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A Terrible Idea

...So Much Thanks to You All, a Year Later!

Early Dark
The Roleplaying Game

In Memory of Chad Anderson,

rememerbered in at least one alternate universe as

Amos of Spillwoods

Anthropos Games

Austin, Texas
2011 Anthropos Games
All rights reserved
First published 2011
Library of Congress Publication Data
ISBN-13: 978-0-9834848-0-6 (hardback)
ISBN-10: 0-9834848-0-6 (hardback)
ISBN-10: 0-9834848-1-3 (digital PDF)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9834848-1-3 (digital PDF)
Printed by Regent Hong Kong
Agent: Domini Williams
Hoefler Text
Morpheus, by Kiwi Media
Trajan Pro
Bradley Hand ITC

Michigan Posse: Andrew Jist Johns, Tauno Ahonen, Greg Sell, Matt Paden, Michael Anthony Davis
Indiana Little Ponies: Steven Jones, Ben Grose, Aaron Harshman, Seth Harshman
Many thanks to Mandie and Beth Harshman and Amanda Jones
Far Lokod Pharmies: Sam Osborne, Joe Murphy, Nathan Spry, Keegan Bradley
Santa Fe Johnnies: Devin Ayers the Long Bleeder, Kay Kay Duffy
Texas Demand Mayhem: John Wesley Clark, Justin Parker
Texas Nirvana: Chris Martin, Margaret Salzer, Chris Kini Cooke
Texas Sunday Ringers: Rob Ware, Can Aciksoz, Erick Blackthorne Bolyard, Chris Heath
Joplin Hedrin: Moose Leighton, Kate Ely, Stephen Lynch, Rachael Lynch, Alec Kumbier, Jake Steele
Developed and Written by
Calvin Johns
Additional Development
Andrew Johns, Steven Jones, Aaron Harshman, Greg Sell
Additional Writing
Rob Ware, Ethan Byrd, Chuck Wendig (Two Killers short story)
Art Director
Chris Heath
Cover Illustration
Even Mehl Amundsen
Interior Illustrations
Chris Heath, Ian Kazimer, Even Mehl Amundsen
David Nash, Soufiane Mengad, Alex Drummond
Mark Hyzer, Sands Gonzaga, Fredrik Dahl Tyskerud
Chenthooran Nambiarooran, Paul Abrams
Daniel Garcia, Timothy Terrenal, Zhenjie Zhang

Special and continued thanks to Equipo Chorizo. Before disbanding over passion and principle, many
tiresome hours were spent in support of this project. When every step forward seemed followed by two steps
back, patience wore thin. But without the support and motivation of Equipo Chorizo the final project in
your hands would have been an even longer time coming. A lasting and sincere thank you to the team.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Prologue


Chapter 2 - Atlas


Age of Migrations
Age of Structure
Second Age
The Six-Fronts Wars
Fold-Out Map


Chapter 3 - Census


Finding a Hero
Step 1: Roll Scenario
Step 2: Milieu
Milieu Charts
Step 3: Aptitudes & Traits
Trait Chart
Step 4: Dice & Arts
Dice & Stars Chart
Step 5: First Epithet
Step 6: Equipment
Aspect & Load Charts



Chapter 4 - Grammar
One Mechanic to Bind Them
Talking Tacks
Difficulty Chart
Secondary Tacks
One Turn, Many Options
Combat Elements
The Four Ranges
Playing A Round
How to Spend a Turn
How to Attack
How to Cast Arcane Magick
How to Use Loom Magick
How to Make Indirect Attacks
How to Defend
Hardcore Variant #1 No Evasion
Guard and Defenses
Dead or Dropped Out Chart
Dealing Damage
Hardcore Variant #2 All Strikes
Healing, Rest & Recovery
Labor & Traveling
Monsters & Encounters



Chapter 5 - Heraldry


Experience & Epithets

Epithet Page Requirements Chart
Narrative Page Amounts Chart
Epithet Renown Costs Chart
Wounds & Stars Chart
Alignments & Renown


Chapter 6 - Manual
Mundane Arts
Mundane Arts Chart
Alchemy Ingredients
Martial Arts
Arcana Chart
Antagony Magick
Blood Magick
Enchantment Magick
Kinesis Magick
Manipulation Magick
Protagony Magick
Summoning Magick
Loom Magick


Chapter 7 - Poetics


Arranging a Campaign
Setting up an Encounter
Arranging Followers


Chapter 8 - Almanac


Heroes Inventory
Source Items
Mundane Items
Weapon Properties Chart
Bestiary Classifications
Mundane Animals
Fell Beasts
Magickal Creatures


Chapter 9 - Appendix


Scenario Charts



Chapter the First

A Prologue
The first chapter lays out some of the motives and strategies behind Early Dark. We try
to explain what we want to do with the game, what you might like about it, and how it
might be a little different. The game engine is a blend of old-school crunch and new-school
character freedom. The world of the Hara Sea is a mixture of real and fictional cultures
that marks a shift from traditional fantasy role-playing landscapes. This is the dark fantasy
role-playing game weve always wanted, and maybe that will tickle your fancy and maybe it
wont. What everyone can get out of Early Dark is a world that changes as you like it. We
are committed to building the world according to the activities and designs of the players,
fleshing out cities and locales alongside their own campaigns, all without losing the
mysterious, episodic feel of a party venturing across an unknown wilderness.
If you are familiar with role-playing games and want to jump right into playing Early Dark,
then you can probably skip right ahead to Chapter 2 or even 3.

A rakshasa in the rainforest of Ragus is set upon by Neferatha hunters and a

fame-seeking Edish adventurer. Their hireling has just been slain by the razor
claws of the tiger-like Fell beast, a creature known for its stench and ferocity. In
the backwoods of Ragus, where magicks older than the Neferatha lie dormant,
myriad dangerous creatures await fearless wanderers.



Over the last four years, we have developed
a game that combines our favorite elements
of old-school role-playing games (tactics,
uncertainty, minimal crunch) with our favorite
aspects of a younger generation of games
(freestyle performance, player freedom, various
levels of success, qualitative considerations).
The resulting role-playing game is, like anything
else, a hybrid of what has come before;
hopefully we have included the best of both
Tactical Crunch
Early Dark has moving parts that allow for
a range of strategy and maneuvering. We
designed the game to include enough crunch
to keep players plotting and thinking but not
enough that would require them to flip through
pages, referencing charts and tables constantly.
In our minds, a good player makes a better
hero. By playing to Aptitudes and Alignments
creatively, talented players can have more fun
and dig more deeply into the world of the
Flexible Encounters
Most of the numbers in Early Dark are
attached to temperaments and conditions. In
other words, they are circumstantial, slaves to
the mood of the narrative and the timely need.
The particular figures and creatures involved in
an encounter, for instance, are less important
than the way the Scribe arranges them together
and sets up the battle. Though the Bestiary
offers some suggested Aptitudes for a terse
selection of animals and beasts, there are few
fixed features of any individual, let alone fixed
characteristics for entire species or broad
kinds. By introducing elements of the Fray, an
individual beast can be customized and altered
even further.


For example: Kelly, the eager new Scribe of her Early

Dark role-playing group, is designing an encounter
and wants to include two wild boars. Using the bare
stats listed in the Bestiary (364) would make for a
rather easy fight: Two beasts each with six Mundane
Dice, a few solid Footings, and 3 Rolls per Round. By
adding Epithets to the hunted boars, however, Kelly

can improve their Dice and abilities. Coming up with

a bit of history and maybe a pair of Followers, Kelly
can create quite the interesting encounter in just a few
minutes (see 242).
We hope this flexible construction does
not preclude a sense of consistency. On the
contrary, a good Scribe will offer descriptions
and settings that hint boldly at what kind of
creature might be at hand. It is the situation
that will dictate how powerful an enemy might
be, not the species or some innate quality. Of
course, the sheer size of a Roc, which boasts
of a wingspan over ten yards, has certain
consequences that cannot be avoided; yet even
such a Roc could be quantified in a variety of
ways depending on its age, whether or not it
is flying, if it is engaged in offense or defense,
when it last ate, what time of day it is, etc.
Our goal was to avoid any sense of generic
encounters or generic enemies without
making every encounter require more prep
work than can happen in the middle of a
gaming session. Each enemy is situated in a
context, and a few considerations are made
before the encounter takes place.
Deadly Combat
Remember when your first-level character got
killed by a falling rock that dealt 1d8? We do.
The fragility of young characters is what makes
veteran characters so exceptional. They are
the survivors, the lucky few, the true heroes.
Characters in Early Dark are super humans, not
superhumans, and we wanted to keep things
More than Hit-or-Miss Outcomes
Early Dark allows for options beyond the all
or nothing, hit or miss pattern of many roleplaying games. Each turn comprises a handful
of actions and counteractions, and even a
miss can result in benefits to your hero. After
each roll, players build Primary and Secondary
Tacks, small clusters of dice that each
represents one action or another. Primary Tacks
can be used to damage opponents, cast spells,
or take a complicated action. Secondary Tacks

often be less intelligent than their swordswinging sidekicks. They would be disjointed,
absent-minded, schizophrenic, unruly, and/
or otherwise nonsensical most of the time.
Similarly, those with high Loom Dice would
be disinterested in most problems and have
difficulty focusing on a world of purposes,
desires, and objectives.


We wanted to replicate where magick powers

are found in most cultures of the world, which
is most often among the weird, the outcast,
and the abject. To do that, we put everything
ordinary and real into one Domain. The other
Domains include the fantastic and the mythic.

Early Dark is our favorite fantasy role-playing

game. We have to admit, however, that we
do not know what your favorite RPG is. We
do not have thousands of dollars to spend
on market research. Sure, we read blogs and
attend conventions. Sure, we listen to feedback
and play with gamers all over the world. Yes,
we spent this last year trying to make Early
Dark as inclusive and accessible as possible
based on a whole new wave of feedback But,
in the end, we made our idea of the perfect
RPG. Well, for the most part: Our one great
compromise is discussed in Hardcore Variant
#2 on page 265.
Some things in these pages are kinda quirky.
For example, we do not have a list of weapons
and their prices. In fact, different kinds of
weapons make little mechanical difference
in the game. Following the great martial arts
teachers, we believe that anything youd call
a weapon could kill a human in a single hit.
That is what weapons are made to do, from
garrote to gun to grenade. So, in Early Dark, all
weapons can kill people. And it might only take
a single good hit to do it.
Secondly, Early Dark recognizes three
Domains: The Mundane, Arcane, and Loom.
The Mundane Domain includes all the scholars,
rogues, barbarians, soldiers, grifters, healers,
and animal handlers of the world. The game
roots mental, social, physical, and emotional
activities all in a single Mundane realm. The
two other realms are used exclusively for two
forms of magick. This means magick-users
are not necessarily smarter or wiser than
their thick-chested barbarian friends. In fact,
individuals with high Arcane Dice would


allow you to do an assortment of other actions

at the same time such as knocking over a table
to build a barrier, lighting a fire behind your
enemy, or trying that lock again with a different
key. You use your roll to make any number of
Primary and Secondary Tacks on a given turn,
keeping in mind that your opponents are doing
the same.

We use the spelling magick quite

intentionally, following a real-world
philosophical tradition that defines
magick as the force and power of the
human will, not necessarily something
fantastic or unreal. Because the world of
Early Dark aims at gritty realism, we wanted
to make magick something that fit within
the world as one form of human power
among many, not as something wholly alien
and exceptional to people. We have heard
that some people do not like that spelling.
Many apologies, but it lies at the very root
of our mission statement and is not an
attempt at being weird or unique.
An interesting result of this three-fold division,
however, is that every player can develop a
second or third aspect of his or her character
without immediately cross-classing, or
becoming another kind of character altogether.
There are no classes whose toes you can step
on. Swordfighters do not need to be strong and
burly. Wizards do not need to be smart and
erudite. Start expanding your character in a
new direction, and you dont end up becoming
more like the other characters in your party.
Hopefully, even your familiar abilities start to
feel a little different when you boost a new
Aptitude or pick up a Raw Art.



The World of Early Dark

Many new role-playing games are based on
popular intellectual properties with a built-in
audience and a ready-made world of characters,
environments, and narratives. Properly
speaking, Early Dark has the luxury of neither.
The missing audience was never a large concern
however. We are just a few people in a garage
and never expect to take over the market (In
the words of Wayne Campbell: Led Zeppelin
didnt write songs everybody liked; they left
that to the Bee Gees). But a ready-made world
is a huge advantage for players wanting to enjoy
a role-playing game, offering concrete details to
facilitate the feelings of immersion and pleasure
associated with exploring a world. It would be
great if our players could have that! Well, for
that reason and others, we have always viewed
Early Dark as an alternative history RPG. Yes,
we have magick and an unrecognizable world
map, but at heart this project has always used
real people, real cultures, real histories as the
ready-made world behind the game.
Great, but what does that mean? Well, the
five central civilizations of Early Dark are all
mash-ups of real-world cultures. Our hope was
to create an interesting, alternative world by
matching up five historical cultures valorized
by Western literature with five that were often
demonized, infantilized, or outright neglected
in most fantasy worlds. The five resulting
cultureseach a pair of one good guy and
one bad guy from popular historybecame
the central civilizations of the game. Of
course, over years of play and development
each of them has expanded in new directions
and grown organically within its own history,
becoming something totally new and unique.
Still, the historic inspirations are there and can
hopefully inform new players about the world
of the Hara Sea. Following that, we encourage
players to read real-world history, mythology,
and ethnography to gain additional inspiration
for experiencing the world of Early Dark. For
the developers, it was a commitment to certain
real-world inspirations that helped make the
game so fantastic: We felt that we were never


writing about cartoon fantasy heroes in magick

lands but about real, gritty people making due
in real, deadly environments. It is exciting to
write about a group of hunters facing a twelveton mammoth with ten-foot tusks when you
stop to think: People actually did that!
Early Dark features the great megafauna of the
last ice age, including mammoths, cave bears,
and moa birds. We have avoided elves, pixies,
and similar mythological creatures for a variety
of reasons (see Human Characters below).
The writers have taken great care to position
Early Dark within the low-fantasy genre, with
notes of dark and historical fantasy. From the
very beginning, we wanted to set our game far
outside the Renaissance and Medieval periods,
focusing on technologies that would be more
at home from 600 BCE to 600 CE. Tip: When
digging through history for those ready-made
inspirations, focus on those time periods.

The Five Cultures

What is presented in this book is only part
of the world of the Hara Sea. Other cultures
sprung up while developing these five strands
of history, and many of those are sadly not
included or only briefly mentioned. There
are many more tales that could be told and
histories that could be written, but in trying to
prepare this book, we had to make some really
hard choices about what to include and what
to leave for supplemental material. The Old
Empire, which at one point had more than 30
pages written about it, has been instead left to
the imagination of the players almost entirely.
The Orashi get hardly a mention. The other
Nibu people not part of the Neferatha Body are
neglected entirely. The cultures of Thulhu and
Phanesh are absent. Etc.
When we began, we wrote faux-ethnographies,
entire treatments of the five civilizations that
included details of diet, kinship, religion, art,
etc. We soon realized, however, that this new
world would only come alive for the players if
things were presented with more history and

Far from being fluff or filler, the narratives

included in this book are intended to
demonstrate just what the game is about, how
a hero is born. The feedback has been great so
far, and many of you have already come up with
new heroes, new stories, and new locales that
we can include in later releases. We really want
this world to be filled up with your characters,
and we intend to include as many details of
your home campaigns in future products as we
None of the references to other
works of art in this book constitute
challenges to the individual copyrights
of those works of art. The following
references are broad allusions to feels
or flavors that we see in common
between our work and the work of
others, but Early Dark is not based
in any way on these works of art nor
does the game seek to represent the
copyrighted material in any way.
The world of the Hara Sea celebrates towering
cities as well as tiny farms, infamous kings as
well as forgotten kingdoms, the extraordinary
as well as the ordinary. Remember the worlds
of Conan the Barbarian (Milius 1982) and 10,000
B.C. (Emmerich 2008). Although powerful,
cities are few and far between. The majority
of people live in villages, many unaware of
what kingdom or empire they are now a part
of. Knowledge is hard to come by, and the
secrets of writing, metallurgy, and masonry are
jealously guarded by those who possess them.
Although the following pages contain a wealth
of information concerning history of heroes,
players can assume their characters have access
to but a sliver of that information. Everyday
farmers and serfs will have no idea if gods are
real, which magicks can be trusted, or where
the nearby road leads.


heroes and less recipes and textile traditions.

Many of the details were left out in favor of
higher adventure and compelling themes, but
all that stuff still exists and will hopefully show
up in future publications.

The Vayok civilization blends the much-loved
Norse culture with a culture entirely ignored
in Eurocentric fantasy literature, the Inuit.
We retained many elements of the Norse in
our presentation of the Vayok, including their
bravado and technology and role in history,
while the basic lifestyle and appearance of the
Inuit peoples took the fore. Wolves capture
the American imagination easily, but what
about walruses? We wanted to make a roleplaying game that made walruses bad-asses
too. The Vayok are a culture made up of small
settlements based on the unofficial influence
and authority of elders. Clan identity is more
important than the nuclear family, and there is
no coin economy in place. Vayoks use sleds and
dogs to hunt large game over the tundra, and
prey on animals such as walruses, seals, bears,
whales, and caribou. Really, the Vayok took on
a life of their own very early in development
and have been a favorite of players all over. We
encourage you to make up your own clans and
histories as well.
The 2001 film Atanarjuat (Kunuk) illustrates
a beautiful Inuit myth, and plenty of Norse
portrayals are out there in Hollywood. We tried
to stick to the pre-Viking era, but you can do
whatever you like.
The Anu take as their central inspiration Han
Dynasty China. This beautiful culture is
heavily represented in contemporary fantasy
films and literature, and players of Early Dark
will be familiar with many of the cultural forms
present in the Anu world. Plenty of interesting
features of that culture, however, have been less
visible to many fantasy readers, including the
way family was viewed and how extensive the
governmental bureaucracy really became.
Added to this root is the Olmec culture of
Central America, a world rich, imaginative, and
largely lost to history. We set out to borrow
the architecture, religion, and symbolism of a
culture known mainly to archaeologists, and
the research was fun. Does it work? Well, for
us, the Anu came together rather easily, and the
diverse Kuludo Islands, populated with maize



and Flower, took shape alongside the people

who would live there. While developing the
Anu people, many events in their history began
to move the culture in the direction of the
Japanese Bakufu, and we just let that happen.
Those elements have become a favorite of roleplayers, and we felt no need stifling the natural
progression that took shape. We hope you all
find the result believable and realistic.
The Daughter of the Empire series of novels by
Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts offers an
exotic culture with an Anu flavor. Mix up any of
Jet Lis recent historical movies with a world of
rainforests and ziggurats for an Anu vibe.
The first inspiration for the Alagoths is the
hated enemy of Greece, Persia. We took the
environment and the basic ethos of Persepolis
as the heart of the Alagoths, adding a heavy
dose of Celtic structure and religion (La Tene,
Halstatt, and British strands). At first, we
thought this would be the most difficult mashup, as the cultures are almost exact opposites
of one another. The Persians are associated
with laws, sand, vast cities, stone architecture,
archery, and learning; while the Celts are
associated with lawlessness, rainy cold,
superstition, small settlements, clan structures,
tartans, and sheep. After just a little research,
however, the Alagoths came together quite
well. The Persians have recently been painted
as the anti-Greece, and the later Celts were
at one time quite seriously the hated rival of
Rome. We made the Alagoths into the perfect
enemy for the Greco-Roman fantasy world. As
the idea developed, a good deal of Babylonian,
Goth, and Hun elements emerged as well. So it
Adequate portrayals of ancient Persia are
hard to find, but we picked up books on
war technologies and costuming off the
Internet. There was a considerable amount of
Zoroastrian influence that may not have lasted
into the final text but is still there somewhere.
Celtic technology, clothing, and traditions are
a little easier to come by, though films do little


The people of Ugurlu are a blend of one-part
classical Egyptian motifs familiar to any
fantasy reader and three-parts Indian epic
narrative. When you find yourself translating
Sanskrit, you put the activity to use mining
cool cultural elements from the Vedas, the
Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. Most of
the cultural inspiration came from the epic
literature of South Asia, which is easily available
in translation and makes for more intense
reading than Greek myth. Some Hellenism
came into the Neferatha, which parallels the
shared mystery religions of Greece and Egypt.
The militarism of the Neferatha state
complements the very bureaucratic style of the
Anu state. Neither empire is evil, but no such
entities can exist without blatant, arbitrary
asymmetries in the citizens and servants of the
imperial population. Hopefully, at least two
flavors of the motives and mechanizations of
empire come out in the text that follows.
What if a robust Native American culture
combined with the remnants of a GrecoRoman culture on the wane? Instead of Goths
and Vandals, what if Native Americans sounded
the death knell of Rome? We were hooked
immediately. It sounded simple but became the
most difficult mash-up of the group. We did
not want to homogenize the great variety of
Native American traditions and cultures, so we
focused mainly on Ojibwe research and built up
from there as best we could (borrowing from
the Great Plains branch for the more nomadic
We also wanted to explore what kinds of art
and philosophy could develop outside the slave
economy that existed in Greece and Rome. In
other words: How much wealth does a culture
need before the idle elites sit around dreaming
up allegories about caves? What other
conditions could produce such philosophical
speculation? We never really got to tackle that
question as we hoped to. With the importance
of tribal identities among the Edish and the
practice of conquering native Edradan cities
came a slave economy reminiscent of Greece.

Another goal we had was to portray totems

as representing both ancestors and leaders (or
big men) more so than simply animal spirits
and gods (or a tall wooden pole!). Totemism is
an interesting belief system relating cultures
to environments, and we hoped to offer
an alternative to some of the grade school
presentations of totems popular in the United
At one point, the Edish started to feel rather
Rus, an eastward-traveling Viking people
portrayed in the film Wolfhound (Lebedev
2007). We tried pulling away from that, but
some of the images stuck. Urusla Le Guins
Earthsea books feel similar to the urban Edish
world in regards to non-European technology,
philosophy, and culture. Some Roman Britain
elements started to arise as well, which may be
more understandable.

Heroes and Myth

Heroes in Early Dark are cultural heroes in the
making, like Perseus, Arjuna, Gaozu, Beowulf,
Alexander, Odysseus, or Nanabozho before
them. These leaders are rallying icons for
people who later venerate and celebrate their
lives. Each hero in Early Dark becomes larger
than life in a world where history and story
overlap. Throughout the game, your hero exists
in this tentative world of myth, and changes
that occur during role-playing can affect both
the past and future of your character (Because
everything is in the past when your hero is
remembered a thousand years later). This might
seem a small change from other role-playing
games, but it produces a significant difference
during play: If your character earns the epithet
King, is this a new rank or has the character
been king all along without anyone knowing?
You do not just become a more powerful hero;
you become the center of a deeper, more
important story.

The decision to have humans as the sole

playable species fits with Early Darks lowfantasy aspirations and further roots the
game in a historic, realistic setting. From the
very beginning, we wanted to highlight the
fantastical elements of myth (magick, monsters,
and heroism) with the oft-ignored truisms
of real life (disease, filth, family, ignorance,
superstition, and identity), We wanted everyday
grit mixed with lofty myth.

Each choice can develop either the past or the

future of your character. This means players
need not spend hours writing a complete
backstory for their new characters. Everyone
wants to be the long-lost princess that
escaped a slaughter in Ugurlu with the aid of
handmaidens, but who is willing to purchase an
Epithet that makes such a boast true? Everyone
hopes to be the promised protector who
leads the down-trodden peasants in a glorious
revolution, but who purchases an Epithet to set
that prophecy in motion? Epithets are the key
to fleshing out your character and creating a
written record of your hero that can withstand
the test of time and trickle all the way into our
own bedtime stories.

Character Creation
Many games advocate starting the character
creation process with a concept for the hero
you want to play, and then slowly building a
character to fit that vision as best you can. It is
the objective of Early Dark, however, to have
characters that can be seen as realistic products
of their environments and social classes. How
could you know what kind of character to
create until you know what culture you will be
a part of?

No Races in Early Dark

Heritage is a good word for describing how
pre-modern cultures viewed race. The cultural
tradition that formed someone was a large
part of who he or she was, his or her race/
heritage. In contemporary social thought, the
word race is dangerously ambiguous and great
debate surrounds its use. If race is a cultural
construct that causes so much violence, both
physical and symbolic, why maintain its use as
a category? If race is removed from discourse,

On Heroes


Important to note: Slave economies in the

ancient world were starkly different from the
historical conditions of slavery in the American



however, as in modern day France, what

language will people have to speak of racially
motivated discrimination?
In Early Dark, we handle the concept of race,
popular in other role-playing games, with
the help of a historical perspective: Ancient
civilizations characterized race in vastly
different ways than modern folk. In Rome
and China, race had more to do with tribal
or familial affiliations. In many civilizations,
such as the ancient Greeks, language was more
important than appearance, and using skincolor as the basis of all racial boundaries was
not ubiquitous as it is todays United States. In
most instances, adopting a cultures norms and
ways of living made a person, whatever their
appearance, part of that race as characterized
by outside observers. This is not to say it was
always a happy category that everyone agreed
upon, but it was broader than it is today.
The Heritages in Early Dark at first seem less
important than in other games; they offer no
immediate bonuses or penalties and do not
include any fairytale creatures, only earthy
humans. This initial similarity among the
races aims at revaluing race as something less
determinant of a persons abilities, attributes or

On Aptitudes
The Aptitudes of Early Dark represent a move
away from attributes that mark fixed features of
your hero. Aptitudes represent both what your
hero is likely to do and what he or she might
be good at. Taken together, the Aptitudes
give your hero a temperament, or a mode of
behavior. They do not represent strengths
and weaknesses per se, or characteristics, or
properties. We like to say that they manage
verbs, not adjectives.


For example: Andrews Edish magicker, Jist, has a

high Labor, which covers how likely Jist is to use
his bodys size to get things done, how often he pushes
on the environment or moves weight around. At
first, this sounds analogous to the Strength attribute
common in other games. But Strength measures how

strong a hero is: Characters with a high Strength

would be muscular, well-built, and large. A high
Labor, on the other hand, might mean such things,
but more often than not simply focuses on the
temperament of the person more so than the exact
features. As it turns out, Jist is a slight but ferocious
fighter who uses his fists, knees, and elbows when
attacking foes. We cant be sure what he looks like or
what class he is by looking at his Aptitudes, but we
might be able to guess what he would do if cornered
by a nosey aristocrat at a dull party.

On Dealing Damage
Like many other games that eschew hit
points, Early Dark measures physical damage
in fewer, larger chunks called Wounds. When
slaying enemies, the goal is to roll a Strike that
is higher than the Defense Threshold of your
enemy, which deals a Wound. When a hero rolls
such a Strike, the group narrates together the
damage dealt. In many cases, when fighting
unimportant or commonplace villains, a single
Wound is enough to kill an enemy. In Early
Dark, a single Wound is a big deal. A Wound
represents one injury or another substantial
enough to be recorded in the story of your
hero. Many characters in the world only have
one such injury remembered by generations
past: The moment your hero hits them and kills
them. Some enemies will have multiple Wounds
because battles waged on for many hours
and took surprising twists, making a more
interesting story for later poets to orate.
Dealing Wounds is the only way to slay an
enemy. To make dealing Wounds easier,
however, there is a whole range of actions
your hero can take. Dealing Fatigue is the
most common way: By wearing an opponent
down and lowering his or her Guard, it is
easier to score that lethal blow. Other actions
offer certain Penalties to an enemy, ignore its
Armor and defenses, or provide aid to your
companions. There may be a few moving parts
in the machine, but everything points towards
rolling a high Strike and dealing Wounds.


We have these grand inspirations and grander conceits, but, in the end, this is just a
game. And we are but amateurs. Early Dark is another home-brewed addition to a great
hobby and a large canon of more professional recipes. Many humble, sincere thanks to
you, fair taster of brew!
May you have fun and get rowdy with your friends playing this RPG into the wee
hours of the night. There are probably holes here and there. You may need to polish
some rough patches. Consider this a toolbox for hours and years of gaming pleasure.
We invite you to take ownership of the game, make edits, change rules, adjust things
whenever it makes for a better time. These rules are fluid and changing, and your input
can be a big part of that. Please let us know what we can do to make a bigger world and
a better playing experience. Enjoy!


Chapter the Second

Atlas of History
This is the world of the Hara Sea, an atlas of its history and peoples. The five major cultures
roughly correspond to regions in the world, though unknown cultures and vast tracts of
wilderness still exist. This chapter will cover roughly 1000 years of history and give you
what you need to imagine the day-to-day lives of Edish citizens, Neferatha imperialists,
Alagoth warriors, Anu lords, and Vayok hunters. We have focused on the narrative and the
broad to maintain a sandbox feel for players who do not want a world with every corner
charted and each city mapped. What does the Anu honor code look like exactly? When
does an Alagoth male lose his place in his fathers lineage? How does an Edish commune
with the Fey when gaining a new totem? There are hints and examples in the pages that
follow, but a set-in-stone definition will elude you. We feel examples are the best way to
learn versus hard and fast rules or mandates. Play the cultures as you feel, and supplemental
material will fill out the world as the players inhabit and imagine it.
If you want a quick rundown of the cultures, skim for the boxed text throughout the
following pages and start reading more closely at the Six-Fronts Wars section on page 126.
We backloaded certain information (and a great many images) into that section and beyond
for those who want to skip the fluff of the more narrative sections. Keep in mind,
however, that useful cultural knowledge is found throughout the chapter, not just filler
stories and myths. In the later sections you will get quicker, more direct descriptions of the
current situations and conflicts of the world of the Hara Sea.

The Janeshka cult from Uranishad opened a temple in Lokod in 881 IC. Many
urban Edish, generations lost from their totems and nomadic ancestors, succumbed
to the intrigue of esoteric rites and hierarchies at the root of Neferatha religion.
The growing use of Anu Flower embedded the cultic practices into the very
bodies and cravings of devotees across Ragus and Upper Edrada.


Histories & the First Age


A long-dead empire ruled over much of Edrada, Gundrada, and Ragus in centuries forgotten. The
capital sat in Lokod, though little else is known of the people. Their cities were designed to mirror
the constellations above, and a great knowledge of the Loom must have ordered the state. Of
course, all this could be mere legend, and who now alive could verify the claims?
By the end of this Age, all the great civilizations of the First Age had vanished. The Hara Sea was
lost to history, and many scholars see no evidence of large-scale settlements for almost a thousand
years. What came before the founding of Ugurlu? What existed before the Anu landed at Kuludo?


The Maalthor Mountains pierce the ice at the center of Vaankur, ten immense spires of black rock that jut
straight from cracks in the glacial earth. Wandering the flat plains of ice around the mountains for many leagues
are giants and spirits, the land dangerous for even the most mighty Vayok hunters. Old structures of stone can be
found dotting the plateau even deep into the center of the island, where storms never cease and sun rarely shines,
their origins lost in songs forgotten by any human tongue.

The Nature of the World

The deep, aging forest is a thread. Bundled

within this thread, twisting against it, swirling
around it and over the Tapestry are the ten
thousand things that give the forest its life. A
thousand threads, each a single tree, twist and
stitch over one another. Each tree a thousand
leaves, and each leaf a thousand threads. A
thousand birds fly over those trees, a thread for
each kind, a thread for each life, a thread for
each path made through the sky on a nights
flight. All of these woven into shapes and
images on the surface of one Great Tapestry.
Beneath the green canopy a thousand beasts
live and die, a thread for each kind, a thread for
each life, a thread for each trail taken among
the undergrowth. A thousand threads of grass
and stalk and needle give shape and character
to the earth. A thousand threadspetals and
vines and thornsreach from the soil up into
the trees. All come together to produce a
blossom image on the tapestry, a single swirl of
green in the shape of a single forest. And the
forest itself a single thread among others that
give the earth its boundaries and the continents
their shape.
All things that come to have a name have a
thread. All things that can be seen or felt each
have a thread, are made of threads, weave into
greater threads. And each participates in the
coiling images and the singular image of the
Tapestry. Nothing can exist without a thread, a
trace, a place in the Whole.

The Loom
As each thread courses through the Tapestry,
so each new shape arises. First the firmaments
and the seas weave their courses. Then greener
threads, vast tracts of grass and field, extend
along the surface. Embroidered above and
through these grand patterns, threads weave
cavern, crag, and canyon. More threads come
together producing bird, beast, and human.
More threads, each twisting and bundled with
others, produce species and kinds. Springing
from each new twist of thread is a new being,
a new creature. The pattern grows; layers are
added. Life is complex and beautiful. This order
is the Loom, the course and pattern of this


The world is a Great Tapestry. Embroidery

upon embroidery, it is both vast and intricate.
Each thread woven into this tapestry is a life.
Each thread the course of one life, one thought,
one element. Each thread the trace of a motion
or a moment. Woven together, thread works
with thread, forming shapes and larger patterns.
The dark mountains, the subtle wind, the living
seaeach in itself a single thread, and at the
same time each a bundle of many threads, a
pattern stitched with thousands of smaller lives
and elements. All of history is a single thread,
all of time, the emergence and evolution of
all lifeeach a thread, yet each again stitched
with countless smaller threads.

The Loom is made as we live it,

Things become what they are called.
As life and name make course,
So the ten thousand things are born

Fey Spirits

Everything in nature that has a name has a

spirit. Each rock, tree, and flower has one, and
so do the mountain ranges, forests, and gardens
that contain them. Each grain of sand in the
Nameless Desert, as well as the Desert itself.
The East Wind that buffets Isa Ragus in spring,
and the North Wind that warms the Edradan
coast. The Maalthor Mountains and each of
the ten peaks therein. The Red River that cuts
Gundrada in half, the Megwan Delta at its end,
and the Onokiowa Falls that feed it. All and
each a spirit: Part of the world, part of each
other, related and bundled as the threads that
sustain them.
No one knows where the idea of names came
from, who first spoke them, or how humans
came to know them. Those who pursue
knowledge of the threads believe that early in


the life of this world, before the edges of the

Tapestry were hemmed and fixed, sound and
substance were one. Somehow the Fey live in
both worlds, bridging thread and song.


Each Fey spirit is a living essence of its Hearth.

It is both a part of its Hearth and something
other than it: a watcher, a patron, an emblem.
Just as the human spirit is both part of the
body and yet somehow outside it, so the Fey
live within and around their Hearths. The Fey
are not bound by time as we humans are; they
are as eternal as the nature that births them.
Instead, Fey are bound by space. The further a
Fey is summoned from its Hearth, the younger
and weaker it appears. At a very great distance
from its Hearth, a Fey spirit becomes nothing
more than a wisp of light at the edge of human
vision. It is even possible for the spirit to forget
itself entirely, being so disconnected from its
Hearth that is loses all self-awareness, so tightly
bound is a Fey to its Hearth.
Closer to the Hearth, Fey spirits can resemble
humans, though more graceful and lithe. It is
said that Fey have at times mingled in human
settlements, partaking of human affairs and
even marrying into human families. The
truth of such claims is impossible to say, as
the reasons any Fey might have to take an
interest in the human world are impossible to
guess. No offspring of such unions have been
Upon its Hearth, a Fey appearing in our world
is supremely powerful, the living force of
the threads themselves. Fey wield the Loom
beyond the limits of human understanding,
washing away time, leveling mountains,
reshaping the seas.
Shape and Appearance of the Fey
Weavers use names when conjuring from
nearby Hearths, and upon manifesting a
Fey will take on an appearance dictated by
its Hearth and the names it echoes. Fey
are recorded as having human-like faces on
heads and bodies of animal, tree, or sod. The
appearance of such creatures has been known
to shatter weak minds.


Understanding the ways of the Fey is

impossible. Mercurial beings, they take shape
only when summoned or, more mysteriously,
through a ripple in the Tapestry caused by
other magicks. The human world means little,
if anything, to most Fey. They are attached to
the fabric of the world, at one with the threads
that give shape and life to everything, and
somehow beholden to the subtle magicks of
the early races, who first invented language and
When in the presence of Fell creatures, Fey
lose much of their power over the Loom.
The only verified tales of Fey interacting with
humans involve Fey spirits requesting human
assistance clearing their Hearths of Fell beasts.
If all human life were wiped from the face
of the earth, the Feythose who noticed at
allwould give no more than a shrug. What
comes and goes is no concern of theirs, as
coming and going are both part of the great
cycles of the world, the patterns of the Loom.
Mages, however, have been known to attract
local Fey who spawn when the casters tear and

twist the Tapestry. Great corrective agents, Fey

are known to stalk mages and destroy them,
bringing order back to the world.

