Waveriders.
Alignment: NG, CG, N, CN, NE, CE
Vjenor (yeh-nor’) is one of the border states of the Midlands that have been struggling against the recent incursions of the Sakkaran minotaurs from the north. Both Vjenor and Bhadlum are under almost constant attacks making life in the region brutal and dangerous. But the Vjeno people have grown harsh over the centuries and are willing to strike back at their enemies with a similar brutality, while at the same time building their strength off of both new and old alliances.
Life and Society
Short cool summers and harsh winters are commonplace in the northwest of the Midlands. That in combination with the continuous assaults by the minotaurs from Sakkaras makes life fairly difficult in the long run for those in the north. Most Vjeno citizens learn informally how to fight at an early age, regardless of gender, race, or class. The further north and closer to the border a Vjeno lives, the more brutal they’ve learned to defend themselves. “Do what you can to survive” is a lesson learned early on.
Only those who live on the southern shore or in the capital have an easier time. No minotaur incursion has ever gotten as far south as the capital Tormso, and that knowledge has put the citizens there at ease. Fishing and general trade take up most southerners’ time. In the north, the focus and effort is in protecting trading caravans, not necessarily purchasing from them unless they are supplies needed for survival.
Although there is no directly shared border between Vjenor and Kedaltol, a small series of passes exist in the treacherous hills and mountains barely outside of their jurisdiction inside the Broken Lands. Luckily the rocky hills and passage make it difficult for the minotaurs of the north to securely claim that land, and so a few human and dwarven villages line the trade route between the nations. It is believed that Vjenor plans to send additional forces into the passes and claim much of the roads as their own. According to many, these towns already are within Vjenor’s expanded borders.
The people of Vjenor tend to be focused on their own needs, and their loyalty to the Midlands as a whole is questionable. The strife between the Sovereignties and the Tashrama is not something they are overly concerned with. Southerners are concerned with their own comfort and needs, and northerners are focused on the Sakkaran threat. Everything else is of a lesser priority.
Through most of Vjenor’s history after the earliest days, religion has not played a significant role. Yet since the Starfall, the Tashrama has become more and more popular. At first Vjeno often believed that anything worth doing was best done with their own two hands, but the divine and arcane magic supplied by the black branch of the church has been accepted in the past decades as exceedingly useful. Men and women in the capital find spell casters entertaining and amusing, but those in the north have some to learn that the destructive forces of magic can quick decimate a tightly group charge of rampaging Sakkarans. Also to be quickly healed in the middle of combat and thus able to return to a heated fight is also an aid the northerners do not shy from. Because of this, the Tashrama has gain measurable influence along the border.
After Lord Montegron exposed the power behind the Tashrama to be the Elder Dragons, popularity of the Tashramadic church disturbingly failed to fall in Vjenor. The softer men and women of the capital were not followers of the church, but their amusement of both divine and arcane magic did not change. Those in the north did not care where the magic comes from, be it from a god, a dragon, or a floating rock in the sky. So long as they have the strength and ability to defeat the invaders, then anyone bestowing that strength is welcome. And with the old gods having just returned, one traveling to Vjenor’s north should not be surprised to see followers of the Tao-Shin and the Tashrama standing side-by-side defending their homes.
The current monarchy of Vjenor is King Carlonae, a both lively and portly personality well into his middle years. Although his consistent practice of carousing young ladies and enjoying spirits has mellowed a little in recent years, Carlonae has always made sure he knew what was going on in his government at all times. Many duties and lower offices have been delegated down to various nobles and citizens of his liking, but he keeps a strong hand in the affairs of each department.
Individual towns and cities in the south are run by various members of the noble court, each family being assigned a town, city, or village upon the king’s strategic whim. Only settlements in the north often are left to either fend for themselves, or let themselves be run by local officers in the military. On occasion, a count or duke who has fallen exceedingly out of favor with the king is assigned to a northern town, purely out of punishment. Frequently, due to the noble’s inexperience in combating minotaurs, the noble does not survive overly long.
Although a standing army exists throughout Vjenor, it is the North Watch’s duty to insure that civilization is protected from the minotaurs living across the border in the Broken Lands. The North Watch is spread out across the border, and they also have a presence in any town or city in the northern half of the country. Most of the members of the North Watch are people who living close to the border and wish to gain access to whatever weapons and training the Vjenori government reluctantly gives.