When the world was young, the Tapestry

growing and without hemmed edges, the Fray
was likewise open and unbound. Beings that
arose on the underside were free to enter and
roam upon the surface. Many such creatures
spawned in the Fray set out to see the face
of the Tapestry. Their very nature was chaos,
absurdity; there was no place for them upon
the face of the world, but there they crept,
dragging their unkempt threads through the
young fields, marring the pattern of the world.


The Tapestry is vast, the surface rich with

detail, filled in a collage of images, lives, and
shapes. Yet there is an underside to such
a tapestry: A place of loose ends; knotted,
stunted threads; misshapen images, the
distorted reflections of what lie on the reverse;
threads cast and stretched about without
beauty, without cause. When this underside
shows not distortions of the surface beauty
and order, it shows inadvertent new shapes,
unplanned patterns and beings. This underside
is the Fray, a realm of disorder and chaos, the
cast off working drafts of the Great Tapestry.

and discord. The Elder Gods are creatures of

flesh and blood. They have motives, needs, and
will. From wild and chaos they must partially
bow to the order of this world to wander within
it. These are beings of great power. Forever
inside them they carry the chaos of the Fray.
They mar the Loom by traversing it, leaving
torn and unkempt threads in their wake. An
Elder God is the only being capable of truly
killing an immortal Fey, erasing its name and
These Gods of change and flux are far from
evil, though many cultures might say that
of them. They are pure will, pure desire, the
capacity to see beyond the fixed rhythms of
the Loom and make their own ways. When
an Elder God dies, its body rots through the
Tapestry, creating a Barrow, or Fray Mouth.
These permanent tears in the Fray taint the
surrounding areas, spawning Fell beasts and
warping the landscapes. A corpse may take
a thousand years to fully decompose, and
the resulting Barrow may appear as a narrow
shaft in the rock, a wide-mouthed cave, or an
enormous crater of steam and ash.

Fray Tyrants
When the tapestry was young, still being woven
together by the coursing of the threads, the
Fray was alive and active. Expanding on the
edge of this world was a world of chaos and
formlessness. As patterns inevitably emerged
in the chaos, creatures were born, and in
time, these creatures found their way upon
the surface of the tapestry. Without edges,
the world was open. No boundary marked
the divide between order and chaos. These
creatures spawned before the world was fixed
are known as the Elder Gods.
Elder Gods
Called many things by humans countless eons
later: Old Gods, Dark Ones, Tyrants, and Fray
Gods. They are beings caught on the surface of
the Tapestry though their natures are of chaos


The Boundaries Made


After the world was fixed, order was mandated.

The Great Loom coursed on, and the Hem of
the Tapestry was set. Boundaries were made
between the world of order and the world of
chaos. Today the Fray is active and alive but
separated from our own world, and no easy
path exists between the two. As threads change
and ripple, however, as people study the Loom
and tug on certain strings, gaps emerge. Fray
beasts crawl up through the holes in the fabric,
taking shapes that are distortions of those
found in our own world. They are nightmares
and horrors. These are the Fiends and Lesser
Gods, beasts who enter our world after the
hemming of the Tapestry. They are twisted
and cunning, their minds quick to see through
human ways and wiles.
Nature of the Fray
Sages disagree over the true nature of the
Fray. Some say it is a natural part of the
Loom and should be embraced.
Others say that it is but a
necessary evil and should be
resisted to keep it from
spreading. Yet others
consider the Fray an


evil that mars the fine pattern of the Loom,

powerful enough to destroy the order and laws
our world is based on. There are even those
who believe the Fray a mirage, a reflection only
with no power of its own outside what is given
to it in the minds of humans.
Some view the Fray as not frayed at all, holding
that both sides of the tapestry are organized
according to their own patterns; though
we cannot understand the patterns
of the Fray, they are
natural and quite
orderly from

The Advent of Humankind

And those who wanted to know the older

patterns, the older languages, the first
historiesThey were set apart from the rest
of the settlements, held at the edges of the
villages and camps. In these outskirts and
frontiers, they stumbled upon those old tears in
the Tapestry caused by the decaying gods. Soon
these outcasts learned that the Fray Mouths
offered power, unpredictable but potent. The
outcasts became prophets, bringing those from
the villages out into the wilderness, naming
the sacred places, teaching the wills of the
gods. But the Fray Mouths were only graves,
mystical places for sure, but the tombs of dead
gods. While a palpable aura emanated from
the ancient barrows and fissures, it was the
prophets who assumed the real power.

For all their talk of faith and spirits, humans

most often worshipped other humans. Those
with charisma or the slight advantage readily
took positions of official power among young
settlements and spread the doctrines of
whatever gods they chose. When new kings
rose up against old kings and stole the power of
state, new gods replaced old gods in the hearts
and minds of the less fortunate


Humans emerged after the world was fixed.

Most of the Elder Gods lay dormant, and the
Fey were less numerous in those times. The
young race spread and grew, so likeand yet
so unlikethe animals that had come before.
They heard the echoes of language in the world
and began giving their own names. Humans
soon uncovered the rich history of the world
they inherited, but fast were they making their
own histories as well. Through a human lens
they saw and taught the patterns of the world,
projecting as all animals do their own needs
and designs upon nature: Edible foods catch
the eye, while inedible plants fade from view;
lands capable of supporting humans appear
beautiful, while harsh lands are called ugly; the
day is seen as the realm of goodness, while the
night houses only evil. There was hardly time in
a single life to learn both the patterns of nature
and the patterns of humanity, and most chose
quite unconsciously to study the human order
for it offered a map catered to life among the

Early Hubs of Magick

But rarely. One time in a hundred, a thousand.
The fissures in the crust were not Barrows
at all, but deep cracks that led down into the
roots of the earth and held a sleeping Old One.
That true magick existed in the deep places of
the earth meant little to peasants and slaves
who already had their gods and priests. The
power of the priests was real enough, their
wills capable of silencing dissenters, meting
out justice, or finding cures for the sick. True
magick was but one power among many in the
world, and few could see it. Few could follow
the whispers in the deep tunnels and find the
source of magick. But those few soon started
learning, uncovering, teaching.
In three places the Elder Gods were found:
Between two crystal lakes fed by the waterfalls
of a mountain range, on an island of black soil
and deep caves, at the heart of a sweltering
forest tucked against roots of rock. Humans
began learning magick.
Magick and the Fey
Every language carries a trace of the old races
and tugs at the nature of the Tapestry. As
human languages multiplied, the Fey became
numerous and aware. Wrinkles formed in the
Loom, summoning spirits and breathing new
life into the world. Though difficult to see, the
growth of the human world was coeval with
the enchanting of nature. But the languages of
magick taught by the Elder Gods were more
raw, more concentrated. Words from before
the world was hemmed had power to alter
the order of things, stretch the Tapestry, add
patterns they wanted. As the Tapestry buckled


and warped under the words of the old magick,

the Fey became restless and more tangible.


The Fey who found themselves wandering the

world began teaching a magick of their own.
They taught humans how to see the patterns of
the stars and planets, how to stitch within and
along the Tapestry, how to calm the vibrating
Threads, plucked and strummed so ferociously
by others.

The Old Edradan Empire

Weavers arose, masters of the Loom,
individuals spun of strong threads who existed
as forces of nature in human form, laws made
living. They came, birthed by human parents,
to smooth a firm hand over the many creases
marring the Tapestry. It is said that forty-one
Weavers are predicted in the Loom, written
into history. Less than half are accounted for,
and rarely will schools devoted to the topic
agree. But, it is held by most that into the first
age of magick, when humans learned secret arts
from gods and Fey, came three such Weavers.
The Threads witness history, and scholars
have learned to read the past and future in
thicker bundles and patterns of the Loom.
Most Threads are intangible, visible only
to those specially gifted with insight by
the Fey. Some Threads, those with grave
importance, are so consequential they
manifest at the edge of sight in our world.
They represent the physical laws we take for
granted, the properties of matter and time.
It is said that the more directly a Thread
connects to an individual, the more tangible
it becomes. A small portion of Threads,
those that reflect the most fundamental
aspects of the Tapestry, point directly at
earth. We see them only in cross-section;
they appear as small circles of light in the
night sky, or as a large, pulsing circle of light
in the day. To even the untrained eye, the
stars of the heavens are alive with images
of the past and future, pulling and directing
the earth along its course.


All patterns came naturally to the Weavers,

who saw the comings and goings of nature
that bent to neither will nor desire and flowed
according to the laws of the Tapestry. Systems,
complexes, cause and effect, larger wholes
the realm of the Weaver all. Knowing every
consequence of an action without attaching to
them any meaning or value, the disinterested
Weavers went about smoothing.
The First
The First Weaver arose in Edrada and is tied
to the founding of a great city between the
two-color plains. The streets mapped the stars
above, and the entire layout reflected the
pattern of the Loom, a single city inhabited by
a hundred tongues. With a mighty fist and a
powerful voice, the First Weaver founded other
great cities, each beneath a dense intersection
of influential Threads. The recently awoken
Elder Gods rebelled against the Weavers
ordering of the world, and so citadels were
constructed as observation towers for the
Threads and as fortresses against the minions
of the Tyrants. And there were always scattered
humans who resisted the Loom and the Weaver
as well, those who sought to leave their own
marks upon the world, relishing in the power
and play of language and magick. It was a time
of great violence.

The Second
Many credit the Second Weaver with bringing
unnatural seasons to Vaankur. Beyond the
Maalthor Mountains, the cycles of day and
night are disturbed for part of the year, and
dancing spirits, green and red, can be seen
in the night sky when the equinox is near. A
biting cold swirls around the island, chilling
the air and freezing the ground, while fifty
leagues away on Gundrada the air is warm
and the soil fertile. The Thread of the Second
Weaver is difficult to interpret, but many poets
sensitive to the Loom describe the Sage as
an enemy to the giants. The oldest songs
say that the frozen ground of Vaankur
imprisons the giants below, a seal of ice
formed by the Second Weaver.

that arced around the Hara Sea were brought

together under a single empire centered in
Edrada. Roads connected cities, further tracing
the paths of the stars and the coursing of the
Threads. The surface of the earth, speckled
by evidence of the old magicks, came into
alignment under the heavens again. It was not a
time of peace for humankind, but the setting of
bones is rarely welcomed and a pruned tree is
rarely grateful.


The Weaver expired, and in time, the united

cities began to war with one another. Even the
wise can disagree, and all balance is fleeting.
Conflicts that began in disagreement ended in
bloodshed. Strong kings and queens arose, and
powerful warlords united those never welcomed
in the gleaming cities. Not all humans gave up
studying the arts of the Ancient Ones when
the Weaver had ruled, and magickers emerged
willing to forge patterns of their own. Some of
these came with the kindest hearts, patching
holes and healing bodies. Some came with fire.

As the Elder Gods died out, the Fey quieted,

and magick waned. Humans forgot, and the
Edradan Empire, built in the very image of
the heavens, stood a thousand years before
crumbling as all things do. Nature took its
course, and soon the ruins became part of the
land itself.

The Third
When all but the last of the Elder
Gods were gone, the Third Weaver
was born to forge a new era of order.
From the warring kingdoms a ruler
emerged with a strong hand and
a keen mind. Under the guidance
of the Third Weaver, the cities


Age of Migrations

(until 300 IC)


One thousand years passed slowly after the first human empire crumbled, and the great Lokod,
once steeped in wealth and culture, lay still. It became a desolate and dark corpse amidst a
landscape of similar skeletons, the bones of an empire brought to waste by causes unknown. For a
thousand years no human footstep disturbed the desolation, and the Hara Sea was lost to history.
But humanity had not yet finished with this region, and a new generation of great men and women,
strong in magick and wild with ambition, were born into the world by the weft of the Loom. These
heroes bore the keys to the future of humanity.


Great towers aged and withered dot the landscapes of Upper and Lower Edrada, Ragus, and parts of Gundrada.
Crumbling and half-covered in foliage, many sit untended and unseen by humans. Entire cities lie hidden
beneath forest and soil. Squatters and scavengers have picked clean those structures nearest current settlements,
but hundreds still lie buried and hidden, waiting for seekers thirsty for treasure, danger, and secrets of the past.

The Edish Arrive in Edrada

Each animal totem of the Edish peoples
represents an ancestor both literal and
spiritual. Individuals gather new totems by
communing with the spirits, joining new
tribes, and slaying rivals, weaving themselves
into the family histories of these great
ancestors and becoming blood relatives
with all others who share the same totem.
To take a totem is to join a bloodline and
heritage, to tie ones fate to the fate of the
spirit and the group. Edish chieftains, called
Hattan, will lead their tribes under the
protection of an animal spirit, connecting
all babies born into the tribe to the same
totem, a totem viewed as both a spiritual
and physical ancestor to the newborns.
The only areas spared their short, broad blades
were the ancient cities scattered across the
plains. The hunt was often met with walls
of stone and barbs of steel, fierce defenders
protecting their lords. In such realms, the
Edish found the small villages and trade routes
that fed the cities much better targets. Other
times, cities were empty of human life, ruins
protected by elements far more dangerous
than mere steel and flesh. The first Edish to
try foraging around such ruins learned tragic,
lasting lessons.

As the Hattan vied for power, tribes began to

merge, and the strongest thrived and expanded.
Soon, Upper Edrada was dominated by very
few Hattan, each bearing many strong ancestral
totems. The native inhabitants of the plains
dwindled in number, resources became scarce,
and Edish blades turned on other Edish.
Smaller tribes took their hunts south of the
Gold Plains, where they encountered aggressive
resistance from the large horsemen of Summer
Field and Lower Edrada. Caught in the middle,
these smaller tribes withered, their totems


Some centuries before present day, great

numbers of Edish nomads first emigrated
to Upper Edrada from the north, led by the
descendants of the captains of a faded empire.
Helmed by Hattan of strength and daring, the
short blades and minewin songs of the warrior
nomads swept across the open spaces of Upper
Edrada, exalting in the hunt of man and beast.
All indigenous peoples encountered were either
absorbed into the lineage of the tribal totem
or swept further south or west by the threat
of constant raids and violence. The Edish were
a strong people, and few across Edrada could
stand against them; many hunts were formed,
and much glory was won.

But from this certain doom came new hope:

three children, gifted in magick all, were born
into the Cougar tribe under Hattan Toveo,
bearer of three totems. As a gift to his dying
father-in-law, Toveo placed his second-born
under the totem of the Stag, adding one more
life to a fading lineage. The Cougar tribe bore
the weakest of the few remaining totems that
sought refuge near the Cataract Mountains,
yet in these youths the other weary Hattan
saw hope. Many years later, as Hattan Toveo
breathed his last, all minewin eyes turned to his
children and the Cougar tribe.
At the Totemflame
The twelve remaining Hattan struggling to
survive in the Gold Plains came with gifts to
Toveos funeral ceremony, which would begin
with a large hunt. The gathering was held on
an island that formed in the river Wanakiowa
when it was swollen with the melting snow
of the Cataract Mountains. Each Hattan
contributed what he or she could to aid the
tribe, but springs bounty had not yet bloomed
fully and the tribes were becoming too weak
to challenge even small native villages of the
region. Only Toveos successor, the grizzled
veteran Yongosona, was afforded the luxury of a
newly woven tunic. But the fabric hung limp on
his frame, which had long since forgotten the
strength and bladeskill it had known in youth.
Some would hunt while others prepared the



Toveos children were too young to participate

in the hunt, and they prowled the rivers bank
in anticipation of the hunters return. When
those venturing arrived, all were disappointed.
The hunt had tried the walls of a nearby native
city, but was repelled, suffering the deaths of
Kaeno, bearer of four totems and son of the
Falcon, and Hedarn, bearer of four totems and
daughter of the Owl. The multitude of beasts
taken on the plains were of small consolation,
and the feasting and competitions were more
muted and subdued than they would have been
Hedarn was the chief weaver of the minewin
gathering, and was to lead the group in song
to usher in the new generation of Cougar.
Such were the difficulties of the times that no
suitable replacement was apparent amongst the
other minewin.
After the feast, the ceremony began. The
assembled Hattan prepared the Totemflame,
setting ablaze tinder with a stick and animal
sinew and stoking the fire to the height of a
man. The minewin Loomists began to weave,
singing the song of transferal, and the Hattan
and totem-bearing hunters of renown began
the ritualistic dance. The eldest of Toveos
children, Fernedaw, a daughter of the Cougar in
her sixteenth year, stood just outside the circle
of light. She watched the ceremony with her
siblings, Tohoveo of the Stag, a year her junior,
and Ondeo, who carried thirteen years.
The children were gifted in magick, and the
patterns traced by the hands, voices, and
dancing of the minewin shaman and Hattan
manifested to them as things almost tangible.
The motions and sounds carried power; the
threads and the blood of all present were


Clouds of ink swirled from the fire, spiraling

in a widening gyre that would soon encompass
Yongosona. As the lines of color and thread
moved further from the Totemflame, Tohoveo
felt a sharp pang in his being. The minewin
ways blended magicks of the Tapestry and the
Fray, and the boy felt that something in the
ritual had torn an opening to the Underside.

The vivid colors of the ink became impossibly

dark, and several of the gathered dancers began
to stumble in confusion. Eyes widened in the
group of minewin; threads were cut and marred
by the presence of the Fray.
Darkness began to spread from the
Totemflame, andone by onethe members
of the singing circle dropped their weaving
and fled into the night. As the singers fled, the
darkness spread into the spaces their songs
were protecting. The children watched in
horror as the men closest to the Totemflame,
including Yongosona, were unraveled. Many
strong hunters were lost. The darkness
coalesced into a dozen darkly glistening purple
arms, each fully as long as two men. The arms
were straining against the earth, pulling some
dark Fray beast through Toveos burning body
toward the Edradan night.
On seeing this, Fernedaw leaped toward the
Totemflame. Hattan! she cried at the sight
of her fathers body being so abused. Tohoveo
and Ondeo followed her, utterly afraid but
unable to leave their sister and Hattan to this
fate. The Fray beast struggled to pull itself
into the world, but the children were quicker.
Even while heroes of many totems fled, the
child Ondeo took up the aborted song of
the minewin, singing of the hunt and of the
strength and trophies of the Cougar. As he
sang, his siblings were imbued with the atavistic
powers of their shared totem. Swollen with
the strength of her ancestors, Fernedaw threw
herself into the creatures arms, wrestling it
with the patterns of ritual, moving through
minewin forms and stances to subdue the limbs
of Fray made flesh. Tohoveo felt the power of
Ondeos chant filter through his being like a
fibrous thing. His shaking hands steadied, and
his focus resolved into perfect clarity. Threads
only faintly felt now sprang to life before his
eyes; the dance of his hands while he wove was
even more intricate than that of his sisters
body as she slipped between arms and under
grasping Fray talons.
Fernedaw kept the beast from emerging
further, and half of its arms were broken and
useless by the time Tohoveos weaving magick

Death of the Cougar

The tribe of the Cougar was undone, and its
wealth and influence was absorbed by the other
Gold Plains tribes, primarily the Owl. The
children were entrusted to the care of Hattan
Kawayo the Elk, bearer of five totems, and her
mate Hotsko the Wolf. The tribe of the Wolf
welcomed the orphaned youths, and Kawayo
took the children into her personal retinue.
The children took the Wolf as their second
totem prior to coming of age, a practice not
entirely foreign, and for a time the Cougar was
truly lost.
Children of the Loom
The Wolf was a generous and strong tribe.
Under the tutelage of its great warriors, the
children took the new totem and began to
develop their strengths. The Hattan, Kawayo
the Elk, and her mate Hotsko were startled
at the potential of the youths. Stories had
been circulated about the Totemflame but the
gifted children still surprised their new tribe. It
seemed that fantasy was truth, and the children
truly were as powerful as the stories suggested.
Young Ondeo showed promise as a companion
in the hunt. His atavistic magick was none the
weaker for a lack of familiarity with the Wolf,
and he channeled his new tribal totems power
through song and ritual in support of his fellow
hunters. The power of his tongue brought great
honor to the tribe. Ondeo learned to use the
delicate, curved blades favored by Kawayo the
Elk, his surrogate mother, rather than the short
wide blades used by the men of the tribe. Any

youths of the Wolf who dared ridicule him

quickly learned the value of speed and guile
over strength and brute force. Ondeo won
many feathers, and his crest blossomed into a
bouquet of acclaim.
The stoic Fernedaw proved her worth
domestically and at play. Everyone saw in her
a future warrior. Her command of a group was
unspoken; all her peers yielded silently to her
calm strength, and oftentimes the mood of a
hunt could be altered entirely by her presence
alone. The cunning of her limbs and strong hips
earned her many tokens of accomplishment in
competition with the other youths of the Gold
Plains tribes. Few in the region could stand
against her in unarmed combat, and her crest
was swollen with the broken feathers of her


sewed together the frayed edges of the Loom.

The Totemflame expired and the screaming
chaos of the Fray was shut away, plunging the
clearing into darkness and peace. Gone were
the Hattan and minewin shaman caught by the
creeping shadow. Gone, too, were the body,
paint, and feathers of Toveo. Fernedaw knelt
in the clearings center, weeping silently for the
loss of her Hattan, and her brothers stood on
either side of her. Tohoveos weaving hands laid
still on his sisters shoulders; Ondeos continued
song was the only sound to be heard on the
small island and either bank of the pregnant

Of the three children, Tohoveo showed the

most strength in the Loom. His actions at the
Totemflame were no fluke, and the minewin
shaman of the tribe of the Wolf quickly
adopted him into their ranks, becoming
the most powerful of the minewin of the
Gold Plains by doing so. Though he had
many potential mates, Tohoveo was shy and
uncomfortable in the highly stylized social
interactions of the tribe of the Wolf. He kept
most people at a distance, only connecting
through competition. Still, his skill with the
Loom ensured that his fame would spread
beyond the limits of his charisma.
Such was the strength of the children that
within a years time among the Wolf, Kawayo
decided that their abilities warranted a hunt for
their adult totems. In these three children, the
Hattan saw the power to revitalize the Edish of
the Gold Plains. The accolades of the siblings
meant that they would not be able to join
another hunting group. Few adolescents wanted
their hunt overshadowed by such greatness.
Fernedaw, ever conscious of those around her,
reached out to her closest competitor, Kwewu.
The youth was a friend whom she fancied as a
possible mate. Kwewu, I go to hunt, she said.
I would be honored with your company now
and going forward.



The young man was two years her elder.

Before Fernedaws arrival, Kwewu had been
the strongest wrestler of the tribe. Few bodies
could match his in competition, and he broke
many feathers of his peers. He had become
Fernedaws chief sparring partner since no
other youth could stand against her, but these
last months he had not even been able to bend
one of her feathers, while she claimed all of his,
each time.
I cannot hunt with you, Fernedaw. The glory
of my totem must be diminished were I in the
company of one so strong as you. You and your
siblings are children of the Loom. The strength
of many totems lies in your blood, and hope
for the future of the Edish. Men like me do
not compare. I will not hunt in your shadow,
A few tears as the only sign of her pain, the girl
returned to the fire of Kawayo and Hotsko.
Her siblings were already preparing their points
and blades, and she sat down to join them.
The nearness of blood soothed her somewhat,
and Ondeo sang quietly of the Cougar and the
hunt. The three siblings departed early the
next morning, with none but each other for
The Hunt
Tohoveo, following the Loom, led them north
across the Gold Plains. Each of them had
chosen their totem, for Tohoveo, the Cougar
of his lost tribe; for Fernedaw, the Bear; and
for young Ondeo, the Raven. All three of
their paths followed the same threads, and the
siblings traveled together.


Two weeks passed. They trudged on in

monotony, thirsty and hungry and nearly
asleep on their feet, when suddenly the silent,
steep-walled canyon exploded in a frenzy of
activity. A cougar sprang with deadly grace
from where was once only spindly aspen trees,
knocking Ondeo to the stones of the riverbed
and bowling over Fernedaw. The girl and
beast tumbled through the rocks. The cougar
quickly rebounded and was already in flight
before either child had regained their footing,
but Tohoveo was faster. The animals threads

were clear to him as a shining web. His hands

were driven by the same instinct he felt at
the Totemflame, and ever so deftly his fingers
danced, unraveling the beasts heart. Its gallop
slowed to a trot, and then a walk. It approached
Tohoveo deferentially, and laid down at his feet,
expiring. The cougar was slain; the Cougar was
Ondeo was left incapacitated by the stress
of the journey and the fall, so Tohoveo and
Fernedaw began the preparation of the cougars
body alone. The animal was skinned and
butchered. Its flesh was consumed and the
threads of its totem were tied to Tohoveo, their
new bearer.
During the rite, a Fell bear, old and gnarled as
the mountain itself, awoke in a nearby cave.
Drawn by the allure of the magick being
practiced near its lair, it descended on the
children in hungry excitement, lashing out
erratically. Tohoveo was struck first, suffering
a mortal blow across the chest. He was thrown
into a desiccated pine tree with a sickening
thud. Fernedaws bow was at the ready, and she
quickly drew a bead on the animal. One, two,
three arrows were loosed in rapid succession,
peppering the Fell bears skull but not landing
a killing blow. The animal advanced unfazed,
a great matriarch of the mountain. Fernedaw
tried to slip from its grasp, but the beast was
too strong, gripping her sides and biting into
her shoulder.
Her scream startled Ondeo from sleep under
his tunic where they had left him to recuperate.
The magick in the air and the proximity of
his blood kin gave him strength, and Ondeo
struggled to his feet with fetish in hand, calling
on the power of his ancestor totems through
song. Fernedaw felt the magick enliven her
limbs as the Fell brute turned to face Ondeo.
She used this moment of distraction to draw
her chert blade and drive it repeatedly into the
Fell bears thick, heavily scarred throat. The
bear dropped the girl, and both collapsed.
Realizing that his siblings were dying, Ondeo
called once more on the power of their shared
blood. His fetish was a mere childs toy, though,

Fetishes and magickal objects of all kinds

can be used as Source by magickers.
These allow for more potent casting by
empowering the caster to wield more energy
from the Fray without taking injury. See
page 249 for more.
Gathering up the fallen body of his totem,
Ondeo immediately began the ritualistic chants
of the minewin. There was little time to waste.
Fortunately, the youth had performed all of
the necessary acknowledgements of his totem
the night before, so in a mere twenty minutes
he had assumed the Raven and harvested its
feathers to create a new fetish.
Ondeo worked through the night in an atavistic
trance. The sun rose unnoticed, only to set
again on the singing youth. His song sustained
him, and for two days Ondeo struggled to keep
his siblings threads alive, channeling the power
of their new totems. In mere days, and despite
their apparent deaths, Fernedaw and Tohoveo
had returned from fatal wounds. Finally, when
they were sleeping peacefully, Ondeo, too,
Rebirth of the Cougar
The siblings returned to the fires of the Wolf,
where the week-long ceremonies of adulthood
were already underway for those who had
returned. Indeed, the siblings were the last of
the still-living hunters to return, and many of
the tribe had feared them dead.

They arrived at night, and approached

Kawayos fire with their tunics drawn tight
to hide their wounds. At the fire, they were
surprised to find Kwewu. The young wrestler
had been waiting by their Hattans fire for five
days, keeping the fire that waits for returning
hunters burning. He had not even washed the
grit of this totem hunt from his body, nor had
he received the tattoo of his new totem, the


and had been destroyed by the force required

to save Fernedaw. In order to save them, he
would need a stronger fetish. As he cast about
in desperation, the Loom buckled once more,
and a raven shot from the same aspens that had
produced the cougar. In two bounds, Ondeo
had his sisters bow drawn with the fletching of
one of the arrows they had prepared together
tickling his cheek. The boy was still flush
with the power of his Blood, and he let fly the
arrow guided by the hands of his ancestors, the
Cougar and the Wolf. The ravens wing-beats
ceased. It convulsed once against the darkening
sky and plummeted into the streambed.

He gave a much-practiced speech: I have

waited for you, Fernedaw. The others feared
you dead, but I knew that such strong threads
are not so easily clipped from the Loom. I
am shamed by my behavior before the totem
hunt. My own journey taught me the way I may
redeem myself. He paused. I see in the three
of you the rebirth of a once powerful tribe.
Through your strength, the strength of the
Gold Plains may also be reborn, and the pains
of our ancestors avenged. I will dedicate myself
to hunt alongside the Cougar.
Kwewu carried great influence with the youth
of the tribe, and many of the young adults
followed his lead in supporting the siblings.
This group of new hunters gained much honor
among the small tribes with many successful
forays into the surrounding lands. Both animals
and men were felled in abundance, and the
wealth and prestige of the tribe of the Wolf
began to match that of the Owl. Kawayo
recognized that Tohoveo was the true leader
of the hunt, and she addressed the tribe during
the totem ceremony of the very next year.
Tohoveo has once again brought the Cougar
to a place of honor and renown. Many of us
remember his meek arrival at the Wolf, young
yet full of potential. Now he has blossomed
into a strong warrior, already the bearer of
three totems. He has revived the thread of his
ancestors, and his life is now his own. Tohoveo,
stand. The youth did as commanded. You are,
and have always been, Tohoveo of the Cougar.
In your bravery, and that of your siblings, your
fathers totem lived on, and does still. Take the
wealth you have earned now, and those who
would follow you, and set off a new people. I
would be a fool to hold you back any longer.


Your obligation to the Wolf is over. Though I

will always call you brother, I recognize you as
Hattan of the Cougar.


The next morning, the three siblings prepared

to split from the camp. They had become
beloved of the tribe, and though many were
sad at their departure, few were angry. Many
of the young warriors, under the leadership
of Kwewu, bearer of the Hawk, also took
the Cougar with Hattan Kawayos blessing.
Feasting and celebration consumed the two
tribes for many days and nights, and the first
games of competition were played between
them. With Fernedaw and Kwewu both wearing
the feathers of the Cougar, few victories were
won by the Wolf.
Summer Field and the Red Plains
Hattan Tohoveo won ever more renown on the
Edradan plains. The number of warriors among
the Cougar swelled, and Tohoveo, Fernedaw,
and Kwewu all led successful raids against the
settled peoples of the Gold Plains and the
dangerous Alagoth horsemen of the Summer
Field. Soon, the Cougar was the strongest of
all the Gold Plains Edish, and the other tribes
dwindled more and more.
The tribe of the Cougar marched south
through Ironwood and crossed the Wanakiowa
River into Summer Field. After a short,
successful campaign against the horsemen
weavers there, Tohoveo led his people east
through the Cataract Mountains to the
shores of Harp Lake. His sense of the Loom
had become unmatched by any Edish in
remembered history. As the seasonal currents
of the Edradan plains shifted, so moved the
tribe of the Cougar.
During these migrations, the young Ondeo,
bearer now of three totems, became more
interested in the great cities, inhabited or
otherwise. Whatever mysteries he encountered
there were never revealed to others, but he
often returned in triumph with some new fetish
or artifact clutched against his chest.


From Harp Lake, the Cougar swept westward,

crossing the Essapesh River onto the Red

Plains, a land that few members of the tribe

had ever known. Great inroads were made into
these plains; the feared strength of the Red
Plains Edish fell away before the might of the
Cougar. The siblings and Kwewu took ever
more totems in raids and the hunt, building
their wealth and fame. In a few short years, the
Cougar had become the mightiest tribal totem
in all of Edrada.

To Lokod
The speed of Ondeos development into
the strongest minewin shaman mirrored the
ascension of the Cougar tribe. His power
multiplied with the secrets gleaned from
the handful of artifacts and fetishes he had
recovered. With this power came a growing
awareness of an ancient, pulsing presence
dwelling at the heart of Lokod, one of the
long-abandoned cities of Upper Edrada. As the
tribe rode back toward Harp Lake, the youth
suggested they winter in the outskirts of the
city. Though the city was abandoned, many of
the structures were still intact, and Fernedaw
oversaw their re-appropriation as housing for
the wintering nomads.
Scattered throughout Lokods sprawling
footprint, the tribe encountered small groups
of settlers and other nomads resting for winter.
These people represented cultures unknown to
the Edish, and they taught many new traditions
to the nomads in the outskirts of the newly
inhabited city.
At Ondeos insistence, two years passed in
this manner. Tohoveo used his weaving and
knowledge granted by new settlers to bring
irrigation and farming back the lands on their
edge of the city. Despite small hostilities, the
tribe flourished and grew, attracting ever more
nomads as permanent residents to the city and
expanding deeper into the ruins.
Under a fine layer of earth, a great arena was
found. In it, Totemflames and other ceremonies
and competitions were held. The strongest
warriors and wrestlers were invited from many
rival tribes. In time, the arena of Lokod was

the truest test of a warriors worth. Much glory

was won there, and many spears and feathers
broken. Lokod once again had life moving
through its streets, albeit on a much smaller
scale than was known in ancient times.

Touched by the Fray

Few of the Edish knew the skeleton of Lokod
better than Ondeo. The youngest sibling, now
in his twenty-fourth year and bearing four
totems, would often disappear for days into the
depths of it. Only Tohoveo and Fernedaw ever
accompanied him, and then only for as short
a period as the tribe would allow. Lokod was
riddled with strange passageways and vast, illfelt chambers. Exploring the city was dangerous
for some, but Ondeo did so without fear.
After a long absence in the spring of the
seventh year of Lokods occupation, Ondeo
entered Fernedaws room late at night. The
minewin shaman was changed. He used magick
and song to muddle the mind of his concerned
sister, seducing her and planting in her the seed
of a child. After that night, Ondeo disappeared
again into the depths of the city, neither seen
nor heard from again.
As the pregnancy became apparent, Fernedaw
fell into a bottomless, gray humor. This malaise
spread through the city. As the young woman
faded, a dark power settled over the tribe.
Illnesses swept through the occupied section of
Lokod and its surrounding farmland. Diseases
unknown claimed many. Fields that had just
begun to flourish now stood fallow again, and
many infants were born without elders to give
them totems. The tribal paints were tainted,
and the feathers of war-crests wilted. The
newly won power of the Cougar faded with
Fernedaws health.
At the appointed time, her infant was born.
And just as the child was brought into the
world, so too did Lokod birth an Old God from
the sleeping catacombs of the city. Burrowing


After only six years of inhabiting Lokod,

the tribe of the Cougar had absorbed many
nomadic tribes and now numbered well into
the thousands.

up from watery caves, the Dark One rampaged

through the settlement, destroying buildings
and devouring their inhabitants, growing in size
and power with each body it consumed. Some
fled the city while devils and imps spawned
from the Beasts growing bulk bit at their
faces. Warriors of many tribes fought back, but
each hunt dispatched against the Fray Beast
only increased its size and power. Over the
course of two days, the Dark One had all but
destroyed the Edish settlement. Thousands of
people were dead or fleeing, and the bulk of the
creature pushed on.
In a last gambit, Tohoveo used his Loom
magick to lead the beast to the arena, away
from the fleeing families. Kwewu gathered the
ailing Fernedaw and her infant in his arms and
escaped the city with the few hundred Edish
left alive. He suffered many wounds from the
imps, but he protected Fernedaw and the child
with his arms and broad back.
Kwewu left Fernedaw and her child with a
group of survivors far out in the fallow fields.
He then returned to the city to search for
Tohoveo, but was knocked to the ground by
an earthquake before reaching the arena. The
Loom tightened around him, and the ground
buckled. Regaining his feet, the Hawk charged
toward the arena but found nothing. Instead
of a series of buildings and the arena itself,
there was a great plain of earth and rock. No
sign remained of either the Fray Beast or the
heroic weaver. The buildings had disappeared,
completely erased and replaced with the granite
bedrock on which the city was built.
Kwewu returned to the survivors and found
that in his absence Fernedaw had died. He
carried her body himself to the riverbank
where he anointed her with tears and oils. Her
body drifted out into the waves while he sang
the funerary rites and wove an end to her tale.
Kwewu took up the child and disappeared into
the Edradan night. The thread of the Cougar
was lost, and her people scattered across
Edrada, taking the warning of the ruins with


The Neferatha Come to Ugurlu


In the dark woods of southern Ragus, a large

network of villages came under the power of a
wise but ruthless witch, Crone. Touched with
the Fray since childhood, Crone spent her
early years as an oracle and healer. Taken by
her mother and aunts to villages far from her
girlhood home, Crone was welcomed among
the Nibu people as a hand of divine comfort
amidst the precarious life of the forest folk.
She aged the course of a normal human life in
this role of councilor and physician, but as her
years became unnaturally long, her role grew
to that of a local deity. Shaman and magickers
from a hundred villages venerated her name
and paid homage to her through arcane rites,
celebrating her power and adding to it. Word
spread that she was no longer human, and three
generations grew up under her care.
Through her influence, the people of the
woods developed a small culture of their own,
invested in the local magicks and supported
by the bounty of the forest. Crone revealed
the moieties, two groups of people prohibited
from intermarriage. The Hands and the Feet,
she created. The Hands were charged with
scientific work, developing the tools of writing
and mathematics, and with art. The Feet were
formed as farmers and laborers. A small group
of magickers became known as the Crowns,
representing the very top of the head, the
highest locus of energy in the human body.
They spent time in meditation and arcane
research. The Crowns remained outside the
system of moieties and took mates from either
group. Together the people discovered their
origins in the dark roots of the earth, lower
than the roots of tree and mountain, a source
touched with the old magick. It was during
this time that the people of the wood became
known as the Neferatha, the children/siblings
of the root.
Fleeing the Withering
It came to pass that two kings went to war
in the area, and each sent emissaries to the
magickers who lived deep in the woods. The
mages came to Crone asking what should be


done and which king should be given their

support. She spoke: I will visit these kings
myself and bring about a resolution to this
conflict. War is not the only road to prosperity.
In the guise of a tiger, Crone visited the first
king, Djobodhi. His guards fled at the sight of
the great beast, and Crone walked on padded
paws into the kings tent. Djobodhi drew his
spear and stood firm in the face of the regal
beast. Crone spoke from the mouth of the
tiger: What is it you want, king? How far
does your hatred spread to the kin of King
Dhumastha? If I give you the head of this king,
would you spare this region the byproducts of
war and take his people as your own sons and
daughters? Djobodhi agreed.
In the guise of a broad, white-haired ape, Crone
visited King Dhumastha on the same night. His
guards stood to fight, and the witch broke their
bones with her ape-fists. She walked on worn
knuckles into the kings tent. Dhumastha drew
his spear to face her, and Crone spoke: What
is it you want, king? Your petty animosity with
King Djobodhi will ruin this region. If I offer
you the head of Djobodhi, would you spare
these lands your war and take his people as
your own? Dhumastha answered: I can make
no such bargain, witch. His bloodline must
end. Join me. Let your magickers aid my army,
and I will bring wealth and fertile land to your
people. Displeased with the kings words,
Crone replied: Your words are weak. Prepare
your spear. Crone and Dhumastha fought for
many hours, and although the hag bested the
king before morning, it is said that the wounds
she suffered from the point of his spear made
her body mortal once more. Crone took the
spear and its two mates with her when she left
the tent, curious at their origins. Some say she
learned the limitations of magick that night
and learned to respect the power of steel.
By this time, one of the Great Trees had grown
tall in the middle of the forest. Those in the
region called it The Withering because it stole
life from the rest of the natural rainforest and
foiled any attempts to settle within its shelter.

Some say the Root of the Earth turned against

Crone and forsook the Neferatha. Crone spoke
to her people and to King Djobodhi about the
growing dangers of the Tree: Our people must
become one and move.

Crone used the spear of King Dumastha to slay

Djobodhi. Let his people fend for themselves.

Coming to Anishad
Within a season, Crone led the Hands and Feet
of the Neferatha away from The Withering.
There were four thousand on the first march.
After several months, the Neferatha came to
the people of Tath Nagura, an old settlement at
the edge of the Parushaya Mountains, a range
full of holy places for many rural cultures. The
Tath people invited the Neferatha wanderers
into their midst and celebrated their arrival.
For a time Crone and her followers enjoyed the
comforts of Tath Nagura. The Hands taught
writing to the young, and the Feet helped dig a
new well. It came to pass, however, that certain
of the Foot caste went missing each night
for some days. Eventually, their bodies were
found in the dark temple of the Tath people:
cut, gnawed, and ceremonially eaten. Deep in
the belly of the mountain, a creature unaware
of sunlight had twisted the minds of the Tath
Crone called many curses upon their hosts
for desecrating the Neferatha Body, for any
violence against one of her followers was
violence against the whole. The entire city
erupted into chaos. Tath women jumped upon


King Djobodhi refused: Take your people and

flee if you must, witch. My people have grown
strong and do not fear this Tree as your lot
would. We have not bound our souls to the dark
gods as you have, and the changing earth seeks
no vengeance against our blood. We would not
share your fate and bring our children into the
judgment that follows you and yours.

Neferatha men and bit their ears. Tath children

drew blades against their Hand teachers. The
central road was flooded with bodies, as Tath
families came together into a single mob set
against Crone and her people. It was a bloody
battle escaping the town, and the Neferatha
entered the Nameless Desert without
Although the Neferatha later conquered Tath
Nagura and brought the order of the four
castes, rumors floated that some of the people
who traced their families back to the days
before the settling of Ugurlu still practiced
magick of flesh and bone.
As three thousand beggars, the Neferatha
came to the city of Anishad, a beacon on the
Wanakiowa coast, polished and cut by royal
hands. They took up residence in a poor quarter
of the city, building apartments divided by caste
in the tenements and maintaining their culture
as best they could amongst the mixing peoples
who made Anishad home. Crone and her
people spent twenty years licking their wounds
among the streets of Anishad. The Crowns
took positions as healers and alchemists in the
hidden corners of the city, while the Hands and
Feet earned pay as skilled workers. Over time,
certain individuals became more successful
than others and married into Anishad society
in various degrees. The Neferatha expanded
into an urban ethnic group that reached many
parts of the city, though members more or less
maintained the divisions of caste and respected
the leadership of Crone.
Hashtani and the New Body
Twenty-one years before the death of Crone,
the wealthy of Anishad were being pressed hard
by the ruling families of Ugurlu, the largest and
most powerful city in the world of the Hara
Sea. Three rivals for the Anishad monarchy
became apparent, two favored by the elites
of Ugurlu. Crone knew her time was growing
short, and she worked one final plan to ensure
the growth of the Neferatha Body and the
safety of her people.
After healing the young child of a respected
soldier, Crone gained an invitation to his estate



home, where she met Hashtani, a maiden of

thirteen and a rival for the throne. Crone spent
many weeks impressing and counseling the
young heiress in the soldiers home. She learned
during her stay at the estate that Hashtani was
being pursued by both of her rivals, both male,
who were looking to make of her a wife and
thus unite two of the citys factions against the
third. Hashtani came from an old people who
first settled Anishad, though their numbers
were dwindling. This people counted their
numbers in mothers and recorded lineages
through matriarchal lines, a tradition the
Neferatha too practiced. She was against
marrying a man who would try to disempower
Crone spoke to Hashtani in the house of
Melrudha the soldier: You are right that you
cannot be made the puppet of your rivals by
marrying one of these filthy dogs and entering
their masculine order. Their offers of marriage,
however, should not be spurned lightly. We
can use their schemes against them. Do they
each offer to marry you in secret to prevent
the other from interfering? Hashtani replied:
Yes, both ceremonies are to take place in two
weeks time. But I cannot marry one of these
men or I will forfeit my own lineage. Crone
agreed, comforting the girl, and continued: My
child, marry them both. Do so in secret. Marry
one of them first, but consummate the other
first. It would take all the scholars of Anishad
to determine which is the rightful husband in


their eyes. Take them both to your bed as often

as you like, and the offspring that result will
have no certain father. The lines of your rivals
will end, and yours will continue. This city may
yet remember the practices of their ancestors.
It came to pass as Crone planned. The city was
united for the first time, and Hashtani had the
highest throne. The old traditions of her people
were remembered, and the precedent existed to
defend her claim to supreme authority. Under
Crones counsel, Hashtani led Anishad to
prosper and had many daughters.
Move from Anishad
The wealthy families of Ugurlu were greatly
angered by the rise of Anishad, and fifteen
years after Hashtanis coronation open war was
declared between the two cities. To Hashtanis
dismay, the magick of the Crowns revealed that
many of the Anishad families had already given
their allegiance to relatives in Ugurlu. The city
was turning against the old ways again. An army
planned to strike from within the city while
another from Ugurlu came from without.
Crone spoke to Hashtani again, the two as
grandmother and child: These times are
troubled, but do not let your daughters live
in fear. I have given you this kingdom, but
there is a greater kingdom to claim. Forget the
dangers that undermine you here in Anishad
and take control of the city of Ugurlu itself.
Shed this city that strangles your people, and

my lord. These magicks used to assail us are

tearing at the Tapestry that binds this world
and thinning the wall that separates life from
death. To wield our own power in response
would surely lead to chaos. The king bellowed:
So you send us all to our deaths? Without your
magick you are a beggar and this city soon a
pile of rubble. Daesoranda then said his last
words to King Naehod: The doom of Ugurlu
would be but the first such pile, my lord, for
what might awaken in these catacombs would
ravage cities from one side of the world to

Before the trap caught Hasthani at home, she

had marched a force of ten thousand soldiers
against the city of Ugurlu, the Neferatha Body
united as a single front. The Crowns who
wielded true magick brought forth arcane
curses and fire upon the city. Hashtanis
captains slew their enemies four to one. Five
years of war surrounded the city, and none sent
aid. The traitors in Anishad sent no support, as
they were now rid of both their rivals. No other
cities cared for the tight fist of Ugurlu either,
and so the years of siege continued.

Twisting through the catacombs of Ugurlu,

Crone led Mishtani and a small group of
guards to the vault that held the last remnants
of Ugurlus royal families. They cut their way
into the dark heart of the city and found the
chamber of the king heavily protected. The
skirmish was bloody. Mishtani suffered a
crippling wound just as her knife slit the throat
of the king. All the soldiers on both sides were
dead. Only the mages of Ugurlu and the two
Neferatha women survived; and the Empress
clutched at a wound that would soon take her
life. Daesoranda spoke to Crone: You know
what lies beneath this city, and yet you wield
such powers so thoughtlessly? Who are your
people and from whence do they come? You
must teach your followers to forsake the dark
magicks and give up the arcane path. No good
can come from tearing at the fabric of the

In the Battle of Rams Gate, Hashtani fell by

the sword just as the outer walls of the city
were breached by the Neferatha army. Always
beside Hashtani, Crone held the queens body
and spoke: The city falls, my child. You are the
victor, the first empress of a kingdom that rules
Ugurlu, Anisahd, UranishadAll the cities of
the coast. May you see this kingdom in the next
life. Hashtani died as the first Empress of the
Neferatha, her death marking the beginning of
the Imperial Calendar. Her daughter, Mishtani,
was anointed Second Empress at the age of 19.
It took six days to root out the former king of
Ugurlu, hidden away in an underground vault.
Deep within the city, King Naehod begged
his magickers to rise up: Why have I sent
you sacrifices and riches if in my time of need
you wield nothing of what you have learned to
defend us? The mages were reluctant, for they
had learned well: the old magicks were both
dangerous and fickle. Daesoranda, the most
powerful magicker of the city, spoke to the
king: This city rests upon a dangerous Barrow,


join with the Neferatha. At the same time,

break the chains that reach from the dark
spires of Ugurlu. The Neferatha will now have
two Hands. The spear of your daughters will
be as my Right Hand just as the stylus of the
scribes will be as my Left. May the labor of the
Feet and the vision of the Crowns complete
the Body of the Neferatha, a body whose spirit
grows from the very roots of the earth. Take
those loyal to yourself and march on Ugurlu.
Hashtani had known no other counselor since
the days of her youth, and Crones words won
the womans heart.

At that moment, the light left Mishtanis eyes.

Crone spoke to the mages through tears: The
Neferatha come from the root of the world,
mage. We fear no such magicks for we are its
body. At that time, a contingent of soldiers
came into the room, led by Nanthuni, sister
of Mishtani. Crone spoke, falling to the floor:
Kill these wizards where they stand. Nanthuni,
Third Empress of the Neferatha, protect these
walls. This city belongs to none but the Body of
the Neferatha Empire now.
Crone died the moment after she anointed the
Third Empress in the very bowels of the city,
taking the warning of Daesoranda with her.


The Horde From the Steppe


When it seemed many peoples were on the

move, from the Eastern Steppe came throngs
of horsemen, entire cities borne on the backs
of horses. Long caravans of settler-warriors fled
the collapsing side of the earth, conquering
by bow and sword in the names of powerful
patriarchs and their sons. For generations these
horsemen displaced many Edish tribes who had
by that time settled in Lower Edrada. These
horsefolk gained the name Alagoth (People of
the Steppe), and they took little time settling
in the fertile areas all around the White Forest.
Among the first waves of Alagoths came the
mightiest patriarchs.

Doth, Horn-Blower, Father of

Chethahan, City-Burner, The
Lion Who Tramples Underfoot
Doth Ata Hass was an old and tested warrior by
the time his people reached the White Forest.
In many battles with the scattered tribes that
once inhabited the harsh flats, he had proven
himself a leader of men and protector of horses.
Doth bore the horn of the Roshata clan from
an early age and led more than twenty thousand
of his kin off the desolate Steppe and into the
hills of Lower Edrada.
Like a winter storm came Doth Ata Hass into
Lower Edrada, cold and relentless. Nomadic
peoples fell like broken wheat before him, and
his horses covered their land. The first city he
sacked, Chethahan, near the Crimson Sea, took
only the men of his huol to topple. He came
by night, jumping the walls with his horses and
slaying half the city as they slept. Doth was
the first to arrange his chambers with hanging
carpets as dividing walls, a practice he began in
the vast, open halls of Chethahan. The Horn
Blower spent six years in Chethahan before
leaving to conquer other cities. They rarely
stayed in one place that long again, and the
Alagoths left little lasting impact on the cities
they would invade and revel in for a time.


The brightest of Doths hawad, Xareth Ata

Jarus, prided himself in his prowess with the
bow. He earned the names Straight Arrow and
Cousin of the Wind among friends. Xareth won
many games and took many horses, making
rivals and enemies of cousins within Doths
camp. Like a rock jutting up from the middle of
a river, Xareth began to split the camp. When
word reached Doth that a young archer was
shaking the settlement, he knew his men had
grown restless and petty from life in the city.
The halls kept them like caged animals, and
many were unfit for domestic routines. The
horses lost exercise, and the flocks grew thin
with constant feasts and celebrations.
Doth sent word through a young servant to
invite Xareth to the patriarchs chambers for
a feast, telling the young warrior to bring his
closest cousins as well. Goats and sheep were
slaughtered, and the entire hawad was invited.
Doths own daughters performed the customary
dances, displaying the local fashions and newer
modes of dress. The men sang many songs to
their patriarch and played instruments.
At last, two days into the festivities, City
Burner spoke: You are my trusted hawad, the
men of my heart, my arrow brothers and horse
keepers. You are strong, mighty men, pillars
of this camp. But the years have made us rich
and fat. With this they both cheered and
laughed. This feast marks my last in the halls
of Chethahan, Doth continued. Call your
cousins in with the flocks; send word this very
night. Take your best carpets from the walls
and roll them up. Choose your best servants
and sons. Ready your horses, fitting them with
arrows and spears. Soon we ride to the glory
of Rosh! Leave the city to your nephews and
With this, the hall felt the din of loud cheers
and the jangling of metal jewelry. Doth spoke
once more: We leave in two camps before
the next moon. I will take the huol and their
closest warriors north, and Xareth Ata Jarus
will take his kin and any who would ride with
him northeast. With this the roar turned

angry, many in the huol affronted by the

prestige given Xareth, a man not even of Doths
immediate kin. The patriarch spoke, The
camp grows large, and I am not yet old enough
to choose my own successors. Let this young
archer take his kin and test his fortune.

Doth and the Roshata pressed along the sea

coast, winning wives and horses from the local
peoples. Many cities fell before the Lion and
his kinsmen. Displacing the nomadic peoples
became light sport between sieges. Each new
city brought more horses, arms, and wives.
Doths sister, Haila, shared his mother, Narene.
Narene bore only two children to Hass, both
in his later days after the great patriarch lost
many sons and daughters. In his final years,
Doth was struggling with a local king, and the
two could come to no peace. King Razhad led a
people as unlike the Edish as were the Alagoth,
and both men sought control of the lands
between the sea and the Summer Field. After
many men were killed in a season of skirmishes,
Haila was given to Razhad as his second wife in
exchange for the disputed lands. Through the
sobs of Doths wives and daughters, Haila and
her servants rode from the camp at night for a
moonlit wedding. Settling in Utheranevah, she
became an influential and renowned wife to
Razhad, mothering three kings of her own.

Iassan, Hoof-Keeper, Taker of

the First Horn, Slayer of Pel
Odevah, Hunter of Tenah Roc
Generations later, as peoples of the world
still moved restlessly to new homes, Iassan
Ata Hexeter, The Hunter-King, became a

Nabayja Hola Adarex was her fathers fifth

daughter and took to the bold Iassan warmly.
As the hunter grew in stature among his kin,
he would bring loftier and grander gifts to the
daughter of Adarex. In her fathers garden,
in the presence of her maids and servants,
Nabajya and Iassan took many meals together.
If you truly loved me, teased Nabayja, you
would bring me the horn of a karkadhan.
Our clan has never gained such a prize, and
my father would most assuredly give me as a
wife should you prove yourself so noble. Her
request was rash, impossible, but Iassan felt
the heavy burden of her words nonetheless.
Should I bring such a horn, my love, I would
need no mans permission to take which wives
I desired. She felt the sting of his remark for
only a moment. Dancers burst into the garden,
and before long both youths became taken by
the performance of Nabayjas servants.


Doth Ata Hass gave Xareth Ata Jarus a finely

carved horn to mark his ascension to patriarch
of his own clan. And so the Xarethata were
born and began to roam the hills west of
the White Forest. Ravaging many Edish
settlements, they collected a great number of
horses and found much green land for their

great master of horses among the Benarekata

clan. When Iassan was very young, he fell
in love with a daughter, Nabayja, among the
Benarekata huol.

They spoke not a word of the horn-quest for

the rest of that day. Before the next sunrise,
however, with his closest cousins and two
brothers, Iassan took his best horses and
rode east toward the flats where roamed the
Six days east they came across a watering hole
at the edge of the Steppe. Among the twiggy
brush, standing taller than a horse with at least
four times the weight, an adult karkadhan lifted
its many-horned head. Iassan brought an arrow
to his bow and pushed Palagon, his lead horse,
at a canter toward the game. The karkadhan
felt the hooves of Palagon echo through the
hard turf and broke in a full run away from the
assaulting Alagoths. Iassan let fly the first shaft,
its metal head piercing the stony hide of the
beast just above its left haunch. The band of
kin followed, twelve men and forty-six horses
strong. The hunt was born.
Iassans younger brother, Fahtu Ata Hexeter,
tended his brothers relief horses and rode
quickly behind the Hoof Keeper on his own



famed steed, Moturac. The karkadhan left large

swells in the earth beneath its armored toes,
slowing the pursuers. Earth Shaker, Horn of
the Steppe, the Lion SpikeIassans karkadhan
rumbled through the brush. Birds filled the sky,
shaken by the tremors; the dark-colored deer
of Lower Edrada, skittish but large, bounded in
wide arcs away from the chase.
Menas Ata Menas took the second and third
shots on the beast, neither arrow breaking the
gray skin of the karkadhan. His horse, Petu,
wore out before another arrow could be fit.
Tarah Ata Mervah took many shots on the
karkadhan, landing three arrows over the
course of the first day. He rode both Helothul
and Xenaret, horses he had groomed since
Serastherah Ata Mervah spiked the brute with
many arrows. He rode his fathers horses in the
hunt, Teroh Ata Urh and Xenatheta.
As the day wore on, Iassan switched horses
twice and renewed his charge. The hunt had
lasted over forty leagues already, and on they
pushed. Each horse had its quiver filled in turn
by Fahtu, a devoted and careful brother; and
Iassan dotted the Horns rear with shot after
shot. By nightfall, half of the men had run out
of horses, but onward the karkadhan rode.
Iassan switched to Kereli, his sleep-stallion,
buckling himself into the cushioned saddle
draped across the animals broad back. The
karkadhan, tireless and exploding dust behind
it, slowed its pace only slightly as the pursuers
ceased the volley of arrows for the night.
Onward the animals ran under the moon.
Come morning, only Iassan and Fahtu were
left riding the hunt. When the sky was yet gray,
however, the second brother fell away suddenly
in a cloud of dirt as his final horse, Ekrehad,
collapsed beneath him. Iassan panted a quick
prayer for his sibling and continued on the
ride, hopping from Kereli to the warriors final
horse, Andulah Ata Neshrevah. This friend, his
prized stallion, was Iassans final hope at felling
the raging karkadhan.


With over a hundred leagues between them and

the watering hole, hunter and quarry were alone
on the open Steppe. Midday came and went
before the karkadhan showed signs of slowing.
Fearing the peerless Andulah might not outlast
the Tyrant of the Flat, Iassan drew a spear and
readied for an aggressive, final gambit. He rode
closer to the horned brute, its size dwarfing
the slender equine frame in its shadow. With
a forlorn cry, Iassan let fly the spear, piercing
the karkadhan in the side. The length of shaft
extending from the beast impeded each heavylegged stride. The wound was deep and lucky.
The karkadhan fled no more. In a tornado of
dust and uprooted grass, the ungulate spun on
its hind toes and reared up as the shocked rider
sped past. Catching Iassan on the shoulder, the
karkadhan dropped the tall warrior from his
steed. Andulah felt his load lessen and slowed
to a walk, circling and stomping the ground,
challenging the gray titan in order to give his
master time to stand. The karkadhan paid no
attention to the demonstrations of the horse,
however, lowering its head toward the Alagoth,
brandishing a horn longer than a mans arm.
As its foreleg dug the earth, the breath of aged
nostrils shot two trails of dust in opposite
Using two spears to help him stand, Iassan
climbed to his feet just as the Earth Shaker
charged. The two fighters met with a
thunderclap. Iassan was thrown back into the
dirt, rolling like an empty helmet to the lip of a
fissure. His first spear, however, had found the
soft underside of the karkadhans left shoulder.
When the second charge began, Iassan knew
which side to favor for a final strike; without
falling away, he stared down the fell tyrant. The
final spear-point pierced hide, flesh, and heart.
With no fight remaining, Pel Odevah, lion
among his kind, toppled over where he stood
and bled out.
In less than a week, Iassan won Nabayja as his
first wife and took his kinsmen to form a huol
of his own. He bore the horn of the Iassata the
rest of his days, founding a strong clan among
the Alagoths. Iassan and his sons took the
camp on many hunts, collecting horses, wives,
and lands.


As a father and patriarch,

Iassan maintained his
prowess as a hunter. After
six days and fourteen
horses, he, along with
Fahtu and Andulah, killed
Tenah Roc, the giant bird.
The great raptor took two
horses a day from Iassans
camp before the hunt was
born. Its wings could be
seen from leagues away, the
span of them wide enough
to cover an entire flock of
sleeping sheep. Tenah Rocs
talons lifted horses from
the ground, breaking them.
Iassan, however, met an
ignoble end. Nabayja
became bitter. She
preferred life in her
fathers camp and took
to tormenting Iassan and
his second wife, Teri.
As her husband grew
too old to hunt, his days
became directed by the
mechanizations of his first
wife. He saw no peace.
Nabayja drove Teri from
the domestic chambers,
planned elaborate feasts
and parties, changed the
carpets too often, and kept
his sons from visiting. She
awoke early just to send her
husbands favorite horses
out with servants, wearing
down the animals before
Iassan enjoyed a ride. She
kept him close and became
jealous of his time. The
Taker of the First Horn
became the joke of his huol
and suffered a shameful


The Forging of the Anu People in Kuludo


Life of Hataro
In the fabled West, far beyond the Ocean,
Hataro grew up the son of a criminal. He had
eleven brothers and sisters and lived a peasants
life in a small farming town on the coast of
the Unseen Homeland. Despite the mar on his
honor, Hataro took a wife and raised children
of his own, becoming a leader among the towns
planters and weathersmiths. Under Hataros
leadership, the town became more profitable
and gained a place of prominence among the
coastal villages and settlements. He earned the
name Friend of the Earth, and many claimed he
knew lost secrets of nature.
The king of Hataros province, Echi, was harsh
and greedy. When he noticed the increasing
riches of the town, the king increased his
demanded tribute, turning the peoples profits
into taxes. After many clashes and riots,
Hataro was declared an insurrectionist, and
a magistrate was sent to manage the town in
his place. Forced to flee his home, Hataro hid
among the coastal villages, making friends and
fomenting resistance to the king. In less than a
year, he raised a peasant army.
Hataro spent the last night of winter in
isolation, and word spread among his men that
unnatural sounds could be heard emanating
from the tent. At sunrise on the first day of
spring, Hataro and his captains assailed the
royal city. When the general of the guard sent
word to King Echi that the city was under
attack, the royal family was found slaughtered
in their beds as though a great beast had fed
upon the bodies and then made sport of them.
The general and his captains fled, fearing
whatever had been unleashed in the palace.
Many of the guards and house servants fled
likewise. No beast was ever seen.


Outnumbering the kings remaining forces six

to one, Hataro led the peasant army through
the streets and into the royal house. The
general was caught. He and Echis guards
were executed publicly, and Hataro took up
residence in the palace. He moved his family
into the royal city and appointed planters

and weathersmiths throughout the province,

making his realm rich among its neighbors.
Older kings of the Unseen Homeland became
afraid of King Hataro. His popularity was
matched only by his growing riches, and
resistance to the old royal houses began to
spread to other provinces. The nature of Echis
death also weighed heavily on the other rulers.
When the kings learned that Hataro was
building a fleet of ships suitable for war, they
became desperate: King Nagatoro, whose army
was the largest of the thirty-seven kingdoms,
sent his soldiers into Hataros land at the start
of spring. War spread fast.
Within a season, Hataros sons and wives were
killed. Hataro was forced to flee in his newly
made ships, taking most of his planters and
weathersmiths with him. Thousands set sail
over the Ocean with Hataro. From the dock of
the largest ship, the exiled king raised his arms
in protest: To the kings who fear me, a gift.
It is said that at that time the waters opened
up, a great crevice formed between the parting
waves, and a tear opened in the ocean floor.
From the crack rose a great Tyrant, an old god
of the Fray, a beast not meant for this world.
With one look toward the ship that hovered
nearby, it made a small bow of the head, and
then lurched up the coast toward the cities
of the thirty-seven kingdoms. The Tyrant
pulled cliffs into the sea, overturned fields, and
swallowed entire companies of soldiers. Blood
and fire spilled over the Unseen Homeland.
Hataro sailed east over the Ocean, the first
of his people to see the Kuludo Islands that
border the Hara Sea. His settlers encountered
many native cultures, learning from them and
assimilating their ways. The new lands were
rugged and harsh.

The Coming of Gazu

A hundred years after the flight of Hataro and
the holocaust of the Tyrant, another peasantcriminal became king by his own hand. Gazu

Gazu rose in prominence among the coastal

villages as a weathersmith, but local magistrates
were careful to curtail his influence. They
spread rumors about his character and made
sure his pay always ended up light. Remember
what happened last time we let a peasant take
leadership, the magistrates would say. Haunted
by the shadow of Hataro, Gazu was given few
opportunities to make the most of his ideas and
abilities; and the peasants suffered for it.
Many of those who relied on Gazu pushed
him to raise an army and revolt: Our enemy is
King Nagoya, and with your influence we could
make this kingdom our own. There was much
debate among the men and women if such a
desperate move was wise. An elder among them
prophesied: Your enemy shall fall, but you will
protect his daughters and take them into new
lands. Gazu shared the pain of his people, but
to himself he always said, My greatest enemy
is Hataro, whose shame now hangs over me as
well. For many years Gazu avoided raising an
In time, however, an army was granted him.
Despite his best efforts to avoid it, Gazu
gathered the support of hundreds, then
thousands, and around his powerful presence an
army grew. King Nagoya recalled the lessons of
the past: If he declared Gazu outlaw, it would
only add to his influence and increase his power
to mobilize the people. King Nagoya decided
instead to make Gazu a general and to grant
his army legitimacy as the peoples militia. The
soldiers received wages under the king, and the
added income helped the villages in times of
poor weather. Within a handful of years, Gazus
force became as feared as the kings own Guard.
When the heaviest of insult was needed, King
Nagoya sent his peoples militia to war on

foreign soil, besting armies of trained soldiers

with a mob of peasants and criminals, stealing
honor from those slain.
After a long campaign against King Kyowen,
Gazu and his peoples militia sacked the royal
city. Kyowen and his Guard were executed,
his extended family exiled. When all was put
in order, Gazus sages pressed him: Why
give up this land to the greedy hands of King
Nagoya? Here we have a palace, and a city,
and a beautiful domain with talented farmers
who would work gladly for you, Gazu. When
Nagoyas soldiers came to appoint magistrates
over the new realm, Gazus men set upon them.
Gazu was declared king and took up residence
in the lands of Kyowen.


was the son of a murderer and grew into a man

along the coast of the Unseen Homeland with
precious little honor. The thirty-seven kings
had in those days increased their demands
on the peasants, and life in the fields was
precarious. The villages kept little of the food
that was grown, most of the harvest making its
way to the royal houses to be used as payment
for weapons, finery, and construction projects.

King Nagoya was furious, but he had few

options. His Guard had become lazy and
unkempt in the years of Gazus rise. It was
Nagoyas own fault, however: Proper soldiers
were much more expensive to train and house
than the militia, and their honor restrained
them from using the guerrilla tactics Gazu
wielded expertly. Nagoya feared Gazu would
soon turn against him in open war, and the old
king preferred to keep the mercenary general as
an ally if he could.
Nagoya settled on a solution. He sent word
to Gazu: There is no reason for bloodshed,
honorable Gazu. I would have granted you the
lands of Kyowen as your own as reward for
your years of service. Please, rule them as you
see fit. Moreover, I offer you my own daughter
in marriage. Joining with royal blood, you will
become noble, father of your own house, a
legitimate king in the eyes of all the thirtyseven rulers. May we come to welcome each
other as friends and equals. Gazu agreed but
did not enjoy his life as king.
Fulfilling the Prophecy
In time, the thirty-seven kingdoms were
at war. Soldiers fought in every field, and
the peasants were enlisted as soldiers when
necessary. For over sixteen years, the entire
realm saw nothing but bloodshed and death.
King Nagoya fell early in the conflict, while
King Gazu swallowed kingdom after kingdom.



Out of loyalty to Nagoya, Gazu saved much of

the royal family and brought them up safely.
Eventually and by his own hand, Gazu united
the realms under his fist, becoming the first
Emperor the Unseen Homeland had ever
seen. He called his realm the Anu Empire (the
Peasants Empire) after the peasants for whom
it was created. He took up residence in the
fertile central region, moving his house and the
house of Nagoya to new estates. In seemed the
prophecy of many years earlier was fulfilled,
and those who had been with Gazu from the
beginning celebrated his reign: You took the
daughter of Nagoya those many years ago,
and now you have saved his kin and brought
them into a new land. Gazu, however, still
felt differently: My enemy has always been
After many years under Emperor Gazu,
the merchants and petty nobility became
restless. It was harder to make profits under
Gazus stewardship. He was as brilliant
an administrator as he was a warrior and
weathersmith. Fewer shortages and lost crops
made trade less important and the role of
magistrate less lucrative. Without corruption,
the small elites had few ways to lord their titles
over the peasantry.
For some time they did what they could to
punish the peasants all the while blaming Gazu:
Like Hataro before him, Gazu has turned
against the people. His greed is matched only
by his pride. When Gazu was advised to build
a fleet of ships and begin expanding his realm,
war came to the Unseen Homeland again.
Look! cried the wealthy. He follows Hataro!
Once this emperor ruins us all, he will set sail
and send a holocaust upon us. As is often the
case, surface similarities and emotional rhetoric
swayed the minds of the hard-pressed and poor,
who grope for any solution to their plight. As is
often the case, it was the wealthy nobility and
the petty lords who led the revolt and stood to
gain from it.


Ousted from his palace, Gazu was pushed to

his ancestral homeland. His sons and wives
were killed in the chase, executed in the
presence of rival armies. The emperor himself

made it to the coast and boarded the newly

made ships with his army, his planters, and his
weathersmiths. The final words Lord Gazu
spoke in the Unseen Homeland: Ever in the
shadow of Hataro. The exiles set sail in the
last month of summer and disappeared over the

Gazu Reaches Kuludo Islands

Gazu arrived in the Kuludo Islands almost two
hundred years after Hataro. Encountering the
native peoples, Gazu and his companions saw
many unfamiliar customs and many twisted
reflections of life in the Unseen Homeland.
The descendants of Hataro, whom Gazu called
the Thun (the Remnant), followed an elaborate
religious calendar mostly concerned with
placating local spirits and dark gods. Many tears
exposed the Fray in these new lands, and the
old magicks were alive and active across the
islands. There could be little conflict among
the native peoples because all worked together
surviving in the hostile environment.
Gazu threw this balance into chaos. His
descendants came to be called the Hhan (the
Conquerors), subjugating the peoples as well as
the gods of the new continent. Gazu retained
his title of Emperor and spent many years
solidifying his power while the Anu and Kuludo
cultures merged. Many gods were awoken, and
great battles of magick ensued. Gazu brought
a new kind of order to the lands, a new kind
of safety, surely a stronger arm. His sages and
weathersmiths succeeded where those of
Hataro had failed, and many of the dark gods
were defeated. He set up a powerful state on
the island continent.
The Imperial Line
In his old age, Gazu discovered that the
bloodline of Hataro yet existed, preserved
and guarded among the Thun because of the
magick it contained, the magick that had
summoned the Tyrant. Rumor among the
people was that a single descendant yet lived,
the heir to all of Hataros power. Many of the
peasant Thun believed it was the power of this
heir that protected the islands from the dark

gods, not the sword of the Emperor. Gazu,

old and lately possessed of a black mood, felt
his spirits brighten at the possibility of proper
vengeance against his enemys house: I will
snuff out this bloodline and forever crush my
greatest enemy, Hataro.

At the appointed time, the Emperor left his

royal palace on Kuludo Island and journeyed
personally to this remote village at the center of
Kapixtul (the Wet Island). The people cheered
his devotion as the royal litter proceeded down
the road. Gazu kept the violence of his plan
secret from everyone. He brought along his
armor and his sword, his sons and his wives. He
dressed in full regalia, his most luxurious robe
and headdress. His mood was somber, for the
Emperor readied himself to end his own life
once his task was complete.
The ritual began on the first day of spring.
Gazu was to escort the Heiress up the temple
steps and stand behind her as the sacrifice
was made. Until that time, she would be kept
hidden in the catacombs and under-caverns


The location of the blood descendant, however,

was kept hidden, a tightly guarded secret of
the Thun religious elite. Emperor Gazu sent
spies to look for this descendant. After two
years of fruitless searching, with Gazu nearing
death, Hataros scion suddenly revealed herself:
A great confluence of stars approached,
and rumors of an eminent cataclysm forced
the Heiress to surface in hopes of quieting
the growing fears of the people. Gazu was
overjoyed at this turn of luck and feigned an
interest in the rumored cataclysm: This is the
Anu Empire, an empire for the people. What
is important to the people is important to
the Emperor. By the sword I have conquered
these old gods in the past, but let us now trust
the Heiress to bring peace. At the behest of
the Imperial house, a large ritual was planned
on the holy site at the center of the island.
Millions made the pilgrimage to the temple,
and the forest roads flooded with travelers.
Support for the Emperor spread across the
islands like the monsoon rains. A veritable
renaissance occurred as the people celebrated
the new face of Emperor Gazu.

of the forest. As the sun rose, Gazu, dressed

in newly made ritual garments and his sword,
proceeded to the foot of the temple. As the
Heiress approached, however, the Emperors
conviction crumbled: She was beautiful, small,
young. Her skin was pale, her frame slight,
her gait slowed by fear. She was not the bold,
wicked heir of Hataro, but a child, a frightened
pawn of the Thun priests who pushed her along
before them. Three men in feathers and tight
robes of indigo shared the path of the Heiress.
One came before her, jerking the child forward
by the wrist. Two came behind. Gazus heart
softened, and his only thought went to freeing
the girl from the archaic net of power and ritual
that so obviously imprisoned her. Wait, the
old emperor shouted to himself, his eyes wide.
Was she to be the sacrifice?