Ironically the elite naval forces of Vjenor, the Waveriders, receive as much funding from the government as the North Watch. Up until recently Vjenor always had a small seafaring presence, but under King Carlonae’s rule, the navy has been expanded to record heights, and their presence in the Sea of Tears is becoming more common (but not always welcome).
Magic and Mysticism
Regardless of where in Vjenor one is, most people have little understanding as to the difference between divine and arcane magic. With the Tashramadic church’s Holy Land for the Black branch so close in Trejor, the concept gets even more muddled since that branch has a special interest in the arcane.
There are two general lines of Vjenori thought in regards to magic. Southerners see it as something amusing or entertaining. For example, many of their stage shows will include a mage or two to assist in special effects during performances. Northerners have the more desperate view of seeing it as a needed weapon against the constant assault of Sakkaran minotaurs who raid border towns and sneak deep into Vjenor to pillage and burn towns.
On the whole, both types of people in Vjenor see magic in all of its forms as nothing more than a tool, whether it is for entertainment or defense. It is only in the north however that those who cast either healing or destructive energy are respected and shown gratitude. In the south, many mages are seen only as amusing as their talents are showcased.
Major Geographical Features and Locations
The North: The northeastern half of Vjenor is a place of harsh living and constant threat. An attack from the minotaurs in the Broken Lands is a frequent occurrence, and anyone who wants to call this region home must learn to fight. Some animal ranches operate near the northern cities, and furs and hides are a major trading commodity, along with weapons and armor. The northernmost section of Vjenor has been under control of minotaurs since the early 300s.
The Eastern Pass: Technically this pass exists in Sakkaras of the Broken Lands, but the steep rocks in the hills and mountains effectively cut off the route from the north. A few small passes to the north exist, but the mass of passages in that direction has made the risk of encountering a bunch of minotaurs somewhat low. The main pass winds its way through the hills connecting eastern Vjenor to the western tip of Kedaltol, the Hartdar nation. Popular thought is that Vjenor will officially annex the pass soon in the coming years.
The South: The southwestern half of Vjenor has been protected from the threat of minotaurs. The North Watch has guarded these cities so well that no Sakkaran force has yet penetrated into the southern half of the nation. This has gone on for so long that the people have grown complacent and see the minotaurs as a “northern problem.” Their main interests are trade, the arts, and popular gossip. The major trade route between Trejor and Bhadlum runs through the capital on the southern border.
The land currently occupied by Vjenor was once part of Trejor up until 51 AD, however the land was wrought with turmoil since the Canon War when minotaurs flooded into the region. Only the Drowning prevented the minotaurs from pushing further into the Midlands. In the decades following the continental disaster, the region was a mess of survivors trying to both rebuild and prevent the remnants of their enemy’s forces from re-gathering.
The surviving members of the Trejoran hierarchy were struggling to keep all of their lands together, but Urzai Lanla, a cousin to Bhadlum’s High Sheriff Morgan Degentry, sought to gain power by getting the northernmost districts of Trejor to claim independence. Without enough military influence in the region, and backed by the belief that Bhadlum would aid Vjenor’s claim of succession, Trejor reluctantly allowed the territories to form their own state, choosing to focus on rebuilding what they could instead of heading into a conflict neither side could afford to waste their efforts on.
Urzai’s victory was short lived, however. Soon after Vjenor’s independence the Sakkaran minotaurs sought to take down any signs of civilization being constructed nearby outside of their own control. After Bhadlum was able to pressure the minotaurs out of their land, the additional assistance allowed Vjenor to push the bullmen north into the Broken Lands. Since then, the minotaurs of Sakkaras have consistently attempting to break the border to the south. But the great threat of the Canon War had been decimated. The attacks were relatively disorganized, usually only consisting of several dozen or at worst a few hundred minotaurs. Although losses were incurred, Vjenor was able to hold its own.