Fulfilling the Prophecy Again

Gazu attempted to delay the procession up the
steps of the temple, but the priests were overtly
impatient and pushed them on. Far below, the
people cheered as the sun reached higher in the
sky. Onward the five climbed, pausing every few



hundred steps to mutter words of ritual, until

they finally reached the summit of the tiered
pyramid. By now, the group was far out of sight
of the masses below, and Gazu let his warriors
instincts take him. He drew the blade he had
sharpened just that morning to kill the Heiress
in an effort to defend her life. Blood splattered
as the emperors sword slit throat and stomach.
The small child looked up at the old man with
an expression of both fear and relief: Why?
Suddenly, and before Emperor Gazu could
answer the girls question, a great tremor
shook the earth. The rite had been marred.
The confluence of stars occurred invisibly in
the sunny skies above them, and the chosen
blood had not been spilled to answer it. In the
depths of the earth a great, dark power awoke.
Far below the surface, through chambers once
decorated, forgotten to all but the trees and
the wind, a Tyrant long sleeping took breath
once more. Panic and pale terror struck the
millions who crowded around the temple. They
scattered and ran, thousands of the old and
the young trampled under stronger feet that
fought to escape the quaking earth. Thousands
more died in the first eruption: Bursting from
the soil, the Tyrant gathered its bulk onto the
surface. Its body was twisted and gruesome,
heat and chaos rippling the air around it. The
elder beast took a deep breath, and a whirlwind
spawned in the new clearing. Hundreds more
died. It blinked many eyes, studying the new
shape of the land that had changed so much
in three thousand years of sleep. The beast
exhaled, and poisonous winds like a storm
killed hundreds more.
The battle was fierce and lasted many days.
Gazus weavers and weathersmiths cast their
magicks at the beast, and the Heiress herself
proved a sturdy, resourceful magicker. She
took lead of the Emperors personal cadre of
mages while Gazu commanded his personal
Guard, launching ground attacks at the manylimbed monster. The beast died nine days after
it awoke in the floodplains of east Kapixtul.
When the chaos ended, the body of the Tyrant
was chopped into pieces and sunk deep in the


Gazu took the Heiress as a consort, protecting

the daughter of his enemy, bringing her to a
new land to live by his side. The Anu state
expanded to include more islands and more
Kuludo Island
The large island in the northwest, marking
the boundary with the open ocean is
Kuludo Island. Cycling through four even
seasons, Kuludo has more diversity than
both the warmer Eastern Islands and
wetter Kapixtul. Kuludo forests are more
temperate with foliage often dominating
even highly mountainous regions. Rice
farming and agriculture are successful all
over the island.
Kapixtul Island
The other Kuludo islands border two
sides of the monstrous and vast Kapixtul
Island, the home of the rainforest and
the Flower, a soma-like herb popular with
shaman and healers since humans settled
the land. Kapixtul floods regularly during
monsoon season and washes out or destroys
structures built directly on the soil. In the
lowland fields and in the thick rainforests,
the floods can reach four or five feet high,
turning the land each year into a series of
marshes, ponds and small lakes. Lowland
Anu live in suspended wooden and laminate
houses on stilts and grow foodstuffs on
vines and dangling plants that require little
contact with the soil for sustenance.
Higher elevations grow maize, the center of
Anu religious and argicultural life.
Eastern Islands
The Eastern Kuludo Islands are a series of
islands mixing the characteristics of the
Kapixtul and the Kuludo mainlands. Dotted
with settlements and difficult to police,
hundreds of islands have been charted and
mapped with hundreds left untouched or
unnoted. The Eastern Islands produce no
Flower, but rice cultivation is successful,
and many unique fruits and produce can be
raised along the varied topographies.

The Vayok Emerge

The origins of the Vayok are spoken of in many
songs and tales with little variance. According
to the Weshbjorg bards, the Vayok were made
by animal gods to be slaves of the giants who
live deep below the Maalthor Mountains.
Fierce warriors and fisherfolk who strongly
resemble the Vayok, however, are depicted in
much Edradan artwork in the ruins of the Old
Empire. These nameless people who resemble
the Vayok so closely were first formidable
enemies and later great allies of the Edradan
Weaver-Kings. Without knowledge of the
ancient language, however, only the Vayoks
own account bears weight among them.
In the days of slavery, according to the Vayok
bards, their gods were the gods of the giants:
Ikar, Rovgar, Shashu. The Vayok were made
as a gift to the giants who worshipped Ikar by
the animal spirits who inhabited Vaankur. With
the giants of the underground appeased, the
animal gods made light sport and revelry on the
surface of the world.

Gods of Darkness and Stone

Ikar is a stupid and wicked god. Ikar,
Father of Giants, ten times the size of the
largest giant and a hundred times more
bloodthirsty. When first the animals gave
the Vayok, Ikar tormented and abused
them. Vayok believe thunder to be the
voice of Ikar, echoing from deep below
the mountains, calling down snow and
lightning to torment the descendants of
his playthings. Few Vayok worship Ikar any
longer, though some of the darkest shaman
risk drawing upon his power. His name
is spoken freely in jests and the boasts of
warriors. In art, Ikar is depicted as a giant
among giants, with many tusks and a mane
of unkempt hair.


Vankuur is a vast continent of ice plateaus,

glaciers and jutting mountains. The southern
coast of the island is frosted and harsh but
inhabitable and teeming with life. Further
north, however, past the great mountains and
into the icy desolation at the heart of the
continent, only the strongest creatures can
survive. Moreover, the coastline is dotted with
smaller islands and peninsulas that attract
marine life. Game and fish are plentiful, though
rocky shoals and high cliffs make docking
even small ships or longboats difficult. On the
mainland, tundra wolves and white bears are
among the most dangerous land predators. The
stags and sea mammals exist in numbers great
enough to support many more predators than
similarly cold regions. Though temperatures
are too cold for standing water most of the
year, some streams and stray rivers vein the
southernmost highlands.

Rovgar is the father of Ikar, unmoving as

the earth. Rovgar made the mountains
and the tunnels beneath the floating ice
that makes up Vaankur. His fingers shape
the Maalthor peaks and direct the seasons
around them. Vayok believe the heart of the
Maalthor Mountains, the head of Rovgar, to
be the earths axis. All things move in cycles
around the pivot of Rovgar. He is given
respect and tribute by intellectual Vayok.
Since meeting the Anu and discovering the
Loom, Vayok credit Rovgar as the father of
the weft and the creator of order. He is also
feared as a meter of justice and as he who
decides when each must die.
Shashu is the goddess of the great
underground ocean. She is the mother of
all sea monsters and storms. Vayok believe
there are many fissures beneath the sea that
lead back into the realm of Shashu, fissures
that allow travel back and forth between
the skin and the bowels of the world.
Shipwrecks and the souls of dead sailors are
said to sink all the way down to the home
of Shashu. Only hags and hermits worship
Shashu. Sailors fear her and curse her name
at every storm.



Escape from the Darkness

After many generations of servitude as miners
and diggers, the Vayok became the bulk of
all the laborers in the giant world. When the
giants went to war, they sent Vayok soldiers to
battle. When the giants had disagreements,
they sent Vayok negotiators to deliberate.
When the giants had chores, they sent the
Vayok to complete them. When the giants
grew sick, they called for Vayok physicians. In
time, many of the giants fell into a deep sleep,
leaving their halls in the care of the human
servants. It was during the time of the sleeping
giants that Hoinajurat was born. Hoinajurat
was the only human who learned the many
labyrinthine tunnels that joined the giants halls
and connected them to the earths surface.
When their labors grew too heavy to bear,
the Vayok slaves rebelled against their giant
masters and escaped into underground tunnels
of ice and stone. Hoinajurat led his kin through
leagues of darkness. Along with their freedom,
the Vayok stole important secrets from the
giants: Language and metallurgy, mining and
Awoken by rage, the giants searched high and
low through the underground for their servants,
causing earthquakes and all kinds of storms on
the surface. It was the anger of the giants that
made escape possible: A great chasm opened up
in the roots of the mountains, and the Vayok
emerged from the darkness they had known
into life on the turf. The hungry, confused
giants pursued their slaves out into the light,
covering their eyes and groaning. The earth
shuddered and shook in those days, crackling as
though troubled by birthing pains.
In the sunlight, bloody battles took place
between the Vayok and the giants atop the ice
and snow. Hoinajurat cut down many rivals
along with his brother, Anawehu, and sister,
Ono. Many days passed, and war upon war
claimed the lives of many Vayok. In the final
battle, a handful of men and women stood side
by side wielding spear and axe. On snow red
and slushy, their numbers few, the remaining
Vayok killed the last of the giant men.


Ok Hagath, Stone Cutter, was the last giant to

fall. Female Vayok are credited with the victory
against Ok Hagath, and receive gifts from
their male relatives on the anniversary of the
final battle. It is believed that the lesser human
fighters defeated the awesome giants only
because the former allowed women to draw
spears alongside their husbands and fathers.
Male giants, on the other hand, refused their
women the right to war with them, a custom
the Vayok still hold as backwards and ignorant.
Of all the giants who emerged from the
underground ice chambers, only the females
now exist on the surface. These few remaining
true-giants prolong their numbered days by
producing crazed offspring in unnatural unions
with unsuspecting human men. They are called
Motherings and prey upon injured and isolated
males often found on the verge of death deep
in the tundra. All the giants encountered by
humans on the surface are, then, technically
Some tales hold that Ikar builds an army of
true-giants deep below the glacial ice, preparing
for another battle at the end of days. In such
songs, Ikar sends spies to the human world
to relearn the arts of language and metallurgy,
mining and healing. Many Vayok myths depict
heroes uncovering and defeating these spies
of Ikar, keeping the secrets safe for another
generation, forestalling the completion of
Ikars army.
Shashu, the goddess of the great underground
ocean, does not feature prominently in current
lore, though many believe her to be related to
Ikthu Gawa, the Anu god of the Black Earth
Sea who brings storms and gives islands shape.
The Maalthor Mountains
The feature of Vaankur that takes any settler
or explorer by surprise is the rock mountain
range that juts sharply like so many jagged
fingers from the central plateau of ice and
storm. These mountains are said to house the
most hostile giants and appear black and sharp
against the blinding white of the surrounding
snow and sky. The foreboding winds and
sudden snowstorms keep most humans far

The ten peaks of the Maalthor Mountains

are named after the last nine giants slain and
the human hero who fell great Ok Hagath,
Hoinajurat. The Vayok rune for giant is
identical to the rune for mountain peak,
though those versed in reading the old language
pronounce the two differently. In very few
versions of the origin myth, Hoinajurat is
spoken of as a giant himself, a betrayer, the
only to aid the Vayok in their escape from the
darkness. Heroic or physically large Vayok are
often said to be part of Hoinajurats bloodline,
an allusion to the possibility of his being a

First Days
The earliest shaman brought the wandering
Vayok to the safety of the warmer coast. Here,
grasses and small grains could be grown, enough
for beer and hard bread. Hagarok carried the
secrets of metallurgy and mining his whole
life and was first to encounter Naanusuk near
the chasms of Maalthor. Nerunaat bore the
healing secrets her whole life, and after many
years of talking with the spirits learned from
Tekkesetok how to carry them with her.
Naanusuk and Hagarok
Among the warriors of the first days Hagarok
was the most prominent and accomplished.
Raised by the feared shaman Norpuk, Hagarok
spent many days as a child studying animal
carcasses and roaming the mountains in search
of the remains of elder beasts. In the service
of Norpuk, the boy grew fierce and rugged,
testing his strength against the walrus and
bear and his wits against the caribou. Hagarok
learned of the Fray and the power hidden

below the surface of the earth, the reason the

giants grew large and powerful. He learned of
the spirits who roamed the tundra unseen, of
their names and histories. This was before the
Vayok knew of the Tapestry as they do now,
but even the oldest songs depict a people in
close communication with the Fey who inhabit
Vaankur. Hagarok grew large and powerful.


from even the foothills, but recent years have

seen exiles and hermits taking up residence
in the frozen rock. Ten peaks are named in
story, though more or less may exist in truth,
each thought to be one finger of Rovgars two
hands cracking through the very foundations
of the island. Glaciers and ice tundra surround
the mountains, giving little warning before
the sharp spires break the surface and point

During the summer thaw, Norpuk took

Hagarok to the Maalthor Mountains in search
of ore. Paramount among Haragoks learning
were the arts of mining and metallurgy.
Although many of the tools used by the Vayok
were fashioned of bone, the greatest weapons
and those that slew the giants were made of
metal in secret lodges, forged by those with old
knowledge. Hagarok and his teacher had many
deposits of iron mapped in the mountains
and two hidden forges. Hiding the secret of
metals from the giants was a serious business,
involving many rites and much precaution. A
hidden metalshop left unguarded by spirits
could easily fall into the hands of a Mothering
and her brood. Worse yet, Ikars spies might
recapture the lore of metallurgy, which would
quickly bring the people of the surface to ruin.
The two, master and student, tread carefully
through the snow. In addition to lurking giants,
summer saw the roaming of tundra bears,
the greatest predators of Vaankur, capable
of besting even a giant if large and hungry
enough. It was said they slept for many months
and awoke with a ravenous hunger, early
summer the most dangerous time to approach
their lands. Most feared of all bears was the
enormous Naanusuk, Bear Father, First of the
Tundra, Blood Maw. Almost as large as the
whales Shashu sent to harry sailors, Naanusuk
had no equal on land. His kin were wild and
untrustworthy, unlike the tundra wolves who
were by that time proving capable companions.
As the underground rivers swelled and echoed
unseen, Norpuk and Hagarok crossed into
the plateau from which the black spires of
Maalthor grew. They ascended the rock face
above a gaping chasm and came to one of the
caves that Norpuk and his predecessors had
been mining for generations. As they set about



their work, a great thunder came from deeper

within the cave. Hagarok went to investigate
the booming, fearing a hole had opened up
to the realm of the giants. Bringing fire and a
metal-tipped spear, Hagarok descended into
the cave. What he encountered in the dark of
the cave was a mountain of white fur within
an expansive chamber. He recognized the bulk
as Naanusuk, Bear Feather, and turned to run.
Wait, cried the Elder Father. The thaws have
come too soon, and I am stuck high in this
cave with no way off the mountain. Hagarok
distrusted the Great Hunter: Your words are
a trick, Bear Father. If I come close, you would
swallow me up like so many before.
The bear continued, That is not so. You are
large and strong, Hagarok of the cottage. I will
tell you my secret, and you will carry me off
this mountain. Hagarok stepped closer to the
spirit beast, brandishing the fire and studying
the Hunter: Speak your secret, and I will
decide if I trust it. Naanusuk had no choice
but to share his secret with the human. If he
did not eat soon, his strength would fade for
good: Though my hunger unequaled and my
ferocity unstoppable, I only attack those who
first attack me. Your kind are hunters,
Hagarok, and they fear me enough to
pursue me over the ice. Leave my kind
alone, brave huntsman, and we will
leave you in peace as well. Hagarok put
down his fire and his spear and helped
Naanusuk toward the mouth of the cave.


As the two hulks approached the

mouth, Norpuk the old hermit saw
them and grew chilled with fear. Hearing
Hagaroks groan and seeing the bears
weight leaning against the human,
Norpuk thought his servant in danger.
The old shaman reacted quickly, driving
his own spear into the great, white hide
of the Bear Father. Naanusuk unleashed
a thunderclap roar and spun his body
toward the shaman, swallowing up the
hermit in one move of his broad head.
Hagarok leaped aside, drawing a bone
knife from his hip. Careful, hunter.
Lay down your blade. You provoke a
great enemy in me, and as yet you are

not in danger. Your master struck me first,

and his flesh has already brought much of the
strength back to my muscles. I can manage
from the cave on my own. Hagarok, shook by
grief, dropped his knife and fell to his knees.
The Bear Father sprung from the cave mouth,
spanning the chasm, and landed on the snow
far from the mountain face.
Hagarok left the hermit life and became a great
hunter and giant-killer among the Vayok. He
took every opportunity in his travels to spread
the secret of Naanusuk to his people.

Tekkesetok and Nerunaat

Nerunaat lived in a small lodge far from the
bustle of the Three Homes. She collected from
nearby camps those sickly children thought to
be near death. If the spirits willed, Nerunaat
would heal the children and take them to be
her assistants. She raised many healers in her
long years and sent them out to the growing
settlements that spread along the coast.
One season came in which many settlements
went hungry. The caribou did not come at the
appointed time, and Nerunaat ventured farther
than usual into the frost to find signs of the
herd. Far from the human camps lay the land
of giants. Nerunaat wandered deep enough
into the tundra to attract the attention of a
Mothering giant during a flurry. A beautiful
woman of pale skin and long, golden hair
approached the old shaman through the
storm and spoke to her: I have a nearby fire,
traveler. Come to me and warm yourself.
When the storm passes, you may return to
your people and your wife. Nerunaat paid
little mind to the words of the Mothering:
You mistake me, foul giantess, and your
song finds hard ears because of it. Go
haunt those who would better fall prey to
your wiles. Better yet, crawl back into the
hole from which you came. The shaman
took small steps and passed by the siren
unharmed, the giantess discouraged and
quieted by the healers reprimand.
Farther into the tundra in the land of the
spirits, Nerunaat came upon Naanusuk,
Bear Father, great in size and ferocious in

Still farther into the snow and cold, Nerunaat

saw a track of hoof-prints in the icy crust. She
followed these despite the waging storm and
came upon the top of a pronounced hill. Below
were many hundred caribou, and standing just
a few steps from the shaman was Tekkesetok,
Caribou Father. Draw your spear, hunter,
spoke Tekkesetok. Here is your game, and
there are many hundred of my kin you might
kill. The spirit was tall and resembled in many
ways an old man. His legs were thin and he
leaned upon a tall, crooked staff. In addition to
his human features, however, Tekkesetok had
wide, sprawling antlers that sprung from his
caribou head and face. Nerunaat answered the
great spirit, You mistake me, Caribou Father. I
am no hunter, nor would I dare kill your kin on
their own land. I come on behalf of my people
who await the herd in our land.
Tekkesetok saw the sturdy shaman who
traveled alone and took pity on her. You speak
with spirits, seer, but you do not know how to
carry them with you. At the top of the hill,
in the place called Tekkesulik, Tekkesetok,
Caribou Father, taught Nerunaat the secret of
the lelakut. Nerunaat went back to her people
with a staff of unknown wood, upon which
hung the spirits of several animals. Calling
upon these spirits, Nerunaat brought the herd
back into the land of the Vayok. For many
generations the calling worked, and the caribou
came each season at the appointed time.

Vayok shaman collect small pouches of
hide called lelakut (breath pouch) that they
use for many kinds of magick. Inside these
pouches are tucked the lela (breath) and a
few dried relics of a powerful animal. Wise
shaman can harvest just a small fragment of
an animals carcass and bind the entire spirit
to the remains. In effect, the shaman is
making a partial Hearth (see 375) as well as
Source (see 249) from the animals remains.
Tekkesetok, the Caribou Father, carries
a long staff upon which hang hundreds
of lelakut, many pouches for each of the
various animal-kinds that inhabit Vaankur.
He carries these spirits with him, making
them hard to find for shaman without their
own lelakut.


temperament. His furry bulk stretched across

the tundra before Nerunaat, blocking the
path of the quiet seeker. Draw your weapon,
warrior, and try your hand in battle, growled
the enormous bear. Nerunaat knew the secret
of the bear and did not let his words provoke
her. You mistake me, Bear Father, answered
Nerunaat. Go and find those who would chase
you across the snow and feel the sting of your
tooth and claw. Better yet, go find your brood
and keep them from stealing the caribou from
my people. Taking small steps, Nerunaat
walked around the squatting bear, who moved
but little.

In the early days, the Vayok went about
dismantling citadels and fortresses they found
that dotted the landscape. The long-extinct
Edradan Empire was unknown to them, and
they believed the strongholds they encountered
had been built by giants as watchtowers and
traps, labyrinths designed as prisons for curious
Vayok who ventured within. Every few years
another fortress is discovered buried under the
frozen tundra, remnants of a time when ice may
not have covered the island.
No records exist as to the original locations of
the largest structures or what happened to the
stone that made them up. Most of the material
was scattered across the plateau or thrown into
chasms near the Maalthor Mountains. Smaller
stones were put to use as inuksuk, human-made
landmarks of stone used to help travelers
navigate the bare tundra. The smallest stones
were brought by sled to the coast and used in
the construction of vaulted living halls in what
would become the Three Home cities.


Age of Structures (300 - 800 IC)


Though peoples still migrated into the lands of Upper and Lower Edrada, most of the movement
around the Hara Sea settled during the five hundred years known as the Age of Structures. The
five civilizations took root and began to grow, suffocating and strangling the local cultures of the
region as mighty trees are wont to do. The traditions and structures that took shape during these
centuries have been challenged in later years but never quite forgotten.
Much as the tales of youth still haunt the aging hero, so too the myths of this age live on among
each civilizations enemies. These are the roots that stretch deep.


Ugurlu, the Golden City, Capital of the Neferatha Empire: A city of over two million citizens from all over the
known world. Ruled by dark women of Nibu origin, the city supports the four castes of the Neferatha along with
a host of foreign merchants, laborers, artisans, and slaves. The city is made up of layers, each age building above
and over what came before. Deep in the lowest streets, alleyways and grottos that never see the sun, the poor and
miscreant vie for survival. High in the many temples and palaces, the wealthy vie for supremacy.

The Edish Strengthen Their Tribes

Tenwa of the Porcupine

In these times the Edish fought constantly

with one another, and skilled warriors collected
totems by slaying the Hattan of rival tribes as
much as by communing with the spirits. Even
those tribes under the same totem would often
clash and strive against one another. The ruins
of the lost empire were avoided as places of
death, for the dark magicks were still falling
asleep in those areas.
Three shaman of the minewin walked with the
people of Stendeo Porcupine-Kin into the
Wilds. Of the three, Erelius was most wise.
Erelius sired four sons and daughters under a
Porcupine totem in service to Stendeo. They
took strong totems in adolescence and brought
great respect to their father and mother.
As time passed, however, a rift developed
between Stendeo and Erelius. The Hattan
lost sight of a mammoth herd and spent many
weeks searching the chilling fields to no avail.
Most of Edish diet consisted of fruits, roots,
mushrooms and gathered nuts, but in addition
to sustenance meat provided ritual ingredients,
camp materials, and a closer connection to
the totem. Erelius had a vision one night,
feeling his spirit soar over the Wilds and high
above Wilderwood. Over a ridge he saw the
mammoths, few in number but on the move.


Hattan Stendeo, of seven totems, spread Edish

culture to new lands after leading his tribe over
the Red Plains. He took some three hundred
through the Tall Forest, and brought a group
that had grown to more than five hundred
into the Wilds ten years later. As the Edish
spread over Upper Edrada, many tribes settled
north and west of the Red Plains, following
the herds and the seasons. Stendeo was born
under a Wolf totem and took the Stag with
his true name. In wars and heroism, he gained
another five: Salmon, Bear, Rat, Porcupine, and
Wolverine. In his later years, he provided for
his tribe under the totem of the Porcupine.

When Erelius sent word to Stendeo, the

Hattan paid no heed to his shaman. Instead,
the great leader followed his own council.
When several more weeks passed without
meat, Erelius pushed harder on the Hattan.
When Erelius next son was born, his father
placed him under the totem of the Raven
instead of the Porcupine, fueling much
commotion within the camp. Stendeo worried
little about the child and let the insult
go unchecked, his mind on the hunt and
preparations for the coming winter. The child
was given the name Tenwa.
Most of the Edish shaman who belong
to the nomadic tribes practice a form of
minewin magick. The many faces of the
minewin art combine the rites of arcane lore
with knowledge of the spirit folk and the
order of the Loom. Woven together fluidly,
both sides of the Great Tapestry provide
direction and power to those who follow
the spiritual way. Particularly the healing
and summoning arts come naturally to
those gifted with the voice. An adult Edish
shaman would have at least two tattoos
that function as Source at the beginning
of a campaign. Because of this dual path,
minewin shaman are not quite weavers
nor exactly magickers, though most will
favor one side of the Tapestry or another.
Magickers in urban Edish city-states,
though they wear totems like most Edish,
would rarely practice minewin and instead
focus more closely on the lost powers of the
Edradan ruins. Without an attention to the
Loom, urban magickers can follow more
deeply into the chaos of the Fray.
When Tenwa was an adolescent, it came time
for him to find his true name and his adult
totem. His brothers and sisters had received
their totems in the Red Plains and the Tall
Forest, taking totems of reasonable station.
Tenwa was unsure what animal to take. It was



custom to choose an animal beforehand that

fit ones place in the tribe and ones stature
among his or her peers. Because Tenwa was
born at odds with Stendeo, he had been given
few responsibilities among the camp and fewer
opportunities to prove himself. This gave him
precious few options for taking his adult totem.
Father, spoke Tenwa to Erelius in private, I
am troubled about the upcoming hunt. In these
parts, few options are open to me. We do not
know these lands very well; we have seen few
suitable totems. I am pressed to take a bird or
a mink, though I know there could be more for
me. His father responded to comfort: Tenwa,
it was my boldness that brought you such
disfavor from Stendeo. I know your life has
been harder because of it. But there are wolves
in the wood nearby. Why not make a name for
Tenwa sighed at his fathers words, saying, If
I were to come back under the Wolf, Stendeo
would take that as a challenge and drive me
from camp. My very life is already an insult,
and such a move might bring danger to you
and mother as well. Wolf is a strong ally and
a willing hunter. I have not yet proven myself
worthy of such a totem, and breaking custom
like that would not be taken well by my peers
or my betters. Your love for me clouds your
wisdom, father, and I need true words this
night. None my age has attempted Wolf this
season, which would make it even worse for me
to do so. A fox maybe. A deer. Perhaps a hawk.
But the season is wrong for all of those in these
parts. If only we had not traveled so far these
last two years.


Tenwas Hunt
When the time came for Tenwa to make his
totem hunt, his few friends helped him weave
the tunic and sharpen the arrows. He had close
friends among the aged dyers and tanners in
the camp, though the hunters his own age made
little effort to take him in. Preparing the knife
took special care, requiring specific charms and

invocations of the appropriate totem spirit.

What have you chosen? they asked. I hunt
blind, friends. I follow an unseen thread. A
look of pity traveled from face to face around
him, but Tenwa shrugged it off. Without a
chosen quarry, the preparations required fewer
rites and less concentration. His weapons were
fashioned and his kit packed with care, but few
spirits were called on to protect the hunter.
Tenwa spent much time with his mother and
sisters in the days of preparation. When he
returned to the tribe an adult, he would have
less contact with them. After taking a wife,
he would make her family his own, cutting all
ties with the family of his youth. As a hunter,
he would still spend time in the company of
his brothers, so most young Edish males spent
their final days before the totem hunt in the
presence of their female relatives. Though
females must perform totem hunts of their own
and often become accomplished hunters as
well, they stay with their families after marriage
and thus required fewer preparations. Tenwa
was much loved by his sisters and mother, and
they offered him many gifts and tokens to
remember them by.
Though many his age were planning to hunt
together soon, Tenwa was not invited with the
group and so set out on his own.
Alone and in the wilderness, Tenwa made camp
one night long into the hunt. His fire was small,
and he prepared for many more nights alone.
The thought of flight crossed his mind again,
a creeping inclination that had grown louder
and louder in his mind in recent days. Suddenly,
before darkness had spread completely over
the hills, Tenwa heard a soft snap in a nearby
gulch, on the far side of an enormous rock.
He clutched three arrows in his left hand and
grabbed his bow. Lying flat against the rock, he
crawled forward slowly, peering down into the
gulch. A large buck drank from the icy stream.
Tenwa went cold. This is what he needed; his
fortune had been made.
What comes easily is also lost easily. The first
arrow aimed at the standing buck went awry.
Tenwa nearly cursed himself. The deer sprang

Had Tenwa not been the son of a minewin shaman, he

would not have known the prayers and rites needed to

appease the Mammoth Spirit at the

passing of this noble animal. He would
need many days to take care of the
carcass appropriately and in accordance
with tradition, but Tenwa set about
doing just that. Making right such a
slaying could easily require seven men
and three shaman, but Tenwa had good
teaching and played many roles. As
fear of the spirits subsided a greater
fear arose within Tenwa: He could not
return to his people under the totem
of the Mammoth. No hunter had ever
killed such a prize alone. Stendeo
would take it as a direct challenge,
and considering the circumstances of
Tenwas birth, a challenge doubly bold.
Flight seemed the only option. As he
enacted the rites, he made up his mind
to leave his tribe and take this totem as
his own.


from the gulch, clambering a little over the loose earth.

Tenwa fit his second arrow and let it fly just as the deer
hopped the incline. What he heard a moment later was
not the soft thud of a falling stag, but the loud crunching
of trunk and tree limb. Tenwa hopped from the rock,
descended into the gulch, and climbed up the other
side. He saw far enough in the twilight to catch sight of
the fleeing deer along the treeline, but just in front of
him, almost motionless in the grass, lay the body of an
adult mammoth. Its thick fur was matted with blood
from fresh wounds, and Tenwa surmised the great beast
had been separated from its herd by a pack of wolves
or a pride of northern lions. The mammoth eventually
escaped its pursuers only to be slain by a single arrow
through the eye, a mistaken arrow that had missed its
true mark.

The Coming of Irawen

While Tenwa still took care of the

fallen mammoth, he saw a girl about
his own age watching him from the
trees. She bore the totems of the Boar,
a people Tenwa knew to be enemies
of his tribe, and of the Raven, what he
guessed to be her adult totem. Despite
her few years, then, she was no girl.
I too know the Raven, called Tenwa
to the hiding woman. And as you can
see, I am in no place to harm you.
Approach and help me, sister Raven.
Irawen saw that Tenwa had no weapons
near and stepped from the trees to
examine the totem drawn on his side.
What do your people call the Raven,
hunter? she asked with a careful
tongue. We call the Raven many
things, sister: Teacher of Minewin,
Field-Finder, Midnight Bird, and
Keeper of Secrets, responded Tenwa.
Irawen had fled her people one month
earlier and spent many nights roaming
the Wilds alone. She was a capable
hunter and scout but had lost her last



kill to a pack of wolves. Her father, the Hattan

who wore the totem of the Boar, had promised
her to a capable hunter among her people as
bride. Irawen knew the hunter to be a proud
man, however, and one who sought the office
of Hattan himself. Were she to marry him, he
would surely claim her fathers place among the
people and lead the tribe under his own totem,
the Serpent. To avoid the marriage and protect
her fathers totem, Irawen fled. The minewin of
her tribe, an old woman who bore the Rat and
the Cougar, had told Irawen she would find a
powerful, ruddy hunter who would marry her
and pass on the totem of her family. Meeting
Tenwa with the fallen mammoth, Irawen found
hope after days of desperation and sadness.
Irawen helped Tenwa finish the rites over
the next two days, each playing many parts,
fulfilling the law and the customs. As Tenwa
sang over the skinned and slaughtered animal,
he called on the Mammoth Spirit to grant
him his true name and become his protector.
He relied on the teachings of his father and
invoked the spirit with a newfound sense of
purpose. If he was to wander alone, he would
need a powerful patron, and the Mammoth
would make a strong ally among the spirits
of the Wilds. Tenwa became an adult in the
fashion of the Edish before the Spirit of the
Mammoth, and he took the totem as his own.
When the final ritual was over, Irawen asked
Tenwa, If you are now an adult, do you plan
to take a wife? Your totem is mighty and your
bow strong. Tenwa blushed. Lie with me,
Raven brother, continued the woman. Take
me as your wife here. We can return to my
people, and you will be branded under the Boar
as one of us. You will not need to live without
a people, and neither will I; It would save us
both. Let my father live as Hattan and pass on
the totem of the Boar until he dies. When his
days are over, you will become Hattan. You may
then lead the tribe under whatever totem you
wish. Tenwa could not refuse the soft tongue
of the woman and made her his wife in the
fashion of the Edish before the Spirit of the
Raven, the totem they shared.


Marriage and Totems

For the Edish, a marriage can only take
place if the two lovers share a totem that
can be invoked for the ceremony. In most
cases both halves of a couple are from the
same tribe, and so they will have worn
the same totem from birth. In other
cases, when one half of the couple is from
another tribe, the man will relocate to the
womans tribe. After he takes the brand
of the local Hattan, the two will share the
tribes totem and can be married. Even in
the city-states that now attract a good deal
of the Edish population, the totems are
respected enough to maintain this tradition:
A marriage cannot take place unless the
spirit of the shared totem is invoked to
honor the union. Less often, however, do
the rituals of the urban Edish successfully
attract the presence of the spirit who is
called, the ceremony more pageantry than
true communion with the Fey.
Tenwa Among the Boar
The two returned to the tribe of the Boar, and
Irawen confessed her marriage to her father
and mother. The Hattan, Daesar, was greatly
angered at his daughters impetuousness, but
the whole tribe was happy to see her return.
Tenwas rival, Karabus, was enraged. During a
feast given in honor of the wedding, Karabus
called Tenwa out in an official challenge
under the pretense that he felt an animosity
between his Serpent totem and the totem of
the Raven that needed settling. Irawen was
scared, for Karabus was a skilled fighter who
often wrestled among the hunters of his tribe.
Tenwa accepted, his naturally timid spirit
greatly changed by recent communion with
the Mammoth Spirit and the true name he was
The fight was initially set to take place the next
day, but Tenwa requested that he be marked
with his new totems first. Choosing a great
artist among the Boar, Irawens own sister,
Tenwa bound himself to the Mammoth and
then to the Boar, adding the two icons down
his torso just below the ill-drawn Raven of

his birth. He spent twelve days healing and

learning the ways of his new tribe.

Before the springs hunt took place, Karabus

branded six newborns under the Serpent totem,
building a small following of young hunters
eager to challenge Daesar and Tenwa. By the
end of the season, however, Karabus and his
allies were driven from the tribe of the Boar.
The Serpent was declared enemy to the tribe.
Through much violence and wife-stealing,
Karabus spread his totem of the Serpent and
built a strong tribe beneath him. In time, he
became a respected Hattan and temperate
leader, but the rivalry between the Serpent and
the Raven continued for many generations.

The local Edradan cities were still hostile to the

incoming Edish, and the desolate ruins were
avoided for fear of the old magicks. Many of
the tribes still migrating into the region gave
up the totems of their people and assimilated
into the local populations and cultures. Those
who retained their heritage roamed the plains
as hunters and raiders. The tribes grew strong
despite constant warfare among their numbers
and against the local lords.


When Tenwa fought Karabus, the Unbidden

Mammoth bested Boar-Grappler in just a few
minutes. Their paint was hardly dry and the
songs of invocation hardly ended before the
fight was over. Tenwa pinned Karabus the
decided number of seconds before a single of
his feathers had been broken. Karabus, on the
other hand, was lifted from the ground by his
brothers with three of four feathers broken
in the match. It was decided that the Serpent
had been rash to challenge the Raven, and
the minewin of the tribe discussed among
themselves the consequences of the trial.
Karabus, for losing the duel three feathers to
none, was to prepare Tenwas arrows before
every hunt. Karabus was driven to great fits of
rage in the days that followed.

Native Cities

Of course, things were not always so clear:

some tribes became mercenary armies hired by
local cities; some tribes swelled by assimilating
the villages and hamlets of the native Edradans;
some tribes became agrarian on their own,
without settling in the domains of local lords;
and some tribes moved into cities without
giving up their heritages, becoming healers,
trackers, and laborers for the more organized
local society. All this movement occurred while
the traditional tribal life thrived and continued
to develop.

Tenwa among the Mammoth

When Daesar passed away, Tenwa brought
the tribe under the totem of the Mammoth.
With Irawen as councilor, he led his tribe as a
sagacious and cunning Hattan. His tribe moved
south through the Tall Forest and into the
Red Plains following game. He collected many
shaman within his fold and taught them the art
of his father Erelius. When the shaman spoke,
Tenwa listened, and the Mammoth tribe grew
strong because of it. In the warmer fields, they
were one of the first tribes to domesticate the
horse and to breed dogs for war.