Urzai’s daughter Romau organized the North Watch secretly without her father’s knowledge. But when reports of a unified force consistently defeating the minotaur raids came back to him, Urzai gave the credit to his son and heir Gaulav before formally rolling the North Watch into the military hierarchy. Gaulav had to wait forty years before he could take the throne and put the public record straight, but by that time Romau had fled Vjenor. Popular myth says she boarded a ship of her own and sailed westward across the ocean to the distant lands rumored only accessible to the Corinesti. Historians believe she simply changed her name and disappeared into the masses wandering the Midlands.
Over the centuries, the North Watch and the people living in the part of the nation most Vjeno call the north (although it is really more the northeastern half) became used to defending both their homes, their lives, their loved ones, and as a result the Midlands from the minotaur hoard in the Broken Lands. Unlike their neighbors in Bhadlum, they were so successful that only in the most rare of circumstances had any incursions reached the southern half of the state. In time this became their bane.
The southern settlements, including the capital of Tormso, became comfortable and decedent. Having not been hit by any serious threat, the Vjeno of the south slowly became assured that no matter what happened, they were safe. As such, they took the struggle the north was in for granted. Even the respect given to those who fought to hold onto their land dwindled. In 300 AD, the economy of Vjenor crashed. The Corinesti Trade War stopped most overseas shipping, and Vjenor was only able to get most of its goods out to their immediate neighbors. The Black branch of the Tashramadic Church in Trejor gave some assistance, but there was only so much that could be done.
The depression was short but hard felt, and it would take years for much of the economy to recover. During this period, King Bisarm elected to cut the budge of the military forces in the north, especially the North Watch. The number of minotaur attacks had been down in recent years, and he took it as a sign that the risk of reducing arms production and personnel was minimal. For several years, his judgment appeared correct. But in 308 AD, the hordes of Sakkaras made an attempt to push down into Vjenor, hoping to press into the Midlands and to also cut Bhadlum off from the Midland interior.
A sergeant in the North Watch, Kurrik Gorald, took command of his unit after the initial surge resulted in the death of six of his superior officers. Gorald was a large ugly man believed to have ogre blood in his veins, but Gorald was also a very brutal and brilliant tactician. Unable to get support from the south quick enough, he organized the remainder of the North Watch and the northern towns that had yet been razed. His makeshift defense halted the minotaurs’ advance in most locations, and it let him send men and women into Sakkaras quietly to conduct high-risk missions.
Gorald was able to launch a series of merciless attacks on the home villages of several minotaur tribes deep within Sakkaras. By making it appear that other tribes, sometimes Oguna and sometimes other minotaurs, were responsible, news spread to the minotaur lines. Those who believed that enemy tribes were responsible began to attack other sections of the horde rather than the Midlanders. Those that believed the Oguna were responsible left the borderlands to wage war on Ogun. This confusion did not instantly end the siege, but it allowed Vjenor a fighting chance. After another seven months, the border was secured with only some loss of territory. Even to modern day minotaur settlements and forts inhabit small sections of Vjenor, but in the grand scheme of things, the north saw what happened as a great victory. They held a line against considerable odds. The south was saved.
As the economy of the region healed, King Bisarm came to the opinion that the current level of funding to the North Watch was already at acceptable levels. Since a massive siege was repulsed and it would be unlikely the minotaurs would be able to re-gather themselves into such a force again for decades if ever, he believed there would be no reason to spend the extra money to bring the North Watch’s budget back up to where it was prior to the trade war. The north was dumbfounded.
When Sergeant Gorald challenged Bisarm’s decision, the king was insulted and had Gorald exiled into the Broken Lands where the minotaurs who knew he was responsible for their defeat would surround him. Several northern towns rioted in protest, but soon the Sakkarans saw this as a sign of weakness and attacked many of the towns again. The north was forced to defend itself again, and the protests stopped. The minotaurs were pushed back yet again, but not before destroying many villages. In return for ending the riots, Bisarm sent some funding for the homes to be rebuilt, but not much more. The north had no choice but to remain quiet or else become homeless.
The north finally received a boon in the mid-350s. After the fall of Ogun’s capital, Zorhasic, a few thousand Oguna had invaded deep into Sakkaras during a harsh reprisal for the loss of their leader and center of power. However these Oguna had pushed much further west than the rest of their nation, and they soon found themselves surrounded in enemy territory. After a long struggle, they reached border of Vjenor and pleaded with the northern settlements to let them build homes in the Midlands. In return for their hospitality, they said they would stay, help kill any of the bullmen who came too close, and give whatever assistance they could to defend their new home. The north was more than gracious and accepted these strong warriors without hesitation.
The town of Helris Heart was built with whatever materials and money the northern people could donate, and soon after their new allies were put to the test. The Sakkaran minotaurs in Vjenor were enraged that those from Ogun could cross their nation and come out the other side alive. In 359 AD they attacked Helris Heart. The Oguna stayed off the attack with a decisive win. The minotaurs in the battle were too used to fighting Midlanders, and the change of fighting styles and tactics confounded them. When the minotaurs retreated back, the Oguna followed. The Oguna and North Watch liberated several towns that had been under minotaur control for a half-century before they finally had to stop their advance. Not only were the Oguna celebrated, but also many town elders claimed their styles harkened back to the days of Kurrik Gorald.
Although markets waxed and waned under normal economic currents for the next few decades, overall the south of Vjenor was most successful than most over regions in the Midlands. Lucrative trading contracts with the Corinesti Trading Guilds more than made up for any shortfalls caused by the crash at the start of the century, and the wealth gained allowed Tormso to be developed into the cultural central center of the northwest. Tourism to the city bloomed as people traveled through the main roads along the shoreline or directly into the city ports on the water.
The Days of Darkness were highly destructive for the short term in Vjenor. Ghostly invisible strands flowed during the night in the north, each eventually seeping into the mind of a single unwitting victim. Once someone was infected with these creatures, later named notions, a single overpowering urge would drive them to do a single act or to believe one overwhelming idea. These acts would vary from person to person, but often it lead to insane and chaotic results. As the hordes of beasts later came out of the darkness to slaughter the people, many Vjeno did not even raise a hand to defend themselves or their families. One man continued to obsessively align the grains of dirt in his garden as a fire demon murdered his wife nearby, a woman refused to flee her town when she felt the need to clean the bloody bodies lying in the street, and an officer in the North Watch attacked his own citizens believing them to be minotaurs wearing human skins. Even after the Starfall, many were not freed from their notion’s domination.
Those in the south were attacked in a different manner. At first things seemed more annoying than dangerous. Buildings seemingly shifted from one part of town to another. Streets joined and met up with wrong roads, never allowing anyone find their way out of the cities. People inside became lost as rooms and hallways lead to rooms they had never seen in their homes before. Windows suddenly shown out upon horrific landscapes, and people who were separated by a single door would open it to find their loved one’s missing. None were able to find their way out to the streets. Then things turned fatal as their possessions were animated and began to attack them, causing many victims to flee into halls and rooms filled with creatures of nightmares and animated instruments of torture. After the Starfall, almost all homes returned to normal but a large segment of the population was never found again.
Although the north was hurt from the Days of Darkness, the Sakkaran minotaurs were likewise decimated. Neither side of the conflict had enough resource to attack the other. Ironically the creatures of Chaos caused the longest period of complete peace between the north and the minotaurs, almost ten years.
The south recovered quickly. The stockpiles of wealth amassed in the prior years helped repair much of the damage caused by the horrors. Playwrights and authors found great success during these years writing stories of suspense and dread reminiscing and even aggrandizing the Days of Darkness. As tales of horror grew in popularity, the people spoke of Chaos’ siege in order to brag about their own exploits and so-called moments of heroics.
When a charismatic Bhadlum warrior named Montegron began collecting nations together in the Midland Sovereignties, Vjenor was one of the earliest to join. Several members of North Watch recognized that the minotaur threat would be at a lull for years and took the opportunity to assist this man in rebuilding the Midlands. King Phaegan was publicly against the idea of unifying the lands, but after his death two weeks later, Phaegan’s son Carlonae quickly signed on. Since then Carlonae and Montegron have been said to be in good relations. One story says that Montegron introduced Carlonae to his beautiful wife Delissa. Another rumor, one not often stated in public, says that Delissa is a distant relation of Montegron who the Sovereign Lord did not care for and forced into marriage with the king. Not much if anything is known about the queen’s life prior to her wedding in 384 AD, and the king has been very protective about his wife’s privacy.