The Expansion of the Neferatha State

The Rise of Szedarc

Centuries after the settling of Ugurlu, the

loose Neferatha castes had solidified into four
rigid tiers impossible to transgress. Although
the majority of Crowns separated themselves
from the mundane management of state affairs
entirely, running small temples or founding
new cults far from the politics of city life, the
high caste retained privilege and power over
the other Neferatha. As the civilization spread
across Ragus, more villages and cities were
absorbed into the caste system, the majority
relegated to the growing number of Feet
needed to till the soil and carry spears.
The wealthiest and most influential Crowns
stayed in Ugurlu, holding absolute power over
state affairs despite the fact that the Empress
came only from a dynasty within the Right
Hand caste. Although the Empress could issue
commands and wage war, a cabal of Stewards
chosen from among the Crowns gave the final
permission for any important decision. Rarely,
however, did the Stewards interfere, content
to wield their unlimited power deep in the
catacombs of the city toward unknown ends.
The Rights acted like most aristocratic bodies;
arguing and squabbling among themselves;
competing over land, wealth, and influence; and
resenting the divine right of those above them.
In the 367th year of the Imperial Calendar,
Szedarc was anointed Fourteenth Empress of
the Neferatha, a people who took many vassals
and conquered many cities. The ruins of the
Edradan Empire that circled the Nameless
Desert, however, were still neglected by
expanding armies in these times, most people
avoiding any lands with evidence of the darker
powers. Szedarc was a young and fiery general
when she became Fourteenth Empress. Her
mother, Thirteenth Empress Ramasvati, was
killed by poison in the royal house in Ugurlu
while Szedarc was on campaign in Oldfire, a
region far south of Ugurlu.


Anointing of The Fourteenth

The sun rose hot over a camp of weary soldiers.
Swarming around three sides of a makeshift
platform, fresh bandages speckled with red, the
Neferatha infantry stood at attention. From
the hills behind the camp a regal procession
approached, and the soldiers stood motionless
as their general led the train among them. She
ascended the steps of the platform adorned in
polished armor of bronze and leather, ebony
skin oiled, sword at hip and spear in hand. The
sword, called Tatkuruki, was Szedarcs regular
blade of battle, and all her men recognized
the weapon that daily stood before them in
the fray. Likewise, she wore her standard field
armor, though attendants had spent the short
night repairing and elaborating the plates.
The spear, however, called Amper Deshi, was
foreign to the eyes of her infantry, most of

whom belonged to the Feet caste and rarely

stood so close to the pomp and ritual of State.

Recent wounds hidden from view, Szedarc

stepped forward across the platform, which had
been erected only hours before, just moments
after messengers arrived from Ugurlu with the
news: Her mother was dead, and the general
would be anointed at sunrise. Two Stewards
in robes of crimson and slate followed the
white-clad general across the stage, the rest
of the train closing the circle begun by the
infantrymen. When Szedarc came into view,
the men and women surrounding the platform
cheered loudly, breaking the decorum of
the ceremony and drawing angry gestures
from the Stewards. As the company quieted,
the Stewards exchanged concerned glances:
Szedarcs fame was growing faster than many of
their numbers had foreseen.
The public ritual was shortened due to the
growing heat and the siege that rumbled on
just half a league from the camp, culminating
when the tip of Amper Deshi was used to cut
Szedarcs right palm and the blood collected.
Two hours after she stepped onto the platform
First General of the Neferatha Cardinal Army,
Szedarc stepped down from the platform
Fourteenth Empress.
Szedarc in Ugurlu
Before her campaign was fulfilled, Szedarc
was brought back to Ugurlu by the Stewards
and their retainers. She appointed a new
First General via messenger while en route to


Amper Deshi marked the general as in

contest for the anointing. Two other spears
existed, Amper Vishvara and Amper Hena, to
mark others who vied for the title of Empress,
though neither had been used since the two
sisters, Keli Varuja and Tagathena the Black,
split the powerful families over who would
become Ninth Empress. For over a hundred
years, Amper Deshi alone, half weapon and half
scepter, had marked the sole heir during her
time of preparation for the anointing ceremony.
When the ceremony concluded, the spear
would be returned to the imperial treasury until
the Fifteenth Empress was sought.

Ugurlu, the Crowns giving her little time to

communicate with her men before departure.
Once in the capital, a lavish ceremony was
given to celebrate the life of the Thirteenth
Empress and usher her into the afterlife with
appropriate protections. Szedarc was given
time to mourn her mother and heal her palm
according to custom. A month after the death
of Ramasvati, Szedarc moved into the royal
apartments with her two husbands. She took up
her reign at the age of twenty-two.

Siege of Xeruthan
When Szedarc, Fourteenth Empress, was
twenty-six years old, elders of several wealthy
Right families living in southeast Ragus came
to her requesting a declaration of war against
the city of Xerutahan. Xeruthan merchants had
succeeded in establishing lucrative trade routes
with nearby cities and so began increasing
prices on exports to the Neferatha cities.
Annexing the city would shore up wealth for
the locale elite and also provide a valuable port
on the far side of the Guna Sea, a place from
which to launch a northward expansion over
Lower Edrada.
A meeting was held with the Empress and her
councilors in the capital palace in the presence
of three Stewards, who sat on a shadowed dais
on the opposite side of the hall. Szedarc and
her generals debated whether the time was
right for aggression, though many of the Rights
in attendance were fond of war and increasing
their families holdings. As the evening waned,
more views were swayed and minds made up:
The Cardinal Army would lay siege to Xeruthan
in four months.
Turning to the dais, Szedarc spoke with open
disgust: And are the three of you okay with
this? No answer came, and the Empress was
forced to raise her voice, asking, Were you
even following our colloquy, esteemed ones?
Puravi, High Steward, lifted her head just
slightly. She sat on an ornate throne surrounded



by supplicants and attendants; many mouths

kissed her feet and exposed legs. Pulling her
hand away from the embrace of a particularly
handsome attendant, Puravi gestured toward
the Empress: Yes, we allow it.

her feet. Szedarc and her councilors exited the

meeting hall, declaring their orders to multiple
crews of hovering Lefts who followed quickly
at their heels down the corridor. Messages were
sent, orders given, war brought forth.

Szedarc knew the attendant who sat clutching

Puravis hand. Rather, she had known him. His
name had been Naradha; she did not know
what he called himself now, as a slave to the
whim and body of Puravi. The Crowns who
led powerful temples often gave new names
to their personal attendants and favorite
devotees. Naradha had been a childhood friend
of Szedarc; they were inseparable. No, he was
more than that. Six years older than the girl,
Naradha was the first man she had lain with.
When Szedarc returned home from her first
campaign as Second Captain, she had it in her
mind to take Naradha as husband. During her
two-year absence, however, he had fallen in
with Puravis sect, an empire-wide cult devoted
to the Goddess Rena. Szedarc had chance to
speak with him only once that summer. He had
already ceased to be Naradha.

The Field of Xeruthan

Less than a year later in 372 IC, after a siege
of many months, the Neferatha Cardinal
Army drew out the forces of Tasseter, King of
Xeruthan. Fourteenth Empress Szedarc rode
her chariot across the front line of cavalry,
blowing her war-horn and throwing crimson
flowers on the ground before the bronzearmored horses. First General Kherug rode his
chariot before the infantrymen closer to the
field, building a roar among the soldiers, giving
praise and honor to the best among them.

Puravi continued speaking from the dais,

her attention seemingly split between the
admiration of her attendants and the needs of
the council: Rena, the Eight-Armed Goddess,
Mistress of Winter, demands a sacrifice before
this act of war. Three oxen in the customary
manner, all from the house of the Empress
Udhula, another of the Stewards present,
turned her eyes to the council for the first
time all evening: And Janeshkha, Elephant
God, Keeper of Secrets, Stern Brow and Sure
Foot, demands the same. Phelhush, the third
Steward, rolled his head around his shoulders
as he spoke lazily: Maghuhan, God of Earth
and All that Grows, of the Four-Skilled-Arms,
calls for a festival of grain giving in His voice
trailed for a moment, a thick groan escaping his
lips mid-sentence. He resumed, in the city
of Gunabhim.


And that is all? asked the Empress. Puravi

gave another dismissive gesture with her hand
and turned her face back to the attendants at

At the sound of the final horn, Kherug led

the first wave of men down into the valley
toward the advancing soldiers of Tasseter. The
Xeruthan King rode a white horse stained
red as blood and fitted with armor of leather
and steel. Tasseter cut down Kherug early on
the first day, the kings curved sword cutting
through spear-shaft and armor. Kherug fell
from his chariot, his driver unable to circle
back before Tasseter had staked the general to
the ground with a great spear.
As Szedarc led the cavalry into the fight, her
chariot driver, Anshik, drove the imperial
horses hard towards Tasseter. Though born
among the lowest caste, Anshik spoke wisdom
to his commander and often acted as her
confidante. Szedarc met Tasseter in the Field of
Crows near the citys western gate.
Growing Arcana
Behind Szedarc and the skirmish at the gates,
a cluster of Neferatha scholars ascended a
hill overlooking the battle. The small cadre
of Lefts, commanded by one of Szedarcs
husbands, had been charged with studying
ancient texts found deep in the catacombs of
Ugurlu. Outside the influence of the Crowns,
the scholars sought secrets of magick in service
to the Empress. They had been lucky, and two
powerful arcana were discovered with minimal

The fire grew steadily, when suddenly emerald

fingers struck out at the circle of men and
women on the hilltop. Four of the scholars
were eaten by fire; the others scattered.
Hashtha suffered burns but ducked away from
the raging flames before the worst of it. The
backlash of the failed spell yet continued. From
the fire emerged a dark shape, a fiend of the
Fray who slipped through the tear made by the
novice magickers. It felt the weight of flesh
and the friction of earth as it stepped from the
fire on long, thin legs. Hashtha drew his sword
and sprung at the fiend. It took until sunset
for the husband of Szedarc to slay the menace,
and twelve other warriors lost their lives as the
beast cut through the ranks.
Szedarc and Tasseter
Near the gates of Xeruthan, Empress Szedarc
and King Tasseter clashed blades long into the
day. Anshik drove the Imperial chariot with
expert attention, avoiding the sting of Tasseter
and keeping the Empress close alongside her
rival. Both swords had a famous lineage and
much renown, but Tatkuruki proved stronger.
Before sunset, after many thrown spears and
sped arrows, the Fourteenth Empress struck
down the wise king of Xeruthan.
The city fell, and the empire grew one wall
stronger. The Rights cut the city into districts
and claimed the most splendid estates as their
own. Only three noble families of Xeruthan
were spared the sword and assimilated into

the Right caste. A famous stateswoman from

Anishad named Neshiga became the first
governor of Xeruthan.

The Siege of Merekhun


The cadres first test lay ahead of them, and

Commander Hashtha, gave the order: Burn
the enemy. Two of the scholars began reciting
words recorded centuries ago by the extinct
mages of Ugurlu. Three of the scholars began
making complicated gesticulations and
assuming bodily postures one after another,
focusing their wills on a small fire set at the
center of the hill. Other mages began reciting
other stanzas and making other gestures, all
present unsure which parts of the elaborate
incantation held the power. Hashtha watched
as his servants became entranced in the
words and movements described by the newly
discovered scrolls, and from the small fire at
their feet came green fingers of flame.

It came to pass in the eleventh year of the

Fourteenth Empress, 378 IC, that many of the
wealthy Rights now living in Xeruthan had
lost their influence over local trade. Another
city-state, Merekhun, was growing a powerful
army and pushing against the horsemen settlers
who still flooded Lower Edrada. These wealthy
Rights pressed their Empress for war.
In the palace chambers, a war council met
to decide the fate of Merekhun. Most of
the women in attendance did not support
annexing the city, but Neshiga of Xeruthan
proved an influential governor: She promised
expanded markets in Merekhun for the Rights
of Chekesh, an old and respected district in
Ugurlu, who had gained little when Xeruthan
was divvied years earlier. Promising new
markets for these established houses bought
many votes for the war effort.
Szedarc followed the council of gathered
governors and advisors. She turned to the
dais across the hall. Puravi, do the Stewards
ratify this decision for war? On the other
side of the hall, bathed in dancing shadows,
the Stewards sat in silence. Puravi lifted her
head as though she had forgotten there were
others in the room. She took a slow, heavy
breath and responded to the Empress: Yes
yes, do what you will. The other Stewards,
whispering together over the last hours, nodded
in agreement and quickly went back to their
hushed conversation.
The Gates of Merekhun
The walls of Merekhun were brought down
in the 382nd year of the Imperial Calendar.
When Szedarc led the cavalry into battle, the
Cardinal Armys infantry had already decimated
the defenses. Her men and women soldiers
revered their Empress as a clairvoyant seer
who shielded them from harm in battle. Her
wiles proved victorious at each turn, and this


campaign had already boosted her fame across



Just as all seemed won, however, from the

depths of the earth came a tremor that toppled
riders from their mounts and broke the wheels
of chariots. A Tyrant unseen since the coast of
the Crimson Sea first saw humankind awoke
from its slumber in the waters. Waves crashed
against the seaside walls of Merekhun, and
hundreds of the dead and dying were swept
away. The dark god stepped onto shore, shaking
the silt and sediment from its joints. Steam rose
from its flesh, and fire erupted from its many
eyes. Szedarcs horses fell dead as the beast
stepped toward her. The chariot cracked apart.
A sound, sharp as swords, pierced the gray
sky. Thousands fell to their knees, clutching
their ears, which bled over the sides of their
necks and shoulders. Szedarc stood frozen,
three javelins in her left hand and one in her
right. From the front of the chariot, she heard
an unexpected voice. Anshik spoke: Raise
your arms, my Empress. This beast cannot be
killed with spears alone. Szedarc looked at her
chariot driver quizzically. Please, Empress.
You have trusted me these many years in battle.
Trust me yet now. Szedarc did as Anshik
instructed. From his place within the chariot,
Anshik wove a spell older than the Tyrant. His
fingers moved like spider-legs and clutched
at faintly flowing threads. He was a Weaver.
Before the thousands of soldiers, the Tyrant
began to twitch and writhe as it stood near
Szedarcs upraised arms. In her presence it
screamed out in pain and fell to its knees. Out
of sight from the soldiers, Anshik unraveled
the very fibers of the beast, fixing the blemish
in the Tapestry that let such a creature exist on
the surface of the world. For a long moment
after the disappearance of the Tyrant, there was


Anshik spoke again: Do not tell anyone what

I have done, Empress. My own reasons for
being on this earth are not yet finished, and I
care not for obstacles and investigations. Much
attention will fall on you because of this, and I
fear Puravi will make things hard for you. But
you must bear it all forgetting the truth of this
day, I beg you. Your place is fixed, and few will

question this power if all believe it came from

your hands. Whispers have spoken of your
divinity for many years now; just let this be part
of those stories. The Empress saw wisdom in
Anshiks words and agreed, sparing her servant
the Crowns inquisition and inviting a portion
of it on herself.
When the dust had settled, Szedarc rode at the
head of the parade, and many worshipped her
as a divine savior. She herself never made such a
claim, but the voice of the masses was clear.
Imperial Cult
This victory would lead to the founding
of the Imperial Cult, a religion controlled
by the Right Caste in defiance of the
many cults and societies of the Crowns.
Each Empress is anointed as a divinity and
worshipped as such by many Neferatha,
especially soldiers and low-rank state
employees. In contrast to the ornate,
organic designs of Crown temples, Imperial
temples are austere and cold. The Imperial
Cult is one of the few direct ways the Right
caste can influence the poorer milieus of
Neferatha society without the intervening
Within Merekhun
The Neferatha army rode into the city as
conquering heroes, freeing the commoners of
the city from their hated overlords. As empires
go, however, it would not be long before new
rulers bent the commoners backs and squeezed
their pockets.
Behind the marching army came throngs of
Neferatha settlers charged with the business of
assimilating the new city. Crowns from various
cults and nearby temples came with their
followers, preaching salvation or damnation or
both. They erected small platforms and began
offering food and supplies to the people who
had been held up in the city for almost three
years without fresh goods. Rights erected
gallows and held nominal trials for the ruling
families of Merekhun, accusing the lords
of various crimes against the peasantry and

In general, such times are chaotic, but the

Neferatha Cardinal Army had become efficient
facilitators for imperial expansion.
The most concentrated effort of the
assimilation came from the Lefts who were
in charge of State accounting, for they had to
translate all the books of the old city governors
into the Neferatha accounting system. In
ledgers of papyrus and clay, this was an easy,
albeit tedious, feat. In the houses of the city
and the farms of the countryside, however,
when husbands found their names erased and
their wives the sole owners of family wealth,
this accounting became much more physical.
The Neferatha elite had little patience for
unruly husbands, and gallows were made
outside the city walls for the singular purpose
of executing those men unable to give up their
titles. Within the wealthy families this was
rarely an issue, for the women would naturally
be in charge of house economies and estate
management anyway. Servants and offspring
were almost always loyal to their matrons
explicitly, and the transition was smooth. In
the fields and workhouses, however, this would
often require more violent coercion.
Two new ruins of the Old Edish Empire were
discovered near Merekhun, but no one dared

Pact With the Alagoths

For reasons both political and petty, many
Rights of the newly conquered cities sought
further expansion along the coast of Lower
Edrada. Governor Neshiga had risen to great
fame among the wealthy of the coastal cities,
and hers was a persistent pursuit of power.

She won many friends opening new markets

and granting estates to the noble lines of
Rights. Even those of the imperial family were
being swayed by her position; Szedarcs own
nieces became attendants to the governor and
commanded her two private armies in matters
of trade across Oldfire and neighboring regions.


executing them to the cheers of all. Lefts

circled around the most important new faces,
both Crown and Right, taking notes, keeping
accounts, and earning their keep by skimming
what they could for their masters off the
books. Laborers rebuilt scorched areas of town,
mingled with the local commoners, and began
emptying the wealthiest estates to make room
for the new inhabitants.

In the 403rd year of the Imperial Calendar,

when Szedarc was fifty-eight years old, certain
factions of the Right Caste came together
asking for war. Neshiga led the group of
expansionists, while a governor from Anishad,
Ibekah, and her cohort resisted. The council
lasted many days and became heated. Ibekah
spoke, We have no information about
Chethahan, and even their sailors keep tight
lips. It is folly to act so quickly. Neshiga
countered: I have a captain here who recently
returned from a scouting mission. If it is
information you want, we have it!
The captain was brought forward. He spoke
timidly in the presence of the Empress: I led
a large caravan of men and women over the
hills east of Chethahan and into the city itself.
We were disguised as traders from Phanesh.
Although Chethahan refuses to recognize our
Empress, at this point he paused and bowed
before continuing, we have much evidence
that they trade with our enemies regularly. My
company spent two weeks inside the walls and
found no military presence other than a local
guard numbering less than four hundred. They
rely on walls to protect themselves. My entire
company is willing to
Puravi interrupted the report with venom
on her lips, You speak in error, Captain.
The room grew still; no Right remembered a
Steward speaking of her own initiative in such
a meeting, let alone with such fervor. You
lost thirty-two spears traveling the hills east of
Chethahan. Nine spies went missing shortly
after. Ten soldiers died in their sleep of yet
unknown causes as you approached the city.
You never made it inside. Fifty-six bodies all
told did not return with you, and you expect to
fill this room with a tone of victory? Neshiga
stood with her mouth open, shocked and silent.
Puravi continued, You speak against your



own experience, Captain,

though that does not surprise
me. She paused and let the
stillness fill the chamber like
smoke before continuing, We
will not send an army by land
nor sea to Chethahan. The
days of sleeping ruins are over!
You have had your evidence
these twenty years. We
Crowns are handling Lower
Edrada ourselves. You will
expand no further and awaken
no more Tyrants. If you petty
thieves must take new lands,
take the Great Tree Emluk,
which you have coveted for so
many years.
At this, the stillness was
broken with laughter. Neshiga
was first to speak: Emluk is
unassailable. Her walls rival
those of Phanesh, and her
soldiers fight from the sand
like insects. The journey itself
would be brutal before her
trunk were even in sight.
Empress Szedarc agreed,
saying, Even you cannot
speak against this, Puravi. Yet
as soon as the words left her
lips, she doubted them. None
were certain what Puravi
The High Steward continued,
ignoring the interruption
entirely: Send messengers
to the horse-raiders of
the Steppe. They travel in
clans arranged under fetid
grandfathers who blow
horns and spill wine. For the
price of one hundred horses
and one hundred maidservants, you would have two
thousand mounted warriors
of surprising vigor. Equipped
with our steel, a handful of


their shepherd boys could shake Emluk to the ground. They

will be as a spear thrown by your own hand. Within ten years,
Puravis prophecy had come true, and the Neferatha employed
Alagoth warriors in campaigns all across Ragus and Oldfire.
In time, Alagoth warriors became the favored shock troops
of Neferatha armies. They were prized mercenaries and eager
settlers, working for wealth and wine. Many Alagoth camps
moved into Oldfire at the invitation of Neferatha Rights and into
cities along the Guna River. Powerful heroes were awarded cities
of their own. Patriarchs were born and killed under direct orders
of Neferatha generals. A veritable wave of migrations followed
in the wake of the expanding Empire, and over the next hundred
years regions from Tath Nagura to the Great Steppe became a
mixture of Alagoth, Neferatha, native, and incoming cultures.
The Empire controlled them all, but Neferatha soldiers were
prohibited by the Crowns from venturing into Lower Edrada.

Caste and Society


Neferatha have a strict caste system as old as written history that maintains life in the complex
and sprawling urban environments. The capital city, Ugurlu, is a cosmopolitan nexus of the many
cultures of the world, the first and oldest market in the lands surrounding the Hara Sea. Most
members of the highest caste lead simple, compassionate lives as temple priests, though a select
few act as Stewards and control all trade and production from positions of political authority. The
castes that originated with Crone have only become more rigid in the centuries since.
The Crown refers to the top of the head, not a royal diadem. Crowns rule as a semi-divine lineage,
and their numbers are kept small on account of this, making up five percent of the total populace.
The mixing of castes is unavoidable, the lusts and passions often ignoring cultures most long-held
custom, though the Crowns of the Neferatha are in general more chaste than most elite classes.
Crowns are the very voices of the gods, and the many hundreds of gods each have their own
temples and settlements spread over the ever-changing sand. Because temples are the center of
communities, cities, and much commerce, Crowns exercise unrivaled influence over the masses.
The second caste of the Neferatha is made up of the Right-Handed Ones, who constitute one
tenth of the Nibu people. These are the fighters and politicians, the warrior elites and barons. The
political leaders and orators, philosophers and warmongers of the Neferatha are all Rights. Rights
are said to own all the material goods of the realm, and for their enrichment all wars are fought.
The Left-Handed Ones, or more simply the Lefts, began as artisans but quickly became the clerks,
accountants, and tax collectors of the Neferatha. They comprise one fifth of Empire cities, though
less than three percent of any village population in rural regions. It is illegal and sinister for any
caste other than the Lefts to handle coin money, a terrible omen even if the touch is accidental.
Coin is solely forged and managed by the Lefts, a method of their own for keeping track of
records and accounts. They were formed as one of the original moieties before the Withering
pushed Crone from the lands south of the mountains. Lefts are the personal assistants and estate
managers of the Neferatha upper classes, care-takers of the goods and resources of their betters.
They are also elders and merchants among the rural villages, tracking the crops and expenses. All
Lefts are held accountable by the State. Lefts are often literate and highly educated in lore and
numbers. They work with their hands in both craft and script.
Foreigners are welcome in Neferatha cities and fit between the Left Hands and Feet in the
hierarchy. Laws that handle foreigners with disputes or complaints, however, are rarely kind.
The vast majority of Nibu people fall into the Foot caste, a caste of skilled and unskilled workers.
They are the serfs, near slaves, that toil on the land and harvest the food owned by the Right.
They are also pages and assistants. Feet work most days, though many religious festivals dot the
calendar, and vast assemblies are held frequently in urban centers or at holy sites. Free time is
spent in song and sport, and in times of war the Feet become the bulk of the soldiery. The Feet
are the most prevalent caste and end up becoming part of every facet of society, from cleaning the
temples or helping transfer relics as cheap guards to becoming war heroes alongside Rights of the
realm, from assisting in workshops and smithies to toiling under the sun as harvesters of cotton.


The Patriarchs and the Masculine Ideal


Alagoth society is arranged in political ranks

founded on successes in war and leadership
while traveling across the Great Eastern
Steppe. The patriarchal lineages that emerged
hundreds of years ago when the Alagoth
reached the White Forest have remained
relatively stable since, though offshoots and
lesser clans may separate physically from their
elders to prevent overcrowding.
The circulating population of independent
camps, some genetically related to other camps
and others staunchly autonomous, recognize
each other as one people because of a shared
language and material culture, though they
uphold no common government and few ties
from one lineage to another exist. The clans
may compete for natural resources, especially
lands for use as pasture, but armed conflicts
are minimal due to a sense of shared tragedy
and the abundance of Empire ruins. Each
camp claims broad swaths of territory, often
in large tracts stretching from one edge of
Lower Edrada to another. Territory itself is not
particularly coveted, but the grass growing on it
is precious. And while caravans often trek over
land not their own, allowing animals to graze in
anothers territory is considered a grave offense
and rarely goes without retaliation.


At the head of each family is a patriarch who

traces his lineage back to the days of the
migration, a time alive only in myth now. His
sons will hold the highest honors in the camp
and decide whose flocks and herds are granted
the best lands for grazing. This first generation
of the patriarch is called the huol. Elders of
the patriarch and his other relatives, including
uncles, brothers, and nephews, all make up the
second tier of any settlement and are called
the hawad. In the prestige culture of Alagoth
society, these males, the huol and hawad, are
respected above all and almost always deferred
to for judgment in conflicts within the clan,
especially when it is a matter of life and death.
Each has the power to judge any of his progeny
and may even exercise authority over the lesser
descendents of his brothers or cousins. Strict
rules of courtesy and honor bind the behavior

of these elites, but like any social group of such

a sizeAlagoth camps can include upwards
of a thousand individualscontestation and
political maneuverings are facts of life.
Despite the familial language of Alagoth
society, the majority of the camp are people
not related to the patriarchs by blood. Slaves
and servants accompany the families in their
travels, and many of these descend from
peoples conquered centuries ago during the
great migrations or more recently in Lower
Edrada, kept as laborers or exotic playthings.
Some of these lesser servants are Alagoth
prisoners enslaved as punishment for leaving
debts unpaid or committing crimes. Rivals for
political authority can be stripped of rights by
a jealous patriarch and sold alongside common
criminals from one camp to another, their
names and ancestries forever removed from
history. Edish have been more defiant than
most to assimilation and often choose death
over servitude.
Names and lineages are precious to the
Alagoth. Epithets are spoken and remembered
long after an elder or patriarch dies, invoking
his wisdom and empowering his spirit in the

Tales of the Patriarchs

In the generations that followed the settling of
Lower Edrada by the Alagoth clans, a new way
of life took root in the hearts and minds of the
patriarchs. The constant travel of the Steppe
was a distant memory, but wealth and prestige
were still measured in horses. The world around
the White Forest brought new resources and
new ideas to the Alagoths.
The system of patriarchs, however, was rigid
as ever and focused centrally on the masculine
spirit. Male and female Alagoths spent much
time in company divided by gender, though
Gharun traveled between male and female
quarters equally. Men and women were both

seen as emotional and fiery, showing affection

and anger readily. Gharun, by contrast, were
even tempered, known for being rational as
well as unaffectionate.

Particularly wise and cool-headed females,

if proven unable to become pregnant, can
be recognized as gharun also. This is less
common, however.
Biological males, it is said, can become
gharun at some point in their lives, meaning
the individual actually changes genders over
the course of his life. Biological females who
eventually perform the gender, however, are
said to have been gharun all along. This
recognition of the individuals natural
gender is then used as grounds for a legal
divorce. Most barren women, however,
are not fortunate enough to be publicly
accepted as gharun.
Once recognized as gharun, no stigma is
attached to infertile individuals, as gharun
are expected to be without offspring and
valued as unattached councilors. Gharun
take the masculine pronoun.

Patareyu Ata Horas, He Who

Greets with Fire, Lion Kin

Among the Alagoths who called Lower Edrada

home, Patareyu Ata Horas was a lion. He took
no wives and fathered no children; he feared


There are three normative genders in
Alagoth society, which are not attached
strictly to biological sex. The vast majority
of gharun are biologically male individuals
who, through castration or impotence,
have proven themselves unable to sire
offspring and thus do not participate in
the patriarchy. Gharun are not treated as
castrated males, however. They have their
own, unique gender norms and identity fully
accepted by the culture.

they would make him soft. The only pursuit

that brought Patareyu pleasure was war. He
and his father, horn bearer of the Horashata,
constantly fought and came to no terms
throughout their long lives. Like many other
clans, the Horashata took no interest in settling
in the cities of Lower Edrada. They displaced
many Edish, winning many horses and wives,
but took little interest in the wealth of the local
Patareyu became proficient with the sword as
well as the bow and the spear. He preferred
weapons made to kill men than those designed
for the hunt. The sons of Horas were revered
as skilled wrestlers among the huol, but even
Patareyus brothers feared him in conflict. His
temperament was likened to the hot-blooded
mustangs that the Alagoth encountered in
Lower Edrada, a rare breed to them. In range
conflicts with other clans, Patareyu would kill
his opponents but leave their horses on the
battlefield. He would accompany his brothers
on horse raids against rival clans only to test
his mettle as a swordsman against that of the
guards, often losing his mounts in the process.
Forgoing the collection of horses, Patareyu
was a drain on his fathers house. He did not
participate in the politics of the warriors
in the camp or compete for wives. A life of
responsibility and family did not interest the
spirited warrior, and he feared a day when
he would be forced to count his joys by the
number of sons or horses he possessed.
Whenever Patareyu found himself in trouble
with this father for some violent outburst
or another, his response was the same: My
skin itches. It feels not my own. It burns and
aggravates me and makes my temper short,
father. Horas felt for the boy but could do
little to help. Despite the rank and riches of
his father, the fighter felt lost among his own
people, as one without a home or as a foreigner
among strangers.
During a lion hunt at the edge of the dry
Steppe, Patareyu found himself on foot near
a fissure in the turf. His kin had ridden on,
pursuing the pride, and Patareyu himself had



began to lick Patareyus body. Each lick brought

rushing pain over Patareyu, and his body
writhed and twisted beneath the rough tongue.
He screamed in agony and fought to escape,
but the maw of the lion hovered over him.
Through magicks uncanny, each lick changed
one feature of Patareyus body into that of a
lion. In minutes, his body had a new shape and
was covered in tawny fur. Another lick, and a
thin ridge of red hair bristled down his back,
the beginning of a mane. Another lick, and a
tail grew long behind him.

no attendant to bring another horse. Because

he spent such little time in the saddle, his own
horses were wont to wander. Patareyu cursed
his kin and his place among them.
From the crack in the earth came an aged and
weathered lion, Hadara Keru, King of the
Steppe, Voice of Pride, He Who Greets with
Tooth. Hadara Keru was an elder lion, grown
large and wise from suckling on the corpses of
the old gods, whose bodies lay buried deep in
the belly of the earth. Patareyu froze before
the majestic figure of the lion, his eyes flashing
on his face like buried gems. Within the youth,
Hadara Keru saw a familiar spark. The fell
beast spoke: You have lost the company of
your kin, human. Patareyu said nothing.


The lion pounced, pinning the warrior beneath

a single, broad paw. As the young man shook in
fear, Hadara Keru lowered his ancient head and

Under the guidance of Hadara Keru, Patareyu

spent many years in the form of a lion. He
roamed the Steppe, he crawled through the
fissures, he avoided the eyes of humans.
Hunting deer and horse, he ate his fill as
one of Hadara Kerus own pride. He grew in
stature, his rusty mane thick and full. And,
when the time came, Patareyu left the safety
of his patron and took to solitary wandering,
searching out a mate and a pride of his own.
Far in the northeast, within sight of the Silver
Wood, Patareyu caught the pleasing scent
of a potential lover. Approaching the pride,
he saw many such adolescent males rutting
and demonstrating before the many female
cats that lounged lazily in the company of a
large, shaggy male. The shaggy elder seemed
indifferent to the sport of the younger lions,
perhaps eager to lose a daughter or two to the
In his turn, Patareyu fought with the rival
suitors. Despite his time spent with Hadara
Keru, the man-lion was no match for the
feral power of natural beasts. One brute
in particular, a long slender cat, took great
pleasure in clawing at Patareyu. As the manlion turned to flee, the cat scratched out
at the losers hind leg. His body torn and
broken, Patareyu was driven by several other
males along the edge of the White Forest,
back towards the pastures of his human kin.
Patareyu spent more years hungry and longed
for his old life among the huol of Horas, his
Starving and crippled since the fight with
the suitors, Patareyu eventually came upon a

Patareyu was brought to the chambers of a

wealthy patriarch, those of his father Horas.
The great patriarch was delighted by the gift
and called his healers to tend the animal. He
gave Berut, the shepherd, thirty horses to
reflect the size and beauty of the lion and made
the young man a warrior of the hawad. Horas
spent days beside the weary cat, directing his
servants to take care of the prized specimen.
By this time, Patareyu had spent many years far
from the magick of Hadara Keru. One night, in
the midst of a deep sleep brought upon by the
drugs of his familys healers, Patareyu changed
back into the form of a man. Horas awoke on
a pile of carpets embracing not the bloodied
body of a lion-prize but that of his own lost
son. He awoke his other sons with tears of
happiness and called for a feast in honor of the
returned offspring, who had been presumed
dead for years.
Patareyu soon recovered his strength, the only
physical reminder of his days as a lion being a
scar given him by the rival suitor. And slowly,
after a handful of years, his old restlessness
returned. Only in private with his father would
he speak of his years as a lion. The Horashata
had no such magick among them, and the two
feared such a tale might frighten the camp.
How do you like your skin now? asked the
father. Patareyu responded, It seems I will

never find peace. I have worn two skins, father.

When I wore a mans skin so many years ago,
half of my body burned while the other felt
right. When I wore the skin of a lion, half of
my body burned while the other felt peace; but
the two halves were reversed. And now, I feel
the old burn growing.


flock of goats at play in the hilly terrain. He

saw no shepherd and, crouching low to the
ground, crept closer to the small prey. Suddenly
the lion charged, bringing down two of the
animals. He moved the carcasses to a sheltered
crag that would act as a fitting place for his
meal. Before he could finish the second goat,
however, Patareyu was startled by the sound of
shifting gravel. A net fell over the lions head,
and he felt the sharp sting of a spear-point in
his already raw hindquarter. Patareyu let out a
desperate roar as he was wrestled onto his back
and bound. You are lucky, noble beast, came a
voice. Our patriarch has offered twenty horses
to the man who can bring him a lion alive. With
you I will leave the life of a poor shepherd
behind and try to make my name among the
hawad of the Horashata!

Horas had a gharun attendant, Ettu, who sat

always at his side, even in the most private
of company. The patriarch turned his close
companion, who was familiar with his sons
tendencies: Ettu, how does this seem to your
eyes? asked the patriarch. Ettu responded in
the marked voice of the gharun, It seems, my
master, your son would need to wear both skins
at once to make peace in his belly.
Led by the words of Ettu, Patareyu prepared
a hunt, his mind set on a single prey. Taking
Berut and a small group of cousins, Patareyu
dressed four horses of his own and left the
camp ready to find his second skin. Riding
along the edge of the White Forest, Patareyu
led the young hunters over the tracks of a
small pride of lions. At the edge of sunset,
three female lions pounced from a brushhidden fissure in the earth. Two of Patareyus
companions fell dead along with their horses.
Berut was able to spear one of the lionesses
before being dismounted by another.
Patareyu erupted as one aflame. Spearing the
two remaining cats in one raging leap from his
steed, he freed Berut from danger and helped
the former shepherd back to his mount. A
large, adolescent male cat sprung from the
fissure and charged at Patareyu before the
fighter could free his spear-points from their
targets. Drawing a sword, Patareyu cut down
the zealous lion with a loud roar. Two more
lionesses emerged from the brush, one killing
another of Patareyus companions. He removed
his spear from a corpse and finished off the
man-killer with a single throw. The other
lioness spooked Beruts horse, sending the man
onto the turf once more. From the ground,
the two growled at one another, shepherd and
lioness. Before either could strike, however,
Patareyu caught a familiar scent and stepped
between cat and man. This was the prized


lioness from Patareyus time in another skin.

She observed the bold warrior standing before
her, folded her forelimbs, and lowered her
feline body into a leisurely repose.


The short moment of peace was shattered by a

paralyzing roar. Atop a rock, rising behind the
body of the calmed lioness, rose the silhouette
of a tall, slender lion, his waving mane a banner
against the red of the sun. Berut was struck
dumb and froze. Patareyu dashed to grab a
spear. The pride-leader was upon him, however,
before his hand reached the shaft of his
weapon. The two wrestled over the short grass,
and in their fight both recognized a familiar
opponent. Patareyu broke free from the grapple
and instantly felt his old scar tear open as the
lion clawed a matching arc over the back of
the mans thigh. The cat snarled in victory, but
Patareyu reached his spear, spun, and struck the
lion through the chest. He drew his skinning
knife while the cat still twitched.
For the rest of his years, Patareyu wore two
skins at the same time. Atop his human skin
he wore the skin of the lion, weaving the latter
into a garment. He took no wives and left no
sons. Even in old age he attended hunts, horse
raids, and skirmishes with rival clans and Edish
riders. He painted his face and took many herbs
to maintain his strength. His own hair grew
white and shaggy, a mane beneath a mane. He
preferred to fight on foot, and trained others to
do the same.
In many clans throughout Lower Edrada,
Alagoths began to follow the two-skin path,
some from birth and others after their
sons were grown. They put off old age with
incantations and fell arts, clinging to a life of
violence and the sword. None, however, rivaled
Patareyus ferocity.
In his old age, Patareyu met Hadara Keru
again. The two spoke of their years together as
teacher and student, but the meeting was not
warm. One lion killed the other.


The Berserker (Two-Skin, or

Two-Shirt) Path
The life of the two-skin path is rugged
and isolated. These Berserker Alagoths are
feared warriors and spend most of their
lives on the outskirts of the camp, not
participating in politics or wife-chasing.
Berserkers enjoy few comforts but serve
their patriarchs zealously in battle, on horse
or on foot. Many take no wives and gather
no horses; others become Berserkers late in
life when their children are grown or dead.
They wear a coarse shirt made from the pelt
of a lion and only a small sash that boasts
the family pattern. Since the coming of
the Duadha, Berserkers have become even
more powerful, using the arcane magicks
offered by the priestesses of the White
Forest to prolong their strength and lives.
Some Berserkers hold onto life for two
or three generations of their peers. They
paint themselves with the blue paint of
the Forest, strong dye mixed with metals
and blood. Though Berserkers tend no
horses, patriarchs will make sure their
best Berserkers have trained mounts ready
should battle on horseback be in order.
Some Alagoths consider it an honor to tend
the horse of a famed Berserker, while others
avoid the crazed fighters at all costs and
afford them no honor.

Razakthet ata Ferus, Eater of

Bears, Jeduk Adu, Blood Rage
As the clans grew in size and power, a great
patriarch arose among the Iassata. He would
rise to power twice in one lifetime, and two
clans would profit from his strength.
In his youth, Razakthet won the horn of the
Iassata from an old and troubled patriarch who
had lost much spirit alongside a bitter wife.
By this time, the Iassata had begun settling
in ruined cities like other Alagoths, hanging
their carpets from taut cords to make separate
chambers within the vast, empty halls. In these
cities, several clans would set up camp in the

many half-standing buildings, and conflicts

were common. Razakthet made a name for
himself as a horse thief in Sethuhan but soon
became a famed hunter and warrior as well.

With each new honor, however, came new

fear. Razakthet remembered his old patriarch
and knew that no matter how high he rose as
a warrior there would always be old age before
him. He would lose his strength. He would lose
his wits. He would end his days in the care of a
younger wife who wiped his chin and changed
his robes. The higher he rose, the farther he
would eventually fall. The fiercest warriors
survive every battle and so live to see their
ferocity wane. The best are doomed to become
the worst. The paradox plagued him.
Razakthet hunted down a feared karkadhan
that had killed three Benarekata huol a year
before. For a time, his heart beat like thunder
in his chest, the rush of the kill rippling his
body. The pleasure of victory, the elation of
risking life, the ecstasy that followed such
competitionit darkened his skin and stiffened
his muscles. Minutes later, however, the old
fear returned: one day this strength would fade.
He was gifted two wives and fifty horses by
the Benarekata patriarch, and he took much
pleasure in them.
Over the years, any who challenged Razakthet
fell. Word spread of his might from Oldfire to
the Cataracts, and soon few set their intentions
against his own.
Siege of Sethuhan
It came to pass that Sethuhan was beset by
a strong Edish force riding under the Bear
totem. They brought large, short-haired dogs


Once, soon after Razakthet bore the horn

of patriarch, the Iassata faced a large force
of heavily armed Edish. Outnumbered and
pressed near enough the Wandering Marsh to
fear losing the horses, Razakthet led a famous
charge of thirteen riders that cut down at least
thrice as many Edish. Songs, plays, and dances
were made of the The Marsh Charge, many
spreading into other clans and cities within
Razakthets own lifetime.

trained to pull riders from their mounts and

to spook the empty horses that many Alagoth
warriors kept in reserve. Aiding the Edish
was a small band of warriors native to Lower
Edrada, members of a dwindling culture of
seafarers and shell-traders. It was the seafarers
who designed the siege engine put to good use
by the Edish Hattan. Spewing oil and fire, the
Edish machine came at Sethuhan at the front
of a well-trained army.
Razakthet rode from the city with another
patriarch, curved swords slicing through those
Edish bold enough to attack on foot. In those
days, the Edish had not yet begun wearing
metal armor and using heavy swords. They
came at the city with bow and spear in hand
and cunning tactics. Razakthet and his huol
cut their way through man after man before
reaching the Edish cavalry. His fellow patriarch
was pulled from his horse by a leaping dog,
and Razakthet was struck by the mauling that
followed. Slowly the Alagoth numbers were
thinned by the Edish fighters.
Despite the surrounding carnage, Razakthet
felt no loss of heart. He lived for the thrills of
war, and his body shivered not in fright but in
excitement. The Horn of the Iassata fell rider
after rider with his bow, making large circles
around the fight while he picked his targets and
dropped them. He threw spears into the hearts
of rival leaders, and slowly closed in on the Bear
Hattan who commanded the attack.
The battle between the two commanders was
like a storm, two mountains bearing down on
one another. The Bear Hattan leaped from his
horse and toppled Razakthet to the ground.
Both men kicked and gripped at the other, until
the painted Hattan took the young patriarch
by the throat. The Best Son of Ferus felt his
vision narrow and blur as he looked up at the
awesome foe: The Edish Hattan was covered
in tattoos, iconic images of animals inked in
neat lines down his torso; the visible skin was
smooth, the color of rust.
Razakthet groped at the dirt desperately,
clutching the first thing that came to hand.
With the force of a mule-kick, he swung the



object toward the Bears head. The Hattan

went down onto his side, blood spilling from
his face. Razakthet dropped the shattered
remains of his battle horn as he struggled to
his feet. Before his breath returned, however,
the Bear had recovered and sprung on him
again. Blow after blow thundered against the
patriarchs weary body.
Around the warriors, the fighting of lesser men
was over. A returning group of young Roshata
riders had come upon the siege and scattered
the Edish before the walls of Sethuhan were
breached. Korachi Ata Testaha, a rival for the
Horn of the Iassata, however, kept any men
from interfering with the fight of their leader.
After hours of grappling, Razakthet took the
upper hand. He found a shard of horn and
stuck it into the chest of the frenzied Hattan.
The Edish fell to his knees, but the wound
was not mortal. Before the killing blow could
be struck, the patriarch lifted his head to an
incoming noise: Three dogs charged through
the rows of watching Alagoths and were upon
him. The maulers bit at his thighs and forearms,
and Razakthets blood spilled out over the
earth. Quickly, those of the huol pushed
Korachi aside and came to aid their kin-leader.
Two of the dogs turned on the approaching
warriors, however, killing six men. The Roshata
riders recognized this moment could be a shift
in power that rippled throughout the entire
city and sided with Korachi, refusing any more
of Razakthets kin from helping their patriarch.
Fights spread like waves across the already
bloodied battlefield.
It was Razakthet who eventually slew all
three dogs. The pleasure that filled him as
he broke their skulls with his hands dizzied
him. He had never felt such power as this. As
the final canine fell dead at his feet, the Bear
Hattan was again upon him; but this time the
charging Edish struck what stood like a trunk
of oak. Razakthet turned to face the muscled
brawler with eyes aflame. In a moment of pure
exhilaration, the Bear-Crusher killed his final
foe. He called for a knife, his blood still burning
within him, and ended his male life.


Among the Gharun

Years later, Razakthet was a wealthy gharun
among the Benarekata. The only way he saw
to avoid suffering the disgraceful death of an
undefeated warrior grown old and weak was
to take his future into his own hand. On the
battlefield, his body twitching with the highest
bliss of victory yet experienced, Razakthet
made the cut and began his life as a gharun.
His horses and wives were immediately forfeit,
and Razakthet was removed from his fathers
lineage. No longer fit to be Horn of the Iassata,
he sought a new people.
Razakthet Ata Ferus took on the life of a
shepherd-hermit under a new name, Jeduk Adu.
Word of his wisdom spread, and soon Jeduk
was taken into the chambers of the Benarekata
patriarch. He planned many raids on unfriendly
cities and used his military cunning for the
benefit of the Sons of Benarek. For the rest of
his life, Jeduk worked to become the gharuns
gharun, a jewel on the horn of the patriarch.



The horse is the center of Alagoth culture, and wealth in any Alagoth camp is measured not in
houses, not in land, not in finery, but in horses. The Alagoth people traveled for generations
westward, and the horse gave them military advantage, speed, and safety for as long as any story
remembers. Horses are honored as saving the Alagoths from the beast of the Steppes, the everhungry cave lion. A man who owns a horse is considered an adult and able to meet with elders and
warriors of the settlement. Still in the habit of long rides and constant movement, the Alagoths
have carved out broad regions between the sea and the forest as their own through the power of a
well-armed cavalry.
Most princes among the Alagoths travel with several horses, switching a tired mount for a fresh
one when necessary. They are said to sleep in the saddle when on march and to feed off the blood
of their own mount to avoid slowing to eat. It was by the horse that the Alagoths conquered the
steppes, and by the horse they now control the fields of Lower Edrada. Hawad Alagoths may own
a few dozen horses each, with the wealthiest of the huol claiming over a hundred each in certain
large camps. Numbers this high are more common in mobile camps than in those settlements
adapted to life among the ruins at the forests edge.
Horses are bred and trained for a variety of purposes, combat and burden being the two most
profitable to the Alagoths. Combat horses are light and untiring, whereas horses for burden are
large and sure-footed. Trade in stallions is uncommon from camp to camp, as most settlements
have a variety of bloodlines to choose from when mating horses. Stealing horses from lesser
relatives is rare, even for greedy patriarchs, though rustling is a common crime between clans. The
penalty for horse theft is always death.
Young male Alagoth are first made stewards of a horse, usually one owned by a father or uncle,
before they may own a mount outright. Charged with grooming, feeding, and exercising the
animal and beginning its training in war commands, successful adolescents are then given their
own horse by their elders, usually the animal he has tended and trained in childhood. It is
an honor, however, to take care of a horse owned by a local patriarch even if one never comes
to own the animal himself. Conferring a horse on a boy fixes him as an adult in the eyes of the
community, and the shift in status must be consummated by a special rite: the boy leads the horse
to the nearest druidic circle and pays the set fee for that season, granting him access to the glade.
Performed for one or several boys at a time, a druid will choose a name for the animal and paint its
skin with words in the druidic tongue. At the end of the ceremony, the boy, now a man, takes his
horse from the forest and rides back to his people fit for marriage.
Girls are encouraged to handle and care for horses at an early age as well, as female Alagoths are
often required to ride long distances during caravans from one pasture to another. Widows are
not allowed to own horses, but can remain stewards of animals until a buyer is arranged, usually by
her former husbands immediate relatives. Before a male buys the horses, he must vow to take the
widow into his home and support her, the womans board being part of the price of the horses.
That horses make up the majority of Alagoth economy does not mean silver, flocks of sheep, and
other livestock are not important. As long as Edish and other people groups supply Alagoths with
ample resources through raids and military adventures, however, the horse will remain the central
sign of wealth.


The Birth of the Sabu and Rule by the Sword


Over many centuries there arose a class of

warrior elite among the Hhan arranged in
Houses who lived by a code of loyalty and face,
the Sabu. Originally formed as government
armies meant to balance the power of
individual regions, the ranks of Sabu swelled.
After usurping power from the Imperial
family, these warriors supplanted wealthy
estate holders and governed by the sword. A
strong, isolationist state emerged around the
Sabu Houses, and a knotted bureaucracy soon
pervaded every level of social life. By the end of
the Drunken Raptor Age, seven powerful Sabu
Houses controlled all the local governments,
the modes and means of production, and every
blade on the continent. Time moved slowly as
the hierarchy of elites codified and ossified,
and an economic system of redistribution grew
around the cyclical harvest of maize.
Aesthetic life revolved around the Anu Court, a
decadent lifestyle of art, politics, and romance
that took place in the opulent homes of the
House Lords and their favorite relatives. In
the presence of the Empress, who was kept
prisoner on the Imperial Island far from the
peasants who worshipped her, the wealthiest
and most stylish Sabu led lives of luxury and
contemplation. Their accomplices, the Thun
priesthood, enjoyed a privileged existence
on the islands as ostensibly independent
councilors, arbiters, and local leaders.
Stories that characterize the rise of the Sabu
have been chronicled by many state historians,
and accounts are rigorously edited for errors as
well as blemishes.

Growing Diversity & Violence


The bloodlines of the Hhan and the Thun

merged in the descendents of Gazu and the
Heiress, and two great powers came together.
The blood of Hataro, which had summoned
the Holocaust Tyrant, became as one with the
blood of Gazu, which ran thick with magick of
its own. The Emperors of the Anu people were
strong and wise, and many lived unnaturally

long lives in the halls of the Imperial family.

Changes in the cultural lives of the Anu
people, however, proved too volatile for even a
sagacious Emperor to control. The continent
had many climates, and the various cultures
represented by natives, Thun, and Hhan
became increasingly hostile as economic power
centralized around large, Hhan-controlled
Great Kapixtul
Great Kapixtul hosted a range of climates and
ecologies, which tested any attempts at unifying
the populations into a single economic system.
The midland plains of the southeast supported
the staple crop of the Kuludo islands, maize.
The Maize and Rain Spirit played a major
role in the religious lives of the Anu people
and took on symbolic importance among the
wealthy as well as the poor. Local cultures of
these midland plains were loyal to the Thun
priesthood, and venerated the Dragon God and
the Feathered Serpent.
By contrast, in the lowland forests and flood
plains, the monsoon rains brought torrential
floods each year. Houses were built on stilts to
keep them above water levels, which fluctuated
drastically from month to month. Entire cities
were built atop these stilts, individual blocks or
sections supported by large stone pillars that
doubled as public houses and shrines. Rice was
the staple crop in the wetter regions. Religious
life was cyclical, based on the changing
seasons and on appeasing the Old Gods of the
rainforest. The Six Figures were sculpted on
pillars and in trunks (see page 83).
Some cities of the lowland plains stood as
high as twenty feet off the ground on stilts
that made up an artificial platform called the
floor. As rains flooded the lowlands each year,
small boats and gondolas were used to travel
about from building to building. Respectable
citizens wealthy enough to avoid working the
rice patties or in the highland fields of maize
could spend their entire lives residing above the
floor, relegating the area beneath the artificial
walkways and platforms to thieves and the

impoverished. Communication between cities

during the rainy season was often difficult, and
individual urban cultures emerged across the
big island.

Eastern Islands
The Eastern Islands were hard to police,
and indigenous peoples untouched by even
Hataros descendents still roamed, surviving
as pirates and saboteurs. Anu settlers were
constantly at risk, and their political needs
differed from peasants in other regions.
Violence was common. Rice grew in abundance
on terraced mountainside patties, though the
markets of the rest of the continent favored
maize. The climate was cooler and dryer
than that of Kapixtul, though still rainy,
and religious life centered on the Shark God
and the Dragon God. Old temples dotted
the small mountainous islands, though few
humans strayed near the haunted structures.
Settlements were small and rural, the terrain
giving few footholds for urbanized living.
Markets of the Eastern Islands produced ore
and other natural resources, but locals received
few concessions in return from the inchoate
Kuludo Island
Kuludo Island showed the most varied climate
and four even seasons each year. Maize and
rice grew, though not in the amounts found
on Kapixtul. Anu on Kuludo proper lived in
dozens of small cities throughout the island,
and markets developed along the easily
regulated roads and seaways. Regions became
popular for exporting various wares and luxury
goods, though many local industries required
protections or dispensations from the growing
government to continue. Merchant cartels and
all forms of corruption spread across Kuludo,
and resources from the rest of the continent

Kenjis Revolt
As the rift between the rich and the poor
expanded, many of the poorest farming
communities in the Kuludo islands became
violent. The price of Eastern rice fell as largescale farming operations began on Kapixtul.
Exploding urban populations provided cheap
labor for wealthy merchants, and new textile
industries focused on cotton drove down the
price of Kuludo silk. Rural areas which were
at one time reciprocally integrated into urban
economies began to feel the strain of such
dependence. Landholders and rural officials
plunged further and further indebted to urban


A vast and sprawling city grew to support

millions, Preexi Latl, just a few leagues from
the Central Temple were Gazu and the Heiress
slew the Hurricane Tyrant. Villages across the
rest of the island were mostly independent of
the cities and produced few goods of market
value. Dire inequalities developed among the
people, commonly following stark ethnic lines.

quickly found their way toward one metropolis

or another on the eponymous island. Even the
Imperial family was suffering.

In year 7 of the Sinking Owl Age, a respected

lord from a small estate, Kaju Kenji, in the
Eastern Islands called for a meeting of local
growers. The collective militarized and sent
ships to Kapixtul, salting paddies and attacking
several villages on the way to Kelhi, the Raised
City. Kenji himself, seven other lords, and
two thousand peasants made it to the stilts
of Kelhi and set fire to the platform. An army
of Imperial loyalists ended the revolt through
swift action, killing all involved. Kenji was
slain two days later in a cleansing ritual and
buried near the Central Temple to appease the
spirits. The wealthy merchants petitioned the
Emperor for laws to curtail the rights of the
peasants, but he did not grant their requests.
Hetl Qins Revolt
On Kapixtul, in year 22, the charismatic
attendant of a remote shrine in the Ende
foothills began to develop a loyal following
among the poor. Her name was Hetl Qin, and
she fomented resistance to the established
ethnic order as well as economic injustices.
During a seasonal ceremony at a small temple,
thirty revolutionaries declaring their allegiance
to Hetl Qin disrupted the regions primary
sacrifice for the year. The Qin Sect, as it
became known, attacked the estate home of a
wealthy merchant and held out against Imperial
soldiers for two months before being put


down by a private mercenary force trained in

Rosh Hotl. This was an embarrassment for the
Imperial military.


Formation of the Sabu

In the year 31 of the Sinking Owl Age, Emperor
Tangu Atl took action to weaken the power
of the burgeoning elite class and address
the concerns of the peasants. He divided
the continent of swirling islands into eight
provinces, each composed of eight to twelve
districts. In an official ceremony at the Central
Temple, eight Hhan leaders were anointed
Sabu, an honor designating the recipients
and their families as military governors. The
empire was put under martial law as the eight
original Sabu Houses regulated all aspects of
Anu life, cutting down insurrectionists, while
at the same time seizing lands and distributing
much needed aid to the peasant populations.

All state-sponsored historians contend that

the Emperor had the interests of the peasants
at heart. Though the move reaffirmed Hhan
dominance in Kuludo, it promised greater legal
equality to other ethnicities across the realm.
The Sabu answered directly to the Emperor
and seized all wealth and resources in the name
of the Imperial family. They took over entire
industries, ousted wealthy merchant families,
and regulated all trade and production within
the empire. It was a massive reordering of Anu
society. Each province was directed toward the
good of the state and the commoners, and an
ample bureaucracy took shape to ensure that
no region was neglected or ostracized from the
Sabu is capitalized when referring to
the caste, but written as sabu when
representing an individual or a group.
Advent of Sabu Government
For two centuries, goods were distributed
among the islands according to the wisdom of
the Emperor, but slowly the Sabu realized how
absolute their power had become and began
to work against the Imperial family for their
own benefit. Over time, the Houses became
less centralized around their own provinces and
began sharing control over various industries,
markets, ports, and cities across
the continent. Ranking lords held
many estates, and their relatives
took up houses in many towns.



Heron Indigo and Pale Yellow

Egret Dark Brown and Tan
Owl (Tiku in Anu) Gray and White
Osprey Dark Red and Tan
Vulture (Karras in Anu) Black & Yellow
Peregrine Royal Blue and Gray
Macaw Bright Red and Pale Yellow
Dove White and Pale Blue

Each House maintained a presence in all areas

of importance, incorporating local wealthy
families into their folds. This resulted in each
House becoming a corporate collection of
several Sabu family lineages.

Imperial Seclusion
Sedeku of House Karras was made Lord
Sabu over Rosho Do Province, the northern
region of Kapixtul Island, in year 52 of the
Lotus Petal Age. By this time, the Eight
Houses had become so powerful that the
Emperor was little more than a figurehead.
After a failed assassination attempt, which
remained unsolved, the Lord Sabu of each
House declared the Emperor Hendu Fons life
at risk. An Honor Guard was sent from each
House, and Sedeku personally accompanied
a contingent of soldiers to escort the entire
family to a small island off the coast of Kuludo.
The new Imperial Island became the secluded
center of Anu political life and the prison of the
Imperial family. All Imperial offices were seized
by the Sabu, who now controlled every aspect
of state life. Peasant resistance was minimal, as
the Sabu governed with a tight fist.
A special sect of Thun priests, the Order of
the Red Petals, was commissioned to attend
the Emperor and carry out rituals on his behalf
across the continent. When Emperor Hendu
Fon died in year 70 of the same age, a ceremony
at the Central Temple anointed his youngest
daughter, Akigenu Fon as the first Empress
of the Anu people in absentia. She was seven
years old at the time, and would never leave the
Imperial Island for the rest of her life. In fact,
it would be over 300 years before any member
of the Imperial family ventured off the island.


Sabu continued to rule by the sword. By

year 4 of the Lotus Petal Age, the law stated
that no bladed weapon could be carried by
any individual who did not hold Sabu title.
In year 23, even the Imperial family was
prohibited from carrying arms, and the military
government expanded without limit into
offices once held by Imperial factions.

Court Life
The Imperial City, located on an island off
the coast of Kuludo, houses the patriarchs
of each of the Houses. The Court is alive
with continuous activity, day- and yearround. The Khe population of the Court
is much more dense than in rural regions,
and artisans and performers from all over
the Kuludo Islands come to entertain
the highest and wealthiest of the lords.
Maintaining the extravagance and gaiety
of the court becomes the responsibility of
lesser lords, and it is not uncommon for
more than half of any estates resources
going to support the patriarchs lifestyle
in the capital, even if the result is an
impoverishment of the peasants and lesser
relatives. Court life is not completely vapid,
however, and many alliances and feuds are
made in the highly ritualized proceedings of
day-to-day life. Gambling leads to financial
shifts and territory exchanges, while
offenses and generosities can lead to bloody
conflicts or new unions. It is the dream of
every Sabu to serve his lord in the Court
and eventually end up a participant himself.

The Fall of House Dove

In the 61st year of the Age of The Drunken
Raptor, a great war erupted among the Houses.
Through the marriages of many daughters,
Lord Geraki of House Dove had established
himself as the most powerful Head of House
on the continent. House Dove encompassed
families in every major city and leveraged a
great deal of economic pressure on the other
Gerakis eighth daughter was being married to
a member of the Jegu family of House Heron,
and the couple was to live in a freshly made
estate in Xio. The estate bore the Dove colors,
and the union would have cemented Gerakis
control over the most contested port in all
of Kuludo. On the day of the wedding, the
Central Temple was adorned with flowers of all
kinds and a grand festival was held in the center



of Kapixtul. A holiday was declared across

the islands, and all were invited to exchange
gifts and celebrate the couples wedding. Over
a million attendants had traveled to Preexi
Latl for the ceremony, a crowd unheard of for
any event not involving the Imperial family or
meant to appease the dark gods.

commanded to do likewise. The House was

made outlaw, and all lands were seized. In the
records of the ordering that followed, however,
many lineages are omitted. It is uncertain what
happened to at least six well-known families
who were allied with House Dove at the time
of the uprising.

The week following the wedding saw the

collapse of House Dove. Breaking with
tradition, the actual nuptials were held in
Kuludo City, the center of Dove power. The
crowds gathered in Preexi Latl, however,
did not hear of this until it was announced
that the ceremony was set to begin over two
hundred leagues away in Kuludo City. The
people rioted. The other Houses present, who
were also unaware of the actual location of
the ritual, took the opportunity to turn the
public against House Dove, a move which
simultaneously reclaimed their lost power
and offered a scapegoat to the masses for the
centuries of violent Sabu rule. Messengers were
dispatched, and civil war broke out two days
after the wedding while riots continued. House
Dove was decimated in the uprising: The
Dove grounds in Kuludo City were torn apart
screen by screen; an army of peasants and sabu
from each of the seven Houses set fire to the
newlyweds estate in Xio, killing all within; riots
continued in major cities across the continent
as House Dove was targeted in each of its

Birth of the Nunji

A sect of assassins and organized criminals
grew up in the wake of House Doves descent.
An invisible war was started among the Houses
as each Lord conspired against the other, and
a need for espionage artists working beneath
the strict honor code of the Sabu spawned
the Black Coo (nun meaning Black and deji
meaning Coo or Dove). The Nun Deji,
or Nunji as they came to be known, do not
officially exist, though stories of murder
and magick abound. They are considered in
folktales the most deadly warriors of the Anu
people, ghosts who work for the highest bidder
and toward their own dark ends. They are said
by many to serve Ikthu Gawa the Shark God.

Four days after the wedding, as the riots against

House Dove continued and sabu blades drew
sabu blood, two Tyrants awoke on Kuludo
Island. It is a mystery what sparked the
awakening of these unnatural fiends, and many
accounts are offered crediting magickers of
rival Houses, the Order of the Red Petals, or
a native cult unknown to history. The official
narrative is that House Dove was to blame
for inviting the ire of the Tyrants by breaking
tradition and neglecting the Central Temple.
Lord Geraki was captured in his familys
ancestral home in the Eastern Islands. He
was forced to commit public suicide atop
the Central Temple, and all his relatives were


Anu Religion
The religion of the Anu is focused on rites
performed by Thun priests, local shaman or
weathersmiths, and important state officials.
Holy days are set by the stars, and the Celestial
Calendar tracks the constellations across
the sky with uncanny precision. Sacrifices of
maize and flesh are made in regular intervals to
sustain the cycles of nature and the eminence
of the state. Smaller, lesser sacrifices are
used to appease slumbering gods
of the days before the Hemming
of the World. Shrines are built
in areas that welcome travelers
and passersby to perform
small rituals on the spot to
help maintain the sleep
of gods thought to lie
buried beneath.

Anu Pantheon


There are six key figures of the Anu religion, a pantheon in place long before Hataro landed on
the Kuludo shores. These figures spiral in dynamic activity to maintain the cycles of the cosmos,
though only one is truly a deity in the religious sense. Though equal in power, the six figures are
strikingly dissimilar. Some are imagined to be physical, while others are spiritual. Some live in
many bodies, while others are limited to one place or no place at all. Some acknowledge humans,
while others take no notice of us. The Anu make sculptures of greenstone and jade, usually
depicting the heads of these figures. Paintings are made in watercolor and ink across screens and
stretched paper, entire walls being covered in religious murals to decorate the wealthy estates.
Onca Gawa the Jaguar God
To the Anu, Onca Gawa represents on one hand power and prowess and on the other hand the
night and the moon. Onca Gawa is a keeper of humankind, and his children the jaguars are always
watching us. He gives gifts and bestows boons upon supplicants, acting as an advocate for the Anu
people within the cycles of nature. Onca Gawa acts as a patron for the Anu people and is said to
take physical shape to speak to his followers.
Quetzal Hotl the Feathered Serpent
The Feathered Serpent is more a substance than a single being. Quetzal Hotl represents the Khe
gender, the wild forests, mystery, and Flower. She takes many forms, including incarnating as the
dangerous Quetzal serpents of the forests on Kapixtul. Quetzal Hotl can also take the form of
a flower or of reflections in water. She lives in many shapes at once and inhabits many earthly
Akoyo Gawa the Dragon God
Akoyo Gawa is a feminine figure that lives deep in the earth. She represents the soil, the rocks
and caves, and the inland lakes. It is believed that Akoyo Gawa can be in only one place at a time
and lives in a physical form deep under the surface of a lake or marsh. Akoyo Gawa is dangerous
to beseech but a powerful ally. It is said she chooses favorites from among the children of men and
creates heroes.
Maize and Rain Spirit
The Maize and Rain Spirit is a feminine deity that is also more of a substance or element than a
being. She is found in all sorts of food and organic material and lives in the mist. The Maize and
Rain Spirit is depicted as a face or head alone, never with a body. This figure represents rebirth,
fecundity, and prosperity. She inhabits maize, rice, and wine.
Enudo Gawa the Bird God
The Bird God is a masculine god of the sky and the State. He represents authority and power,
and the Seven Houses of the Sabu are all named for birds because of this. Enudo Gawa is an
untouchable god who takes no physical form. He represents the sun and the daytime.
Ikthu Gawa the Shark God
The Shark God is a god of the great seas that surround the lands of the Anu. He is a hungry,
gluttonous god, who causes storms and shipwrecks. Ikthu Gawa also maintains the boundaries of
the Kuludo Islands, giving them their shape and height, lifting them from the waters. The Shark
God inhabits many bodies, dark creatures of the sea. He is angered easily, and many ceremonies
are required of port cities to keep his temper dormant.


The Clan Structures of the Vayok People

Hunting Routes of the Vayok

Vayok culture and calendars centered on

one thing, the yearly hunt. Each year as the
weather warmed, the many clans packed up
their warriors and families to launch a vast hunt
down the ancestral routes. This hunt would
last the greater part of the year, taking the
majority of each clan away from the homes and
mead halls of the coastal villages along fixed
paths through the desolate glacial lands of the
north. Each clan closely guarded their routes,
the competition for furs and meat being the
energy that drove the entire culture. Scouts
made minor adjustments based on storms
and discovery, but the general paths were
maintained throughout the centuries. It was
considered gravely unlucky for clans to cross
paths in the snow, foretelling an untimely death
or great tragedy for one of the clans in the
upcoming winter.
Men and women participated equally, though
dangerous bears and walruses were usually
handled by males alone. Both genders worked
together building temporary structures from
ice, some housing single families and others
four or five. Ceremonial food was eaten along
the trails, certain clans favoring one dish or
another. At nights on the trail, fathers trained
sons and daughters equally in hunting, trapping,
lore and song; mothers watched over the
wolves, precious assets for pulling sleds and
carrying supplies during the long treks.
Winter months were spent in the warmer
south celebrating and sharing stories from the
previous years hunt. New Year was declared
when the final clan returned from its travels to
the Three Homes and only varied one or two
days each year. On the winter solstice, a month
or so into the new year, awards and honors
were passed out in large public celebrations.
Three months later, when the first birds were
seen migrating southward overhead, the clans
prepared for another hunt.


Precious little changed in the centuries of

hunts, though the fates of two clans did add
unforeseen depth to Vayok society before
Vaankur was known to others around the Hara

The Fate of the Ikshi

Oberok curved the short, thin knife over the
branch in deliberate, fluid motions. He stared
for long moments at the wood in his hands as
he envisioned the final product. Every motion
and every cut was as specific and purposeful
as the last. Not once did he have to start over
his process; once a carving was started, it was
always finished. Oberok sat next to a small fire,
while many men and women bustled past him
preparing for the hunt.
The camp was alive with commotion. Wolves
barked and chirped as they were fed scraps
of meat and lashed to heavy sleds of supplies.
Children ran about as older siblings chased
after them in the falling snow. Spears were
sharpened, knives tucked into pockets. Orders
were shouted as elders walked from makeshift
tents in full regalia. The clan bards sang
songs of previous years, the names of heroes
rising up toward the vast, overcast sky. None
acknowledged Oberok. The camp was growing
too large for everyone to be familiar with
each other: Wagshigaad, the only permanent
settlement of the Vayok, home to clan elders
and exiles alike. By now, most were accustomed
to seeing this man huddled next to a fire, busy
with his hands.
He put the final cuts on the wood, and the head
of a wolf emerged out of the shavings. After
admiring his work for a moment, he fastened
a bit of twine through the ears and fit the
intricate wolf head on a necklace. A moment
later, the necklace sat on the shoulders of a
Valhenjorn youth, and Oberok chewed a thick
strand of smoked walrus meat near his fire.
The same commotion whirling around Oberok
was happening all over Vaankur, but in no place

leading the hunt this year, I stayed behind

to stir up more hunters and cousins. I have
brought them all here to bolster our numbers.
We have lost many these last few years, and our
elders are afraid we will not survive as a family.
He paused, leaning forward in a chair made of
antler and tusk. If the hunt is not successful
this year, we may not have enough youths to
continue in the great traditions of our mothers
and fathers.

He bent down to Oberoks level before

continuing. I also know your talent.

Oberok looked around the room, counting only

a few strong hands among them, many too old
to throw a spear and many that never had. The
carver spoke to the patriarch: The Tekthukek
and the Valhenjorn are numerous in these parts,
as are the Suuka and the Kanaghash. You will
suffer neither hunger nor lack of shelter. Or is
it shame you fear?

Oberok looked up and saw that the man was

wearing white furs tied with cords, hung with
small bags and pouches. He looked old and
had a braided beard decorated by many pieces
of bone, wood, and metal. It was the metal
that caught Oberoks eye, the giants mineral.
The man looked Oberok straight in the eye
and spoke: I am Kenderjin, Patriarch of the
Ikshi. I offer you cousins among a hearty clan,
food, shelter, and the freedom to make what
you please. Kenderjin saw where Oberoks
attention lay and continued, Out of whatever
material you desire. Join us.
Oberok accepted the offer and spent the next
months traveling with Kenderjin. They went
through Wagshigaad collecting those without
kin. They went out to the far settlements
where homes were cut of ice and snow, seeking
out sons and daughters among the Ikshi
cousins who had not joined this years hunt.
They journeyed to the Maalthor Mountains,
gathering those hermits who practiced the arts
of metal and ached for a warm fire.
The Ikshi Camp
In time, their trail-camp grew from few to
many, and the group returned to Wagshigaad as
the weather turned where Kenderjin welcomed
them all to the clans hearth at a small meal in a
makeshift shelter at the edge of the settlement.
Later that night, when most were filled with
beer and the meat of fish, Kenderjin took
Oberok into his confidence. The patriarch
wiped the frozen edges of his beard and spoke:
Our numbers are few, Oberok. Instead of


was there such chaos as in Wagshigaad. From

the crowd, a man approached him and spoke: I
have heard of you, Oberok, and I admire your
work. Of what clan are you, cousin? Oberok
did not look up, but the man continued: I
know that you are not claimed by any of the
clans here. Do you claim one? Still silence.
I also know you cannot hunt and that you
exchange your art for food. I know how you are

Kenderjin shook his head, Let me tell you why

I have searched for those like yourself. He
went to a large chest that had been carried by
attendants all these long months and kept in
the patriarchs personal tent each night. The
elder pulled from the chest a flat piece of wood
covered in runes and diagrams. He sat down
with the wood in his lap and explained: We
do not need every clan to pursue the yearly
hunts. We have enough food among us, and
our own clan grows too small to spare all our
providers for eight months of the year just to
keep up with our cousins. When the New Year
begins, I will propose to the elders of the clans
that we Ikshi tend to these new homes year
round. Look at Wagshigaad! It is a camp unlike
any other. It is becoming just what we need,
a permanent settlement. A permanent camp
would change the way we Vayok live. We have
already learned from those who grow short
grains and make bread. And beer sustains us on
the long trail. What if we used the wood that
washes up along the cliffs to He stopped
himself. No, let me show you. Kenderjin
arose, his attendants immediately upon him,
covering him in furs and jewelry.
Kenderjin led Oberok down the winding
paths of Wagshigaad, among the many broken
shelters made from ice, sod, wood, and hides.
When the hunt was on, few individuals


remained at the camp. Storms would tear down

whatever structures were left behind, snow and
ice covering the debris. The camp would be
rebuilt upon the hunters return.