In late 392 AD, the minotaurs of Sakkaras once again attempted to break into the Midlands, but this time they were dealt a blow stronger than before. In the interim between the Starfall and the attack, Vjenor found a route in the rocky hills on the southern end of Sakkaras. The hills separated a thin strip of land in Sakkaras from the rest of the minotaur-controlled regions. These passes allowed the Vjeno to travel to the border of Kedaltol with relatively little risk of attack. Since then trade between Vjenor and the dwarves of Kedaltol expanded exponentially, and those in northern Vjenor were very appreciative of the new sturdier weapons and equipment. As such, the minotaurs were not ready for such as well-fortified front when the raids restarted.
The south was again reluctant to change, but they found the products made by the coin dwarves durable and long lasting. Eventually having artifacts of dwarven make was considered in, and business once again boomed.
Times and situations changed however. After several decades, Vjenor has developed a trade deficit with Kedaltol. King Carlonae confused many economic scholars, including his son Ilumar, by simultaneously declaring that his army would annex the pass between Vjenor and Kedaltol and that imports from Kedaltol would be subject to tariff. Carlonae also started spending additional funds to expand the national navy, the Waveriders.
As the war between the Tashrama and Sovereignties approaches, Vjenor seems apathetic to the conflict. Those in the south have no interest in a spat against “some religion about lizards,” and those in the north are more concerned with the stronger and stronger attacks the minotaurs have been throwing against the border.
- Ships flying the Waveriders colors have been spotted attacking Nordar and Sundar ships in the Sea of Tears. On occasion other trading vessels have been seized as well. Carlonae denies his fleet has taken such actions, but he also stated that if the Waveriders did engage in combat with other ships that the destroyed vessels must had been pirates.
- Many in North Watch are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of assistance from Tormso in defending the border. Several towns directly on the border have declared independence and refuse to send King Carlonae any more tax money. Several units from the general army have been dispatched to quiet the few rabble-rousers.
- Some of the border towns in the northwest are unhappy over the fact that a Sakkaran minotaur was appointed Townsman in the village of Gef-throth, directly across the border in Bhadlum. Although an official protest has already been sent, some angry citizens are planning to go to Gef-throth and settle things in their own way.
- Although not as severe as during the Days of Darkness, one priest of the Tashrama claims that weaker notions are still searching for victims in northern Vjenor and southern Sakkaras. She has observed subtle but strange behavior from many individuals and is trying to prove her claim.
Helris Heart (Large Town 3,275): Named after the fallen leader of Ogun, this town is made up primarily of the descendants of the Oguna who had traveled across the minotaur controlled territories to find a home in the Midland borderlands. The customs and appearance of Helris Heart is a mixture of Midland and Ogun styles, and the town’s population is generally well-received by most in Vjenor’s north. Those from the south however find Helris Heart more of a disgrace than the minotaur settlements captured from Vjenor over a century ago. Although trade with the southern towns is minimal, Helris Heart does constant business with dwarven traders from Kedaltol. The people here are all trained warriors, and many join the North Watch. But there is a good amount of culture here not fixated on warfare, and there is a sense of stability that is not often found in the Ogun towns in the Broken Lands.
Kandamus (Small City, 6,855): This northern city has been almost burned three times in the last century. Once trade with Kedaltol expanded a stone wall was constructed around the settlement, and additional homes were constructed for dwarven immigrants. Colonel Vilhiam, head of the North Watch, is stationed here along with his offices. When northern towns wish to have their needs heard, they often find more luck coming to Kandamus than Tormso.
Tormso (Metropolis, 31,438): The capital of Vjenor is a port city on the southern border of the country. Much of the city sits cupped in a valley beneath a rounded cliff up against the Guott Sea (a body of water off of the Sea of Tears). Originally the section of the city sitting all around the top of the cliff was reserved for nobles and well-to-do merchants, but after the economic boon late in the forth century enough of the city beneath the cliff was renovated to the point where the wealthy could live almost anywhere in style. With much of the city under-populated from the souls lost during the Days of Darkness, the cost to gain sizable property and build is up was at a minimum. The playhouses, museums, parks, ballrooms, and amphitheaters in the city have made it a cultural center. Many foreigners refer to Tormso as “the Solishairon of the west.”