But Oberok noticed more activity than he

expected as the two men stepped down the
worn, muddy walkways and alleys. Many of
the shelters stood erect. The sounds of wolves
at play and men at work met their ears even
at so late an hour. Finally, Kenderjin stopped
their hike amidst a tall, stalwart structure. He
motioned towards the large hall, built from cut
planks of wood not rough trunks and thatch
or the more common bone and hide. We
need structures like this. His eyes shown with
Inside, there were over a dozen men and
women dressed in heavy furs huddled around
cook-fires fueled by the blubber of sea
mammals. They worked at twisting ropes and
fashioning tools. Their voices never raised
above a whisper, and most did not even notice
the visitor. Kenderjin looked over at Oberok,
who was visibly shocked by the size of the
room, almost ten feet tall and triple that
length on all four sides. Is it like anything you
Oberok was still gazing around. He asked,
What are we to do with such structures?
What about when the weather changes? Will
they hold up to storms? Who could make them
strong enough?
Kenderjin chuckled, That is exactly why you
are here. Come, let me explain.


The patriarch led Oberok to the back of the

new hall. He was taken to a door in the very
rear of the room. Stepping through, Oberok
made out what seemed to be an enclosed
garden. Surrounded by wooden walls wet with
humidity, the area was a sanctuary for the elders
of the Ikshi to relax and converse. There were
many workers tending to the plants. Kenderjin
beckoned for Oberok to follow him. When I
was given the responsibility of patriarch, this
entire region was nothing other than a good
hill for camping. Now, we have a settlement

that has been unbroken for almost three years.

Since this years hunt began, I set some of my
younger cousins about creating the hall behind
you and this garden. His hand waved toward
all that Oberok had just seen.
Some refuse to visit here, Kenderjin said
with visible disappointment. And there are
those who feel as though I am paying too much
attention to Wagshigaad, changing too much.
But I am not concerned with them. The elders
of the clans will come back with the New
Year, and I will let them know all I have done
these many months and what the future might
hold. Soon, even this hall will be dwarfed.
His tone became animated once more: In its
place, a new hall of wood and stone. We have
all seen the ancient watchtowers of the giants
scattered across the tundra. Most have been
destroyed. But, over the last years, some of
these stones have been brought to me, hauled
by wolves and sleds. Near the cliff a great pile
of cut stones has formed, and there are more
towers that can be dismantled. I will build
a great hall, a hall that will outlast any living
Vayok. Our grandchildren and perhaps even
their grandchildren will find shelter in a vast
hall of stone, wood, and metal. The two other
formidable camps, Hendragaad and Tagorgaad,
can be made permanent as well. We need not
risk so much so often in these hunts across the
ice. Hundreds, maybe thousands of our Vayok
kinsmen can stay in these halls year round.
At this point, Kenderjin turned to Oberok
deliberately. And you, carver, will help me build
Kenderjin Among the Elders
The many clans returned from their hunts at
the regular times, all surprised by the state
of the camp and the many new structures
standing tall. Murmurs spread that Kenderjin
had forsaken his duties as patriarch and spent
the summer tinkering while his sons led the
hunt. Jokes were made and songs whispered
at the expense of the Ikshi as the other clans
unloaded sleds topped with seal, bear, caribou,
and walrus.
Kenderjin paced back and forth in his hall,
awaiting the coming of the Ikshi retinue.


They were late. Seven days after the final clan returned, much longer
than usual, the elders assembled and declared the New Year. The Ikshi
were lost. Najuat of the Glokur spoke to Kenderjin, We saw your
kinsmen halfway through summer near the Point of Keknaasu.
They were only twenty strong, and it is sad to see that the
Glokur stole the luck. I know yours could have used it, dear
Kenderjin. The cousins shared a meal.
The New Years celebration began, but the Ikshi
had little gladness to give. As food was shared and
distributed and new songs sung, Kenderjin brought
together his peers, the leaders of the various
clans, and held a meeting in his new hall near
the center of Wagshigaad. He offered his
plan: The Ikshi, worn in numbers, would
forsake the hunt and spend the summers
working in Wagshigaad. They would
maintain the halls amidst the storms, breed
wolves, grow grain, and brew beer. They
would work to forge a camp that would last
forever, a haven for the Vayok of Vaankur.
The Fate of the Ikshi
In time, Kenderjin and Oberok helped
found the Three Homes. What started
as hardy camps became permanent
settlements dotted with halls of stone and
wood, the only cities of the Vayok. Though
the vast majority of Vayok still practiced
the rituals of the hunt, the Ikshi began a
culture of permanence. However, the glory
Kenderjin envisioned for his clan never
came to pass. Generations came and went,
and only in the oldest songs were the Ikshi
remembered as a clan at all. They became
a population of tinkerers and builders, the
servants and sitters of their kin.

The Wikwasha Diminish

One year, as the hunters returned to the
halls of Wagshigaad, the matriarch of the
Tekthukek, Kannasu, offered the largest
stag. Wearing layers of white fur, she
stepped from an ornate sled with the stag
across her broad shoulders. Six wolves
tugged at the reins and nipped one another,
their sport reflecting the strength and spirit
of their master.



It was a great honor to bring the largest stag to

the camp, earning the hunter an award during
the solstice celebration. Kannasu was welcomed
with cheers and gifts upon her presentation of
the beast. The stag had a light blue tint to its
coat, and the antlers were the largest on record
and would replace her ancestors set, which
hung from the wall high within the clan hall of
the Tekthukek.
The Stags of Vaankur
Otherwise known as a stag-moose, the stags
of Vaankur are a species of deer larger than
caribou but less gregarious. They live among
the short grasses along the warmer coasts
and grow fur that ranges from a grayish
brown to a pure white.
Kannasu took off her hood and spoke to those
who gathered around the returning Tekthukek
hunters. Elders and cousins, this stag was the
leader of his kin, and may his strength now be
passed on to you. The meat would be shared
among the oldest and wisest of the Vayok in
Wagshigaad, a tradition as old as the hunts
Many elders shuffled out of warm halls to visit
their clans returning hunters. Ikshi stewards
opened up rooms and aired out old furs and
skins, long in storage. Sleds were unloaded, and
meat sorted. From the largest shelter of the
Wikwasha came a graying patriarch, Jungaath.
He closed the heavy flap behind him and tied
his furs close to his chin. He had returned
with his own clan two days ago, a sizable stag
across his shoulders as well. Damn. The
sight of Kannasus deer was truly impressive.
The short-lived glory of the Wikwasha was
hard to let go of, but the grizzled man stepped
up to the young matriarch and offered his
congratulations. As the two exchanged
perfunctory praise, Jungaath tried to calculate
the change in rations this loss would effect.


After a couple days, most of the Vayok

dispersed, families of various clans getting
together and deciding who would settle with
whom. Plans were made, and small groups

set out to make camp for the winter. Many of

the choices depended on which children were
courting or which families had complementary
supplies. All would return to the Three Homes
in a month for the solstice party, but for now
homes had to be made and supplies stockpiled.
Wagshigaad had grown to include over four
hundred families, and many impressive
structures housed the wealthiest and most
famous hunters. Jungaath and his family lived
in a large house walled with sod and covered in
heavy skins. He had a large stone hearth much
coveted by wealthier patriarchs and matriarchs.
There were nine Wikwasha families left in
Wagshigaad, and only two in Tagorgaad. As it
went in all the clans, the majority of Wikwasha
families still lived in small settlements further
from the coast, each camp including a few
families from three or four clans. The year had
seen great tension between the Wikwasha and
Tekthukek of the isolated settlements. Many
rivalaries developed among the bold hunters,
for though the Wikwasha were small in number,
they had ample spirit. Jungaaths own nephew
had injured a prominent Tekthukek archer in
a sporting match last winter, and the boy was
unable to perform the hunt as a result. The
patriarch knew the injured hunter to be one of
Kannasus most beloved cousins. Things would
not go well this winter, he feared.
He was right.
The Rash Wager
Through three months of gossip and aggressive
clan politics, the Wikwasha were ostracized
from many social events and stripped from
several calendars. Feasts were held without
sending word to Jungaath, and a meeting of
the elders nearly commenced in Tagorgaad
without his presence. As the time for the hunt
approached, the Wikwasha families were all too
eager to get on the trail.
Hundreds rushed about Wagshigaad loading
sleds and folding up tents. None helped
the Wikwasha. As Jungaath made final
arrangements with his Ikshi stewards, Kannasu
was tying her six wolves to the monstrous sled,
carved with the faces of spirits and animals.

He approached the young matriarch, pushing

through her admirers, and spoke: I wager
the Wikwasha ancestral routes that I will
bring back the largest stag, Kannasu. Silence.
Even those of the other clans paused in their
work and turned to watch the confrontation.
Kannasu responded, I accept your challenge.
If you bring the largest stag to our elders
eight months from now, you can take our
maps. If you do not, the Tekthukek will own
the routes of the Wikwasha. The wager was
The Hunt
Wagshigaad was alive with Ikshi activity
throughout the summer months. The other
Vayok were deep in the storms and ice of
the tundra, unaware that the sun shown over
the Three Homes now and then. After eight
months of hard travel and hunting, the clans
returned to the Homes.
The Tekthukek came in on the appointed day.
Riding her sled, Gronkar, Kannasu held aloft a
stag larger even than the bull she retrieved last
year. It had antlers so wide Gronkar appeared
to have grown a pair of wings on the hunt.
Kannasu stood with the stag on her shoulders
and stepped from the sled. A parade of cousins
welcomed her, families from several clans
coming forward to see the offering of Kannasu.
There was less jubilation than she expected,
however, at the praiseworthy gift she displayed.
Earlier than usual, the Wikwasha had returned.
Behind him, dragged by twelve wolves,
Jungaath brought to camp a deer of unnatural
height and girth. As Kannasu flipped the stag
from her shoulders, the crowd parted to reveal
the fearsome carcass next to Wikwashas shelter
of sod and hide. The patriarch stepped from his
doorway with a wicked smile, catching the eyes
of the huntress.

Kannasu froze. The glory of the Tekthukek was

lost, their maps forfeit. Immediately, her closest
cousins ran to the elders, a great debate arising.
The central hall was filled with argument and
the roar of conflict. Those from many clans
called for the community to strike the wager
from the record and disallow such a shift of
resources. The change could weaken the entire
camp. All night the elders yelled and banged
antlers on hard tables.


She was boasting to her kin about the stag she

would retrieve this year. She made sure her
voice was loud enough for the nearby patriarch
to hear: No other hunter rivals me. I will find
the largest stag once more and bring it home
upon these broad shoulders. Jungaath, a hunter
of great pedigree and accomplishment, was

They were discussing the course of action

well into the next day when the Kurikweg
clan returned. At the front of the trail-camp
came the patriarch, Wakurek. Next to the two
butchered carcasses already hanging outside the
great hall of the Vayok, Wakurek placed a bull
visibly superior to all others. The beast, tainted
by the Fray and enormously fattened, tipped all
scales available in Wagshigaad.
Jungaath had not brought the largest stag and
so had lost the wager. The size of Kannasus
deer was irrelevant. The influence of the
Tekthukek went far, and in very little time the
elders had called Jungaath forward to release
his maps.
The Next Year
When winter passed, at the next years hunt,
the Wikwasha set out blind into the tundra.
Leaving only their shaman and youngest
children behind, Jungaath led his clan out into
the ice. They never returned.
Since that time, the Wikwasha have become
a priestly caste, taking care of rituals and the
calendar, living mostly in homes owned by the


Clans & Histories


There exist almost two dozen clans of Vayok,

and though some are larger and wealthier
than others, very little distinguishes one
from another. A clan rich from a productive
hunt or successful in a profitable raid will
quickly distribute food and loot at the many
communal feasts and sporting events that
make up the stationary months. In fact, due
to competitions in largesse and hospitality
among the most productive clans, most Vayok
share the same access to foodstuffs, clothing,
tools and other everyday goods. The largest
practical differences between the clans are the
size and function of their buildings, wealthier
clans being expected to run shared houses and
temples, and who earns exclusive rights to trade
with Anu merchants.
The many clans of the Vayok have remained
relatively unchanged for several generations.
As families intermarry and older generations
die out, however, new ties and alliances shift
the social dynamics from season to season.
Youths, sailing further and further from their
homeland on raids, bring back new ideas and
new modes of living that have at times strained
the traditional clan ways but have yet to cause
a dramatic rupture in the way most Vayok see
themselves and their relatives in relation to
other clans. The six largest clans make up about
half of the Vayok population, whereas the
smallest two may have less than three hundred
members together.


Two of the smallest clans have given up

the seasonal life altogether, both becoming
specialized segments of Vayok communities
that do not participate in sending hunters along
routes. The Ikshi clan has become a servant
population, living in small family units inside
other clan homes as cooks, mead and beer
brewers, handymen and estate managers. It
is said that their ancestral hunting routes are
still kept hidden and shared along the lineage.
The Wikwasha clan, which is seldom referred
to as a clan, gave up their hunting routes to
the Tekthukek clan in ages past and now lives
as a small priestly group in the temples owned

by Tekthukek hunters. Wikwasha still retain

strong blood, however, and have produced
many successful raiders and shaman healers.
The largest clan of the Vayok. Tekthukek
families build the biggest temples and throw
the largest feats, often celebrating family
holidays in tandem across the villages, in effect
uniting the Vayok in a shared calendar. The
oldest stories of the Tekthukek clan surround
their founding hero, Gjekthukek, who came
from the deep snow to marry his wife in what
is now the largest Vayok city. The tale holds
that Gjekthukek walked into the city from a
storm, carrying six stags of the purist white,
their hooves wide enough to fill three palms
each, antlers sharp as knives. He is said to have
given the bucks to his father-in-law to earn the
right to marry the eldest daughter. The annual
remembrance of Gjekthukek and Elgafrens
wedding is known as the Stag Feast and
happens every year two weeks after the Winter
The clan of twins. Glokur Vayok are known
for having sets of male-female twins. The
matriarch, Eothekur, is said to have the most
beautiful eyes in all of Vaankur, and in her old
age has become the subject of much song and
celebration. Each account of the beauty of her
youth expands on the previous. Glokur are
known for their bright eyes, their abilities as
match-makers, the decorations of their homes,
and their faithfulness as spouses.
The Hikjin Vayok have become wealthy
breeding wolves. They tend the widest variety
of breeds and often withhold certain bloodlines
from breeding into the stock of other clans,
protecting the unmatched size and intelligence
of their favorite lineages. Kerukur and Kekur,
the mythic founders of the clan, were said to
have been abandoned as children and raised at
the breast of an elder tundra wolf. Hikjin still
claim to have fekrin blood, a marker they
credit with their successful breeds and the close
relationships they maintain with their pups.

The Howling Clan. Valhenjorn Vayok have
taken to raiding more than any other clan. Still
competitive in the seasonal hunts, Valhenjorn
have started training up warriors in the ways of
seafaring, weaponry, and armoring. They take
their epithet as the Howling Clan from a tale
started in the early days of raiding, the account
of a beloved patriarch, Hruthkek. As the story
goes, the youthful explorers followed a river
deep into the Ragus continent and came upon
a settlement of farmers. As Hruthkek came
charging from his longboat, he uttered such a
frightening warcry that the farmers dropped
whatever task held their attention and took
to the forest. Women, children, everyone.
Gone. Even the fastest of the Vayok were
unable to catch a single person. Some versions
say the folk made not a single noise but acted
in unison, others that the villagers screamed
themselves. Either way, the warriors waited for
three days, emptying the village granary and
winepress and sleeping in the villagers huts,
but none of the farmers returned. Hruthkek,
though he had done little more than draw his
sword, was given the lions share of the loot and
returned to Vaankur with the respect of all.
The smallest of the Great Clans, Kurikweg
Vayok trace their line to the renowned hunter
Kurik. The story goes that Kurik felled six
tundra bears single-handedly in one season. He

is also the only Vayok officially held to have

mated with a Mothering giant. After a crimson
encounter with three bears, who slaughtered
the others of Kuriks kinsmen deep in the
Frost, at least a mile from the bulk of the clan,
Kurik slew the last bear before falling to the
ice. It is said that a Mothering then appeared to
him, washing his wounds and fawning over his
health. Life rekindled, Kurik followed her deep
into the frost and possessed her. He returned
to his party with three heavy bears and a silken
garment unlike any other seen before or since.
The head of clan wears the garment, rewoven
as a tunic, under his clothes in battle, for it
is said the material cannot be cut or pierced
easily. Many Vayok tell bedtime stories to their
children about Kuriks Giant who, following
the myth, will one day bring misfortune to their


A clan of mead-drinkers and bards. The
Weshbjorg Vayok are a robust, lively clan
made up of only a few families all settled in
one village. After every New Year, hunters
and warriors from the Three Homes gather at
the Weshbjorg settlement to swap stories and
song, hoping that one of their own tales will
be included in the yearly records kept by the
best Weshbjorg bards and circulated among the
villages and homesteads.

The Wikwasha are the professional shrine and
temple keepers of the Vayok. Although shaman
arise among many clans, the Wikwasha are the
trainers and protectors of the cultures magick,
which is heavily distrusted and feared by noninitiates. They are completely dependent on the
Tekthukek for food and supplies, and function
less as a clan now than a priestly caste. They
have no hunting routes of their own, having
given the maps and secrets to the Tekthukek.
Managers, keepers, menders, and smiths.
The Ikshi abandoned the hunting cycle
many generations back after the schemes of
Kenderjin, though they still claim to possess a
prized set of route maps should they ever grow
large enough to fund another hunt. In the mean
time, Ikshi work in the Three Homes yearround, tending to the properties and pets of
other clans in exchange for food from the hunt.
Ikshi are trustworthy and respected allies and
councilors, also regarded as the best builders
and handyfolk.


Second Age (800 - 920 IC)


The world awoke, and the peoples of the Hara Sea had grown in their places for long enough.
Trade and communication increased, buoyed by the rising wealth of the elite in each continent.
Isolationism is harder to practice when neighbors come calling with sword and surplus. Learning
increased as well, and lore that was once lost was remembered.
Magick, also, was found again. The old ones were stirring, and the Tapestry seemed thinner than
ever in the old places of worship. The Fey also began arising without summons and staying longer in
our world than usual. Magick added an element of chance unwanted by those in power.


Lokod, Jewel of the North, Capital of Edrada, Tohoveos Doom, Ondeos Seed: A city-state of almost one million.
Many dozen Edish tribes came together to resettle the city and build it up from the ruins. Native cultures and
peoples migrating from the north and east have added to its numbers. Within districts shaped like concentric
wheels, the streets and major structures once mirrored the constellations above. The Edish settlers have built new
districts and erected new walls, building into and onto the best-preserved ruins and dismantling the rest.

The Edish Settle in Cities

At the beginning of the 9th century, fear of the

dark gods waned; generations grew up knowing
little of magick or the Loom. The ruins that
dotted the Edradan countryside looked less
foreboding than before. Edish began to live in
societies structured as city-states within vast
ruins of the extinct Empire. As power became
focused in fixed locations and tribes began
competing for space, some influential Hattan
claimed the moniker Arbiter and conquered
or assimilated other tribes passing through
contested regions. The nomadic way of life
was being challenged by an agricultural society
that policed lands around rebuilt settlements.
Vassals and lesser chiefs developed as the
hierarchy within one domain or another sorted
itself out. Nomadic and stationary cultures
become increasingly disparate as a feudal way
of life developed, freezing many tribes too weak
to protect themselves from assimilation into
newly forming social classes.
Most newly stationary settlements practiced
agriculture, domestication of animals, and
hunting to feed their members, though trade
for specialty goods became common quickly.
Different regions became known for various
wares and luxury goods. Leadership of these
cities centered on the Arbiter, a role more
managerial than the lead-by-example Hattan
of the nomadic tribes. Power emanated
from the Arbiter through his or her relatives
and advisors, and many tribes were brought
together under the new political system as
totems were forgotten or put aside in favor of
economic gain. Avoiding conflict and age-old
blood rivalries, cities were most often selfsufficient and remote from one another, some
Arbiters going so far as to prohibit contact with
outsiders entirely.

Urban Life
Led by a Hattan of young age, a tribe
descending from the Owl of Red Plains led
many tribes against a pale-skinned city on the
Strait of Uzik in 806 IC. They took control of
the region and renamed the city Kelineph, after
a fabled Edish ancestor. A nearby city across
the Strait was taken the next year and renamed
Kelkala, Kelinephs lover.


At the close of what would later be referred

to as the Second Age, many peoples of Upper
Edrada were supported by a robust network of
trade and commerce, and wealth was focused
in the marketplaces of Therikod and Lokod,
cities renowned for the oddities and wonders
of foreign lands that could be purchased there.
But change slowly came.

Kelineph and Kelkala

The two cities that span the Strait of
Uzik, Kelineph and Kelkala, were named
after famous Edish lovers from the Age of
Migrations. When the northern tribes grew
strong and chased the Cougar of Toveo
from the Red Plains, two lovers caught
between warring tribes led a movement
to give up the ways of the nomads and the
rival ancestors. Together, they promulgated
a vision of the ancestors as petty siblings
and spread a new religious fervor: Peace is
to be found in the Edradan cities. In some
variants of the tale, the two lead several
tribes to settle in the city now known as
Kelkala, being assimilated into the Edradan
locals. In other variants, they attempt to
settle one of the ruins and are consumed by
old magick.
In all accounts, the two lovers are portrayed
as blonde-haired, a characteristic absent
among other Edish. Most scholars believe
this a later invention used to highlight the
unique philosophies of the lovers. Also,
because the only blonde-haired people in
all of the Hara Sea live in Kelineph and
Kelkala, the tale has become a kind of
parable among the Edish as to the origin of
such peoples.
Hattan Faeran, bearer of six totems, no
longer guided her people through the plains
in seasonal migrations. The Owl forsook the
nomads lifestyle, surrendering the hunt for the



cultivation of agriculture. The Edish tribes had

learned from the native cities about wealth and
class, and the lifestyle of the powerful city lords
was attractive to the weary Hattan. Instead
of sustaining themselves through hunting and
raids, surplus and profit were sought. As the
tribes settled amongst the city, Faeran acted as
Arbiter, directing the transition to an economy
of agriculture and trade, and protecting the
Owls growing wealth. The traditions of the
minewin were abandoned in favor of the
magick arts practiced by the city-dwellers. The
tribes lost their connection to the weavers of
their past. As with all of the eventual Edish
city-states, the importance of the tribal thread
faded to a mere symbol and the people of
Kelineph found identity in their city-states
By 820 IC, the Alagoth of Lower Edrada, long
the scourge of the Edish nomads, became
trading partners of the new Kelineph elite.
Parties of burly horsemen would arrive at
the market bearing goods raided from Edish
nomads. Instead of being shunned, they were
accepted and praised for their wealth. As
Kelineph monopolized the land and water
over a far radius for agriculture, the nomadic
Edish of that region were forced to wander
further and acquire less. The tribes soon
learned that their way of life was threatened,
and the Alagoth raiders benefited yet more
from exacerbated animosity among the Edish.
A great rift developed between the Edish
nomads, led by their Loom-walking Hattan and
minewin shaman, and the city-bound Edish of
Kelinephtwo sides of a single culture.


Urban life was the only way to produce wealth,

a new concept to the Edish, and soon other
tribes followed in the example of the Owl,
always prompted by a Hattan who promised
an easy life and riches. As 830 IC approached,
three other native cities had been won for the
Edish through a combination of settling, guile,
and force. These cities were spread far out in
the Edradan plains, and trade between them
seeded their rebirth: Lokod, Therikod, and
Onkod. Such riches passed through the walls
of Lokod that it became known as The Jewel of
the North. Lokod was a dark Jewel, however,

divided into districts controlled by strong

families, Edish tribes, and small remnants of
cultures no longer remembered. It was a place
of growing order as well as brutal lawlessness.
Such was the chaos of its conflicts that trade
routes often went disrupted for weeks, and the
budding trade economies of the new Edish citystates could do nothing to calm its tempest.

Praetawa & The Hawk

In the summer of 851 IC, Hattan Praetawa, Son
of the Hawk, Bearer of Large Totems, Guardian
of the Nomads Way, had already grown
famous raiding the trade caravans that traveled
between the cities along the Wanakiowa. He
began amassing resources and profit as the
rulers of the native cities did. All wealth in the
region flowed ultimately through Lokod, and so
after many years of successful raids in the south
it was toward Lokod that Praetawa next turned
the Hawk. With his warrior-shaman, Wekoan of
Four Totems, Praetawa led the tribe in pursuit
of greater wealth, adopting the greed of the
cities and swelling his numbers. Caravan after
caravan fell to the lithe warriors of the Hawk
tribe. Eventually, the guilds of Lokod feared
sending large transports past the nomads that
surrounded the city, and the Hawk spread out
to establish dominance over all major roads
leading to Lokod.
As The Jewel became strangled by the nomads
blockade, soldiers of Kelineph took to
patrolling long tracts of road and safeguarding
the passage of the caravans there. Using the
tales of Praetawa as a boogeyman, strong bonds
grew among the city-states and set them more
adamantly against the older, nomadic way of
life. By 853 IC, Praetawa found himself with
fewer opportunities for the hunt as the light
spears of the Hawk broke against the steel,
Anu-made arms of the pale-skinned troops
from Kelineph. A new hunt was called by the

Hawk, and the great warriors met for feast and

games to determine the course of the tribe.

Our ancestors do not deserve this treatment.

If we do this, the spirits will abandon us and
the tribal totem will unravel. The sacred
Hearths will be left behind, forgotten. You
have seen the fate of the Owl. They forget their
ancestor and mix now with the colorless people
of Kelineph. Their ancestors are lost now to
us all. Each tribe that abandons the plains
weakens those who stay. Enemies of a kind
though they may be, this shift should not be
furthered by us, the powerful Hawk.
Wekoan felt the truth of their words. He
pleaded with Praetawa in private to reconsider
his decision, but the young Hattan could not be
swayed. The fate of the Hawk was decided.
The Storm
Praetawa led his tribe from the mouth of the
Essapesh River toward Kelkala in a daring
longboat crossing of the Strait of Uzik. The
longboats approached the Strait under a
gathering wall of dark, ominous clouds. All
was blanketed by shadow. During the crossing,
the clouds erupted. Sheets of violent water
beat down on the Edish, more destructive
than any storm seen on the Gold Plains. Boats
were reduced to tinder; hulls cracked and oars
splintered. Great numbers of Edish died, and
renowned warriors of many totems were lost
below the waves.
Into this chaos came a Fell serpent, fully the
length of ten men. It was lured from the depths
by the chaos of the storm to feast on the Edish


Praetawa spoke of the coastal cities and villages

of Lower Edrada, spreading visions of wealth
won by the sea. He wove dreams in the younger
hunters about continuing their lives raiding
port to port. Though Praetawa emphasized the
similarities between the modes of subsistence,
all present understood that this would mark
a great shift in the nomads way, favoring hull
and sail over hoof and spear. Though brave and
highly honored, many of the warriors were wary
of leaving the plains and dells of their birth,
and they expressed their concerns to Wekoan.

as they fell from the foundering boats. Enraged

by the storm and the destruction around him,
Praetawa commanded his rowers to approach
the beast where it swirled through the inky
water, wrestling with a splintered vessel and the
drowning bodies of his people. Praetawa hurled
two spears at the serpent. Not heeding if the
spears reached their target, the furious Hattan
threw himself at the serpents coiling mass,
his fathers ceremonial chert blade his only
Wekoan had shed his minewin tunic and taken
the place of Treo, bearer of three totems and
now lost to the sea, at the boats oars. From this
vantage, he watched as Praetawa disappeared
over the ships side. Rushing the railing,
Wekoan saw Praetawas stone blade bite deep
into the beasts slippery side. Though brave
and strong, the Hattan was no match for the
serpent in the storm-wracked sea, and surely
would have died if not for Wekoans magick.
The minewin shaman froze the beast into a
stiffened series of coils while his friend and
Hattan yet struggled. Praetawa was pulled back
into the boat, and the storm resided.
As the passage resumed, Wekoan took stock of
the remainder of the fleet. Three dozen ships
there were that emerged from the Essapesh,
pregnant with the people and wealth of the
tribe of the Hawk. Now, a mere seventeen
remained. The minewin shaman was mourning
the loss, and already singing an end to many
threads whose deaths he had witnessed, when
Praetawa confronted him in a sullen rage.
I see your heart, magicker. You think to steal
my glory by slaying the sea serpent, and by
doing so you hope to steal the Hawk.
Wekoan was taken aback. He had only acted in
the best interest of the tribe. Praetawa was a
mighty warrior and brave. His skills in combat
were unequaled, even amongst those formerly
of the Owl who now protected Kelineph with
steel. losing him in addition to the many other
dozens of warriors lost would have been a
crippling blow. I was only protecting you,
friend. You know I serve the Hawk.



In your mouth, the word friend has no

meaning for me, magicker. Do not cross me
again, or you shall learn why I bear the Ram as
well as the Hawk. With this, Praetawa stalked
to the aft of the vessel, eyeing grimly the
serpents dead, frozen mass as it floated among
corpses and debris.
Crossroads of the Hawk
Wekoan, minewin shaman and bearer of four
totems, considered well the events of the
day: While he fought for the Hawk, Hattan
Praetawa fought only for himself. The ways of
the city lords had spread to another Hattan as
they had to so many before. The brash Hattan
worried more for not having slain the sea beast
than for having brought about the deaths of so
many brave Edish. The loss of life and lifestyle
brought about by this voyage was nothing to
him. Surely, the ancestor Fey cursed the Hawk
with storm and serpent as punishment for
abandoning their homes and rituals. On the
beach, Wekoan addressed the assembled tribe:
People of the Hawk, hear me now. I speak as
bearer of four totems, including the esteemed
Hawk, whose brood I entered by winning the
love of your own daughter, Muweus, who lies


among that great number now claimed by the

sea. I carry the scars and feathers of many
conquests, and my wealth in glory is matched
only by that of our many-feathered Hattan.
Praetawa was hurrying up the beach towards
the gathering, and Wekoan knew he had a
limited time to influence hearts before the
Hattan would challenge him. The Hawk has
suffered a terrible loss here. We are punished
for abandoning the fields and rituals of our
ancestors. Our grandfathers and grandmothers
among the spirits have turned against us, and
their wrath will injure our hunt at every step if
we do not return to our honorable duty on the
plains. I intend to do so. It is folly to so upset
the balance of things. Please, people of the
Hawk, return with me.
Praetawa approached Wekoan, pushing roughly
through the assembled survivors. So you show
your colors, magicker. Very well. I shall not
let you claim the tribe in so cowardly a way. If
you will to wear the torc of Hattan, you shall
have to earn it. In his strong hands, Praetawa
broke a still-damp feather of his crest, tossing
it aggressively into the minewin shamans chest.
With this feather, the tribe of the Hawk was
broken. Only one could unite it again.

Wekoan stooped slowly to retrieve the feather.

The sorrow of his ancestors clouded his brow.
Very well, Praetawa, bearer of five totems.

The families gradually seated themselves in the

sand until only four Edish remained standing,
surrounded by a circle of murmuring. Holding
either of Wekoans hands stood the proud
warrior Fitaw, Daughter of the Wolf, and the
eldest minewin, Vetronas, Singer of the Flame,
bearer of five totems. Praetawa stood alone.
Thank you, my friends, whispered Wekoan
to Fitaw and Vetronas, but now I go to my
death. The two sat where they stood.
The Hattan and the minewin shaman of the
Hawk danced through their kin, dueling with
blade and magick. Wekoan was careful to avoid
causing harm to the others, but Praetawas
magick and reckless blades met with the flesh
of many, including Vetronas, the old minewin.
Slowly, Praetawa wore the more cautious
Wekoan down. The killing blow was mercifully
fast when it landed, and the Hattan stood
triumphant over the body of his former friend.
The Hawk is powerful, cried Praetawa, his
blooded knife held aloft. Neither man nor
spirit can stand against it!


A night of preparation was taken. Though

most of the tribe attended the preparations
of Praetawa, many of the strongest and
wisest warriors attended to Wekoan. The
two combatants were dressed in tunics
bearing the totems of their supporters, and
atavistic magicks were performed to invoke
the blessings of their human ancestors. Dawn
broke on an array of painted figures mingling
on the beach. Greetings were exchanged and
blessings given and received between the two
factions. Wekoan circulated among all those
of the Hawk, kissing and anointing with oils
members of both groups, all of whom were
known and respected by him. He promoted
his apprentices and recorded what learnings
he thought most urgent in songs, taught in a
rush to the lesser minewin. In him a great store
of wisdom existed yet unknown to any other.
Praetawa mocked among his sycophants the
busied shaman and remained aloof.

A hunt was made to celebrate the renewal of

the Hattans authority, and many wild beasts
were killed. A great feast was held, and pyres
for the dead on shore and at sea burned long
into the night. Praetawa offered wergild to
Fitaw, which she accepted as a reconciliation
between the two factions. The Hawk was
whole once more, and set off for Kelkala in the

The Rise of Praetawa

In Kelkala, Praetawa and his strongest warriors
became corsairs for a captain with one great
vessel under his command. The rest of the tribe
camped permanently in the hills surrounding
the city. In less than two years, the nomadic
ways were lost, and the Hawk depended
entirely on the loot won by Praetawa in the
raids. His name became feared among lords
once more.
When first they arrived in the area, however,
the Hawk were treated as outcasts. Cries of
nomad animal and worse followed them
through the city. Their camp was vandalized
and their possessions burned; their children
and women were beaten in the streets. After
some months serving under the ships captain,
Praetawa was allowed to bring more of his
warriors on the raids. The captain grew fat and
wealthy off of the labors of the Hawk, and the
tribes standing amongst the pirate population
Two additional ships were added to the
captains fleet, and the scope of their raiding
expanded to include the Edradan coastlines
of the Hara, Wanakiowa, and Crimson Seas.
Under his tutelage, Praetawa and Fitaw learned
the art of sailing and the secrets of sea fire,
with which an enemy vessel could be burned
with flames water could not quench, its fires
spreading until the boats carcass had reached
the seas floor.
While the pirates plundered the coasts, war
began among the three largest city-states of
Upper Edrada. Without a common enemy,
relations between the cities had broken down,


and each fought against the others. Kelineph

and Kelkala remained uninvolved for the time.


Praetawa The Captain

Praetawa grew impatient with the captains
limited ambitions and feared the spread of
war across Edrada. He knew that beyond the
water was a rich culture ruled by dark women.
The hunts of the Hawk had occasionally
encountered them near Lokod, trading a
strange, consumable flower called ineo by the
Edish who fell under its comforting spell.
Though this flower was worthless to him,
Praetawa knew that it traveled in the company
of a great wealth of goods.
In 860 IC, seven years after arriving on the
island of Kelkala, Praetawa of the Hawk urged
the captain as they set out from Kelkala with
the three ships: The peoples who peddle
ineo are weak and their ships unarmored. We
could easily take what we would from them.
Let us strike at the merchant ships that sail
from Ragus led by dark-skinned matrons of
submissive geldings. The vessels were now
almost fully manned by the warriors of the
Hawk. Only a few experienced seamen from
Kelkala remained in the captains employ.
With the might of the Hawk, nothing can
stand against us.
Those weak women are the Neferatha,
replied the captain. Never before have the
Three Seas witnessed such strength as they
possess. It is not through arms but by influence
and state that they grow. To rival them is folly.
You may steal one such ship, but then a dozen
would be set upon you. You are a strong man,
nomad, and you have done much in Edrada, but
the world is much larger than that. There are
forces against which even the mighty Praetawa
must fail.
Enraged by his insult, Praetawa killed the man
without another word, assuming command of
all three vessels. The sailors under the captains
employ were either absorbed by the Hawk or
killed outright, and the ships turned south in
pursuit of the wealth of the Neferatha.


They encountered no ships, as the Neferatha

calendar celebrated a large festival in honor of
Janeshka that month, and so the greed of the
Hawk fell first on a coastal village that came
into view early one morning. There was little
defense, and the Edish swept through the
settlement, looting all they could. Four other
villages were raided likewise, and another ship
was needed to carry the booty. On the return
to the Edradan coast the next week, the Edish
encountered a Neferatha merchant ship.
Though armed, the ship was outnumbered and
out-manned. Its hull succumbed to sea fire and
sank burning to the sea floor. The few survivors
were sold in the slave markets of Therikod on
the way to Kelkala. Much glory was awarded
Praetawa on his return to Kelkala, and the
Hawk feasted and celebrated for many days.
The Hawk amassed power quickly, and soon
even the Arbiter of Kelkala treated Praetawa
with caution. The city benefited from the

wealth brought to it, so his lawlessness and

indiscretions were overlooked.

The Neferatha

You are Praetawa, leader of the pirates

who dared cross waters to our coast of the
Wanakiowa Sea. I approach bearing an
invitation from Ugurlu, the Chair of Ragus,
the center of power within the Five Seas.
Ahimsa the Right, Eternal Daughter of the
Sun, The Ravi Bacca, knows of your trespasses.
You brought her family harsh losses with your
ill-conceived gallivant. Against serious urgings
from her councilors, however, she offers a
proposal. You are to be granted amnesty
for your crimes, and you are to receive as a
gift this, the attendant unrolled a map and
indicated Lokod and its surrounding lands with
an ink-stained finger, in exchange for service
and tribute to The Ravi Bacca and the Empire.
Praetawa scoffed and leaped from his bed,
moving past the guards and toward the
emissary, a blade already in hand. As he skirted
the four soldiers, he felt currents of an intricate
magick ripple around him. Youll find your
childlike weapons quite useless, said the
woman calmly. In his hand, instead of his stone
blade, Praetawa found a serpent, desiccated and
dead. The smell assaulted his nostrils. Suddenly,
a tent flap was lifted and Fitaw entered showing
signs of injury. She was shocked to see the
Neferatha already within a guarded tent,
but spoke with formality: There is an army
at our fires, Hattan. Reluctantly, and with
only a handful of his kin, Praetawa agreed to
accompany the emissary back to Ugurlu.


Less than one month after the Hawk returned

to Kelkala, Praetawa was roused in his tent
by steel blades held in Neferatha hands. An
emissary of the Neferatha, a slightly built
woman with one attendant, stood behind four
guards. The nervous man at her side carried
naught but a rolled scroll, and the entire
interaction was efficiently recorded therein.
The woman did not offer her name, nor was she

In Ugurlu, Praetawa saw marvels unimagined.
The citys thousands of halls and temples
demonstrated a decorated architecture
resembling the style of the ruins in Lokod and
Therikod, but here such monstrous structures
stood alive and intact. What small similarities
existed among the stone, however, showed
nowhere else. Arches and ceilings painted in
gold and indigo shown under each overhang,
aqueduct, and suspended walkway. Banners
and flags rippled from maintained spires and
obelisks. Carven images adorned every wall,
depicting gods and heroes with many arms and
More striking to the small group of Edish than
the buildings were the inhabitants of Ugurlu,
people different from anything they had seen
before. Praetawa was led through streets
thronged with all manner of people. He had
seen no cultures outside of the raven-haired
Edish, the dusty Alagoth, and the pale-skinned
natives of Kelineph. The people in Ugurlu
exhibited immense variation in complexion,
height, and dress. The Hattan gaped openly.
This earned him a number of angry looks and
the approbation of his lead escort, the curt
woman who had come to him in the fields
surrounding Kelkala. Praetawa found comfort
from the presence of Fitaw, his closest follower
since the death of Wekoan, a full head taller
than the escort and well-muscled. She was a
fine Edish woman, fearless and fierce.
Their course passed through the central
marketplace of Ugurlu, and Praetawa was again
taken aback. Such was its scale that surely
half of Kelkala would fit here alone. Stalls and
buildings peddling the wares of the farthest
reaches of the Empire stretched into the
distance displaying untold wealth.
The Ravi Bacca
Eventually, Praetawa was led into a great palace
hung with tapestries depicting migration, wars,
and sex in unsettling abundance. All of it was
shot through with scroll-work reminiscent of
serpents. Reminded by the tapestries both of
his own conquests and of his failure against the
Fell sea serpent in the Strait of Uzik, Praetawas



back stiffened and he set his jaw. All feelings of

fear and awe left him; he carried the strength of
many totems and was determined to overpower
this woman of the sun. His failure in the Strait
of Uzik would not be repeated against these
new serpents.
Great golden doors, twice the height of the
golden-armored Alagoth guards who stood
on either side, swung open into a vast, domed
chamber. At its center, a raised dais held an
empty golden chair. Scattered about the room
were tables and desks where dark-skinned,
smooth-scalped people bent over scrolls and
thin tablets. Other Nibu, as the ruling ethnic
group was known, circulated through the
room attired in far richer and more revealing
A ripple of activity ran through the wealthy
overseers, and from their center a lithe girl
emerged wearing little more than golden
jewelry. Her figure was fully developed, but only
just. To Praetawas eyes, she was no more than a
few years beyond her totem hunt, yet she bore
the grace of age and all present yielded to her
will. Youth or not, she stood ornamented with
more wealth than the Hawk had accumulated
in seven years of piracy. As she approached,
Praetawa felt a strange aura. It was not magick,
but a preternatural glow that emanated from
her form. All in her immediate presence bowed
deeply. Only Praetawa and Fitaw remained


You are Hattan Praetawa, called Son of

the Hawk, and you bear four animal totems
marking ancestry. Her words were not spoken
as a question. You are Fitaw, a warrior and
shaman of the minervi magick, who bears five
animal totems. She paused a moment as those
around her hurried to transcribe the words in
the syllabic script of the Empire. I am Ahimsa,
Eternal Daughter of the Sun, The Ravi Bacca.
All was spoken in a tongue unknown to the
Edish, but their guide, still bowing deeply,
translated from the ground in whispers. As
silence filled the room and all eyes rested on
Ahimsa, the Hattan glanced at Fitaw and was
suddenly struck by her plainness. She was a
strong and handsome woman, bearer of many

totems and much glory. She would have made

an excellent Hattan, and had turned away
many suitors deemed too weak over the years.
Praetawa had even considered taking her as his
wife. But the glow of The Ravi Bacca was such
that Fitaw appeared faded and inconsequential.
The Edish woman, her mouth slightly agape,
never took her eyes from the young Neferatha.
The Eternal Daughter of the Sun continued:
You will become Arbiter of Lokod, the Edish
capital. Praetawa had no words to explain to
her that the Edish were not a people with a
capital, each city a mob of conflict to itself.
With your savage kin, who have grown wealthy
and numerous, and a contingent of my trained
forces, the petty violence of the plains can be
quelled. It is a testament to the inferiority of
the Edish creature that chaos has been allowed
to disrupt trade for this long. You will grow
richer while leading Lokod in service to the
Empire. That is all you must know at this time.
Agree or be executed for your crimes against
my family and the Empire. The girl turned to
leave, but then paused, adding dismissively over
her shoulder in an Edish tongue, You have a
curious nobility, barbarian, but it wilts under
the duress of your animal foolishness.

Praetawa left Ugurlu two years later in 862
IC as The Ravi Baccas creature. If distance
decreased the effect her personal presence
had on him, the will of the Neferatha was
reinforced by the several warships that
transported Praetawa to Lokod. After
uprooting the strength of the Hawk from
Kelkala and with the help of several phalanxes
of Neferatha soldiers, the Hattan was able
to march through the crowded, haphazard
districts of Lokod a conquering hero. He dealt
with all resistance personally, and the ravens of
the plains were fatted by hundreds of bodies
swinging from hastily erected gallows. Those
who fled founded a rival city, Norwikod, the
youngest of the new Edish city-states but best

As the city grew in power and profit, the

citizens of Lokod began to note with alarm the
transformation of their Arbiter. Decades passed
from the morning Praetawa came triumphantly
to the citys marketplace. Where before was
a strong, proud Hattan, now stood an unaging minister, loyal only to his dark queen.
Praetawas habits and dress changed to match
those of elite Neferatha who visited often with

the Ravi Bacca. His warriors grew soft and

weak, while he himself became interested in
naught but his mistress.
Strange customs and occult practices took hold
in parts of the city and spread all over Upper
Edrada through the trade routes it dominated.
The spread of these practices was buoyed by
the wealth amassed in Lokod under the banner
of what many Edish viewed as the Neferatha
Empresss pet Arbiter. The Edish of the other
powerful cities, Onkod and Therikod, grew
wary and distrustful of Lokod, seeing the city as
nothing but a Neferatha outpost. The nomads
redoubled their attacks on their cousins in the


Within months, Praetawa had united the

factions of Lokod under his fist. Following
the guidance of The Ravi Bacca, he and Fitaw
oversaw the development of a strong, stable
city-state. Though much wealth flowed to
Ugurlu, a considerable portion stayed in the
hands of Praetawa and the Hawk. In time,
however, the totem became less visible among
the people, and the values of the city-state
replaced those of the plains. The old tribal
ties were torn and forgotten, a class of wealthy
elite commanding the serfs below them under
hollow symbols of the ancestors.

Whatever her rivals thought, such was Lokods

strength that all commerce entering the great
plains was forced to pass through it, and the
great arm of Praetawa continued to gain reach
across Edrada.


The Neferatha Stretch Their Fingers


By 800 IC, the Neferatha Empire had

expanded into the heart of Ragus and along the
southern coast of the three seas into Oldfire, a
region of desert and charred turf. The coffers
of the Empire had grown deep and its peoples
diverse. No city matched Ugurlu in size, and
no state matched the might of the Neferatha.
Because of this, as things go, the Empire fell
into complacency.
Bhilamanhi the 25th Empress was crowned in
814 IC at the age of 30. She was sympathetic
to the Crowns, and under her rule the military
power of the Neferatha was allowed to wilt.
Where once ambition drove expansion and the
castes were swollen with the newly assimilated,
now the Empire seemed content to rest
atop its mountain of wealth and the glorious
history of expansion, which had enlightened so
many diverse peoples with the culture of the
The cults of the Crowns spread beyond the
bounds of the Empire. New gods were named
and worshipped throughout the urban centers
of Upper and Lower Edrada. Growth was
reserved for the influence of the Crowns, and
the rest of the Empire suffered stagnation for
some decades.

A New Direction


In the year 821 IC, into this age of decline was

born to an influential family of Ugurlu Rights
a girl named Ahimsa. From an early age, her
charisma captivated those around her. She
was groomed from a young girl for greatness.
Before her eleventh year, she had traveled the
three continents, seeing vistas and experiencing
cultures that other Rights only dreamed of.
Her magickal arts could be rivaled by but
few, and she displayed a terrifying, disarming
intelligence. When traveling through a region
for only a few days, Ahimsa was able to learn
the language and travel without escort or
guide. By the time she had grown into a young
woman, her charisma had blossomed into
an aura of commanding presence. She was a

strong woman, loved by the lower castes and

foreigners for her integrity, and admired by
her fellow Rights for her cunning. In her, the
Rights of Ugurlu and Anishad saw a powerful
tool whose power might be leveraged against
the Crowns.
The love and affection of those she served
amplified her presence, and her body ceased
to show the signs of aging when she was
still quite young. The adoration given by the
peoples of Ugurlu and of the surrounding
regions continued to grow. She curtailed the
corruptions of tax collecting temples and
used her familys private army to settle unrest
in areas near their holdings. Before she was
thirty, small chapels and altars within Imperial
temples were dedicated in her name. Her mind
was sharp and her ambitions great.
At age 29, Ahimsa became the governor of
Ugurlu. As helm of the Rights, Ahimsa began
working to expand the influence of the Empire
across the lucrative cityscapes of Upper and
Lower Edrada. The Crowns can have the
barbarians hearts, she told an assembly of
the highest-ranking Rights in Ugurlu, but
the Empire will have their wealth. Her peers
cheered. Surely, the interests of the Neferatha
Body as a whole outweigh the wishes of but
one part. The Empire can and shall expand into
Edrada, though it shall not be through war.
At this, a murmur ran through the assembled
Rights. Warfare was the way of the Empire
and had always been so. To conquer was to
expand, and to expand was to liberate from
the captivity of their inferiority the conquered
peoples. The aged Empress Bhilamanhi, sitting
in on the assembly but silently yielding the
floor to her younger counterpart, gestured
subtly for silence. At this, the dignified clamor
abruptly ceased, and Bhilamanhis Chief
Minister, Deszara of the Tree City Esvesthi,
spoke for her.
Young Ahimsa, your contributions to the
Empire have been great already, yet is this
expansion you speak of possible? Without

strength of arms, which the Empire has not on

the scale of times past, what do you intend to
accomplish? Much has the Empire taken, and
much does it currently possess. What more
could the Neferatha people find abroad?

Though her ways were typically peaceful and

diplomatic, Ahimsa directly briefed a handful
of lesser Alagoth clans recruited to root out the
Duadha, a culture of guerilla weavers living in
the White Forest whose presence impeded the
expansion of trade routes in Lower Edrada. The
Crowns had long since held a grudge against
these painted barbarians, and by weakening
them The Ravi Bacca began to earn vocal
support from the upper caste.


So much more, replied Ahimsa. The assembly

hall erupted into chaos. The Crown Stewards
seemed uninterested, but the assembled
Rights had long since learned to mistrust their
apparent complacency. The stance taken by
this young woman could prove dangerous;
immediate fissures became apparent in the
collection of Rights, who began to scheme and
plot against one another as lines were drawn.
Deszara was not much older than Ahimsa
herself, and all present understood that she
was the Crowns favored successor of the
Serpentine Throne. But in Ahimsa, with her
charisma and power, a new direction for the
Empire had emerged. The balance was tipping
against Deszara.

currents of magick. Her aura was so powerful

that even rural Crowns believed her divinity
made flesh.

Revolt at Emluk
In the year 856 IC, when The Ravi Bacca was
thirty-five years old, an uprising occurred in
Oldfire. A group of Rights of indigenous blood

The Rise of The Ravi Bacca

Tales of Ahimsas ambitions spread quickly
through the Empire, and their effects were
apparent in Ugurlu from the very next day.
Old Ugurluan soldiers began to polish their
equipment again, and complacent youth felt
the call of duty. A general sense of invigoration
swept through the city as well as its tributary
towns and villages, all of it focused on this one
young woman.
She traveled the Empire for years, governing
with a youthful exuberance. Indeed, as the
years passed into decades, her body remained
the same as it had been when she set herself
apart during the assembly in Ugurlu. The
love and adoration of the Neferatha people,
of which she was more and more the sole
recipient, continued to grow. Her Thread was
a great, glowing snake, writhing through the
Tapestry and fed by the countless millions of
Threads that made up the Neferatha Empire.
She became known as The Ravi Bacca, or
Sun Child, for the warm, glowing aura that
emanated constantly from her youthful body,
visible to those with some sensitivity to the



in Emluk asserted their freedom from

the Empire. They had grown rich and
fat off the new roads of trade afforded
by The Ravi Baccas push into the
White Forest, and now felt they had
the power to break away from the
Empire. Old gods were reborn in the
cult mythology of the Crowns, and
under the banner of these returned
deities they sought to forge an
independent state.
The army of Emluk had already been
given financial support by the governors
of Xeruthan and Merekhun when
the Empress Bhilamanhi finally gave
orders to respond, appointing Ahimsa
to suppress the uprising and restore
order. Her command consisted of only
a small battalion of the much larger
Cardinal Army, and all of her officers
knew their force would not be enough.
The Empress also asserted, through
Deszara, that naval power was so dear
that none of the Imperial navy could
be spared to transport her soldiers.
The army would have to march. Many
suspected that the move was purely
political: The final effort of a fading
faction on behalf of those in the
Empire who favored Deszara. Ahimsas
tendency to avoid conflict was well
known, and Deszara had engineered
this campaign to be a great failure for
the Sun Child, a way to reassert her
own ascension to the Imperial Dais and
the Serpentine Throne. Despite this,
Ahimsa set out from Ugurlu with much
fanfare and pomp, accompanied by her
woefully inadequate force.


She traveled the northeastern coast

of Ragus, passing through Anishad,
Esvesthi, and Tath Nagura, as well as
countless villages between. From these
cities and villages poured support.
Young men and women, eager to join
The Ravi Bacca, turned out with
the arms of their grandmothers and
grandfathers. Merchants in opulent,
Western silks led caravans of grain and

supplies in the armys wake. Local populations lined the

road for miles at a time, cheering the army of The Ravi
Bacca toward victory and adding to its number. Never
before in the history of the Hara Sea had an army
marched under such conditions, so eagerly met and
well provisioned. By the time she reached Uranishad,
Ahimsa sat at the helm of well over nine thousand men
and women.
The Wrath of The Ravi Bacca
The Ravi Baccas emissaries to the lords of Emluk were
turned away, and the two forces met on the Plain of
Salamanders west of the city. The army of Emluk was
strong, its number bolstered with Alagoth mounted
archers and bands of Edish huntsmen. But the smaller
force of The Ravi Bacca drove through its center,
scattering it into the path of the flanking movements
of her own Alagoth mercenaries. At the head of the
charge, outpacing her own force by several dozen
meters, rode The Ravi Baccas chariot, aflame with the
power of the hard woman standing defiantly behind its
driver. Ahimsa bore down on the Emluki lines full of
unleashed fury, and survivors from both sides described
her as the sun made flesh.
Not once did she draw a blade. Instead, ribbons of
solid flame flew from her fingertips, scything through
the ranks of Emluki pikemen. Lightning fell from the

In only a few hours, the army of Emluk was

destroyed, and the bodies of the traitorous
Rights were arrayed in purple silks and the
golden emblems of their houses for funerary
rites. In an act sparing all mercy, however, at
Ahimsas direct order, they were not buried
in the tombs of their families. Instead, in the
desert sands were they laid to rest in shallow
A flame of victory was lit on the central torch
of Emluk in the night, marking the end of
battle. As she addressed her forces under a
starless sky, The Ravi Bacca glowed, her dark,
heavily oiled skin as bright as her ageless eyes.
After that single day, The Ravi Bacca was
known by all as the most powerful woman in
the Neferatha Empire, the only possible heir
worthy of the Amper Deshi.


Four years after the conquest on the fields of
Emluk, increased Edish piracy in the northern
seas became a cause of alarm for the Empire,
and again the Empress turned to The Ravi
Bacca for the solution. Using her network of
intelligence and foreign ties, The Ravi Bacca
located several barbarian big men along the
Edradan coast who were responsible for much
of the increased raiding.
Of the eight tribal leaders, all but three died in
their sleep, their ships burning in the harbors
where they were docked. The remaining three,
the three strongest, were invited to Ugurlu
to meet with The Ravi Bacca. One of them
refused the emissary, Ahimsas cousin Thuragi,
and suffered execution where he stood,
consigning his followers to enslavement.

The first Edish Hattan to visit Ugurlu was

a fool. Ahimsa had his body dumped into
the Vendhi River. The second Edish to visit,
Praetawa of the Hawk, was something else
entirely. He sacked several villages during the
Festival of Janeshka even as Ahimsas spies
were investigating his dealings, and afterwards
he had the foolhardy arrogance to think his
actions entirely without consequence. He was
unlike the men of Ugurlu, and in him, Ahimsa
saw potential. She was well aware of his hubris
and impulsiveness, but was convinced that they
could be overcome with careful guidance and a
firm hand.


cloudless sky at her command, tearing great

craters in the earth and throwing man and
horse alike high into the air. Arrows turned to
mist mid-flight as they arced toward her army.
Small, fleshy faulvins sprang from the bodies of
her victims and ran wildly through the Emluki
ranks, clinging to sword arms, beguiling the
Emluki magickers, and tearing at the exposed
flesh of the still living with their blunt, dirty

She decided immediately upon meeting him

that he would be used as the instrument
to expand the Empires markets in Upper
Edrada without full military force and to bring
enlightenment to the filthy wanderers there.
He stayed in Ugurlu two years learning what
she fed him, her two husbands jealous of the
relationship she forged with the pirate.
Ahimsa dispatched Thuragi with a few
phalanxes of her personal guard to help the
brute unite and secure the factious districts of
Lokod. Though many of her own allies doubted
this course of action, Ahimsa was again
vindicated. Within five months of Praetawa
seizing control of Lokod, the funds flowing
into Ugurlu from Upper Edrada had more than
made up the expense of sending the phalanx.
Furthermore, the dependence of Kelkala and
Kelineph on the newly formalized power of
The Jewel of the North ensured reduced piracy
in three of the Five Seas.
The Ravi Bacca herself took a personal interest
in the success of Lokod, and she frequently
visited the city. Under her tutelage, the pirate
Praetawa became a noble creature, and the
warriorshaman Fitaw a capable domestic
minister. Starting a trend across the rival
Edish city-states, Praetawa adopted many
Neferatha ways and customs. He eschewed
the filthy rag-tunics favored by the wandering
barbarians for the delicate cottons, silks, and
gold ornamentation of the Empire. His clumsy
tattoos were redrawn by The Ravi Baccas own
artists. Ahimsa took Praetawa and Fitaw as


lovers while she visited, and her visits became more frequent with passing time.
In all these years, she appeared to age not a day.

The Spears of Crone


During an extended stay in Lokod in the summer of 870 IC, when she was
49 years old, The Ravi Bacca was told of the death of Bhilamanhi, and was
summoned to Ugurlu for the anointing of the Twenty-Sixth Empress. En route,
she was met by two crimson-robed Stewards and given a silk-wrapped rod, which
she knew to contain one of the sacred Spears of Crone. By the shape of its head,
revealed through its soft wrappings, Ahimsa recognized Amper Vishvara: There
was another in contest for the Throne.
It took only three days in Ugurlu for Deszara to forfeit Amper Deshi and
concede loss to Ahimsa. During the extravagant anointing ceremony, when the
head of Amper Deshi was dragged across The Ravi Baccas palm, an audible gasp
escaped the lips of many thread-sensitive weavers in attendance. At the spears
touch, the glow of Ahimsas thread, though not diminished, was somewhat
changed. The first signs of age would appear on her face after that day, though
she had already held onto the body of her youth for over thirty years.

The Empress of the Sun

For two decades following her anointment, The Ravi Bacca toured the Empire,
correcting the wrongs that were once out of her control and re-appointing
governors as needed to increase the control of the Imperial office. Far flung
provinces that had fallen from the Imperial ledger and were beyond her reach as
governor of Ugurlu were now visited, their accounts corrected. The Ravi Bacca
wielded her army of Lefts with the abilities that her forerunners had used to
wield the Cardinal and Expeditionary forces. Trade was expanded in all regions
of the world, even into Gundrada and the Kuludo Islandsa feat impossible on
strength of arms alone. Her council, led by Thuragi, met with the representatives
of the Anu Empress, establishing trade routes with the impassive lords of the
Under her leadership, the Empire enjoyed the success of Ugurlu, The Golden
City. Ugurlu itself, already the largest and most profitable city in all of the Hara
Sea, redoubled its growth. A new era of prosperity was ushered in. The Imperial
Cult flourished even abroad, and the myriad deities of the Crowns fell somewhat
in the esteem of the people. Resistance to her rule began to manifest itself in the
Crowns, and they looked for any way possible to undermine The Ravi Bacca, but
all to no avail.


The Secrets of Lokod

In 890 IC, The Ravi Bacca was finally able to return to Lokod. In her absence,
she had tasked Thuragi with exploring the unmapped regions of the city. The
population was expanding, and would soon occupy all corners of Lokod. Thuragi
was to find and safeguard any of the cultural treasures left by the long dead
Edradan Empire. And so it was that on her arrival Thuragi presented Ahimsa

with news of great, untouched libraries full of

knowledge and artifacts that had lain unused
for countless centuries.

As her time in Lokod wore on, many noble

families in Ugurlu became wary of The Ravi
Baccas relationship with the city and its
barbarian Arbiter. The two were more and
more inseparable. Under Ahimsa and Praetawa,
Lokod had become a city of wealth and prestige
that might soon rival even the great Ugurlu,
and the Rights began to openly question the
Empresss devotion to the Empire. Her manner
and personal attire had never quite fit the
austere image of the Empress, but now she was
living a life of luxury and appetite as though she
were one of the Stewards herself. Others among
them felt that Lokod and its environs should
have been subjugated by the sword, like the
other conquests of the Empire, instead of by
the non-violent annexation engineered by The
Ravi Bacca. There was resentment among them
over the wealth being amassed in Lokod. And
many of her councilors and peers resented also
the absence of their beloved Empress, lost in a
barbarians bed.


Many of Praetawas strongest magickers had

been consumed in flames or madness wrestling
with the secrets of these libraries, but The Ravi
Bacca found that she could decipher the texts
with relative ease. She began spending more
and more time in these libraries, and less in the
beds of Praetawa and Fitaw. The information
she amassed was used to create a center of
learning in Lokod that attracted scholars from
around the world. This success only served
to deepen the divide between Lokod and
the other city-states and nomadic tribes of
Edish. Many of the traditional Edish felt that
Praetawa and his people had abandoned the
totems so long ago that they no longer consider
Lokod an Edish people at all. Skirmishes
between the forces of the various factions
became more common, but the arts uncovered
by The Ravi Bacca meant that few regional
powers could challenge Praetawa.

The Death of The Ravi Bacca

In the autumn of 910 IC, though still
inhabiting the body of a woman not half her
age, The Ravi Bacca began to exhibit symptoms
of ill health. She was aware of the advancing
affect of time within her body since the day
of the anointment, when she had felt Amper
Deshis edge. Still she remained in Lokod,
spending her final days in the depths of the
city surrounded by the knowledge of long dead
magick that she knew was recorded by those
even stronger than her. In 912, Ahimsa died in
the arms of Praetawa.
In Ugurlu, a more war-minded Empress was
anointed, and the people of the Neferatha
Empire exhibited a popular hatred of Lokod
and more generally of the Edish people. It was
said that Praetawa had stolen The Ravi Bacca,
and had drained the power of her golden aura
to fuel the growth of his city-state, and that
all Edish must suffer for this. Not bothering
to differentiate between the varied factions of
Edish inhabiting Edrada, the Rights pushed
for conflict against them collectively. Support
for retaliation swelled up from the lower
castes, and, finally loosed of The Ravi Baccas
restraining guidance, the restless machine of
the Empire girded itself for a war of vengeance
and expansion.


The Alagoth Learn New Ways


In the Second Age, many young Alagoth clans

acted as vassals of the powerful Neferatha
Empire across Oldfire and among the
borderlands. Used as shock troops and cavalry,
the riders proved priceless to the desert-bred
Rights and Crowns. Through the networks of
Alagoth patriarchs, the riches and influence
of the Neferatha spread over Lower Edrada
without the aid of soldiers, challenging the new
city-state economies of Upper Edrada. Alagoths
were given conquered cities as gifts, urbanizing
the typically nomadic horsemen, and Ugurlu
became the center of a far-reaching economy.
Despite the stark contrast in gender roles, the
Neferatha oligarchy tolerated the prosperity
of certain Alagoth clans in exchange for a
foothold in Lower Edrada. Wealthy Crowns
of the Keshava and Bhimavagra cults became
particularly interested in rumors of the White
Forest that circulated among the Alagoths.
As new cities and ruins became available to
the Neferatha ambassadors, excavation and
research began; word spread within elite circles
of Ugurlu that Lower Edrada might one day be
worth more than the sheep and goats it then

Battle of Kevmor Road

In 802 IC, accompanied by three Crowns
from Xeruthan, an orderly force of Benarekata
Alagoth rode along the southern edge of
the White Forest, searching near the city of
Phessanika for the rumored ruins of a road
that led through the dark heart of the forest.
Upon finding a structure that may have marked
the beginning of a flagstone road, the Crowns
ordered their mercenaries to begin exploring
within the wood. Kezar Ata Berazar led thirty
men past the outer wall of trees and into the
forest of ebony wood and silver leaves. From
within a covered litter, two of the Crowns
muttered ancient spells and looked deep into
the White Forest, intent on plumbing the
mysteries of the foreign land. The third walked
with stave at the ready, her magicks poised to


From the serene wood came great chaos. As

the Crowns whispered their arcane verses, they
unknowingly came upon an active Hearth.
A Fey spirit awakened in the forest, taking a
shape the sight of which brought confusion
and panic to the human mind. It did not speak
before attacking the group of riders. Among
the trees, the Alagoths suffered worse odds
than they would have upon the flats outside the
mythic forest. The Fey spirit tore apart earth
and flesh in huge strokes of its massive limbs.
The many eyes darted from warrior to warrior,
slaying and crippling with ease.
As the Fey slashed to pieces horse and rider
alike, Kezar saw a small group of what looked
like Edish hermits. The hermits, ghosts
among the trees, set upon the Fey spirit with
magicks of their own. One of the female Edish
summoned a dark Fiend that weakened the
Fey considerably. The males beside her worked
magick from the Tapestry itself, their fingers
strumming silvery threads that glowed lightly
and faded out of sight yards away. One of the
Crowns had her head removed by the savage
claws of the Fey spirit; the other lost three
limbs before she fell dead. Thirteen of the
Alagoth mercenaries were killed in the battle
and twice as many horses.
Kezar approached the six Edish woodspeople
after the chaos of the battle subsided. The
third Crown was being held prisoner by the
leader of the group, who introduced his kith as
members of the Duadha people. Kezar thanked
them for their aid on behalf of all the Sons of
Benarek. The Duadha leader, Wakeshwa, spoke:
Let us kill this dark foreigner who taints our
holy wood, and we will direct you to the road
you seek, which is called Kevmor in the early
tongue. Upon closer examination, the Duadha
seemed less Edish to the aged horseman. The
Son of Berazar cast a glance at the Crown,
her face twisted with indignation. I am in
her service until she finds the location of the
road, honorable hermit. He paused before
continuing, Point out this Kevmor Road to
her, and my contract with the Neferatha will
be expired. You may then to do her what you


wish. Wakeshwa led the Alagoths

to the remains of the once-regal
road. Upon reaching the overgrown
flagstones, Kezar spoke to the
Neferatha prisoner: Well, my task
is done. There you have the road,
Shehavi. He looked to the bound
Crown with a small laugh, and she
spat at him in return. The Duadha
priestess killed the Crown known
as Shehavi according to the rituals
of the living forest.
The assimilation of the Duadha
into the Alagoth over the next
century would become a great
source of torment to the Neferatha
of Ragus. Phessanika swelled with
Alagoth immigrants and became an
important hub of art and religion.
Tree Religion of the
The Alagoths druidic religion
is based on the teachings of the
Duadha, which venerate the
fertility and strength of the forest.
The various clans and caravans of
Alagoth all share in this deeply
rooted religion, which relies not on
dogma or structured beliefs but on
a series of rituals focused on the
cycles of life and the liminal spaces
between humans and preternatural
beings. The dense and gnarled
Forest, too thick for horses to pass,
is the secretive, protected realm of
the druids.
Rites follow the precession of the
constellations and seek to capture
the will of the Threads. Priests
labor over astrological charts and
share a growing knowledge of the
Tapestry as marked across the night
sky. They erect large stone and
wooden installations that measure
and track the stars. Clad only in
fog-grey cloaks, druids eat no meat
and spend much of the daylight
hours sleeping in their glades.

It is only deep in the forest that the druids feel truly at

home, though their presence in the traveling camps is now
expected. The young are taught, and herbs not grown in
the White Forest itself are collected. Some druids even live
among the crowded urban centers of Alagoth cities.
Priestesses deal with local spirits and animal sacrifices. Their
magick stems not from the sky but from blood and earth.
Almost detached from the male druids, priestesses scour
the forests for potent ingredients for their many charms,
potions, and rituals.
Separate from any lineage, druids form their own
settlements, called Circles, and negotiate between the
Alagoth people and the spirits of the Forest. It is said the
druids hold secret magicks the forest has bestowed upon
them, and that they may speak with the forest and tame
it with these magicks for the benefit of the patriarchs and
their people.



Although Chethahan and Thulhu retained

the native cultures of Lower Edrada and
their native aristocratic families, Charzen
and Phessanika were subjugated by powerful
patriarchs in the early years of the ninth
century. Smaller cities such as Rekarek,
Xanthek, Vanevah, and Ishtarek all hosted
Alagoth kings who settled their buildings and
took over their economies. It was in Charzen
that the Iassata found much honor. Their
patriarch, Nerakbar Ata Mushab, won many
wives and horses across the Summer Field
and deep in the Bowls, a large valley tucked
between the White Forest and the Cataract
Mountains. He descended upon Charzen in 834
IC with a band of over three thousand, leading
alongside the Iassata riders from the Roshata
and Xarethata.

The Might of the Iassata


It was also during these years that the Alagoth

independent of the encroaching Empire began
spending more time in the cities of Lower
Edrada, many of the patriarchs becoming local
kings and warlords. Mixing cultures and new
ways of living, however, did not divide the
People of the Steppe as urbanization shattered
the Edish. The Alagoth economies of pastoral
riders and urban merchants were symbiotic,
and the entire countryside was one large
market where goods and culture circulated.
While the Edish chased herds that belonged to
the land over hill and dale, Alagoth shepherds
tended flocks of their own. Cities had always
been important waypoints and trading ports of
the Alagoth immigrants, and clans that made
urban life their own were still in contact with
kin spread across the continent as before.

Over his long life Nerakbar of the Iassata was

known to surround himself with an honor guard
of druids, gharun, and Berserkers, rewarding
their service more generously than the loyalty
of his own huol. By sending so much wealth
to the empty beds of his ascetic companions,
the sons of Nerakbars own family had fewer
resources with which to plot against their
patriarch. For many years Nerakbar starved his
competitors among the strong warriors of the
Iassata and pushed them to raid and plunder
on their own. From Charzen they flew like bees
from a nest, proud warriors seeking fame and
fortune among the weak villages of the coasts
and the Summer Field. Many wives were taken
from unknown peoples, and the city of Charzen
Nerakbar Goes to Rushing Lake
In the year 841, Nerakbar led a caravan far
into the Bowls, coming upon the shore of
the Rushing Lake just as summers heat grew
most fierce. Many of the native cultures in the
region were eager to trade with the patriarch,
as few Alagoths had traveled this way, fearing
the myths of the region. As the camps women
went to draw water from the rippling lake, they
beheld in their reflection a dark vision:
A terrible salamander, black and speckled with
yellow stars, scurries among the rushes, swallowing

In the tent of the patriarch, there was much

commotion and whispering. Word of the vision
spread through the camp, and many were ill at
ease. The patriarch was likened to the horse
of the vision, and many feared the lake would
bring destruction to the camp and an end to
their prosperity. There were those who refused
to drink any water at all, and many pushed for
an immediate departure from the region.
Nerakbar too was troubled by the portents of
the vision, and asked his councilors to offer
interpretation. He sent out messengers to the
local villages, offering a great reward in horses
and wives to any man who could interpret the
vision of the women. Six days later, a hermit of
strange custom, who lived near a large village
at the edge of the White Forest, came to the
tabernacle of the patriarch.
How come you here? asked the patriarch,
for the old man arrived on foot and his village
was over seven days walk from the camp. I
foresaw your coming to the Rushing Lake and
the trouble it would cause you many nights ago,
Patriarch of the Iassata. Let me tell you what
I have envisioned, for my own dream offers
the clearer picture. With that, the old man
recounted his dream:
A hawk spies two salamanders chasing prey among
the rushes. One of the salamanders is fierce and large,
chasing men and women over wide tracts of land. The
other salamander is slight and small, chasing insect
prey among the reeds. The hawk swoops to snatch the

smaller amphibian from the shallow waters and lands

high in a nearby tree to eat the creature. It swallows
the little salamander and enjoys the meal, growing
larger from the meat. Greedy for more, the hawk
circles the lake, hoping to now snatch away the larger
of the two. As it flies above, however, the monstrous
salamander leaps from the waters and catches the
hawk in its mouth. Swallowing the bird, it descends
to the depths of the water satisfied.


up the men and women it uncovers. The beast grows

to an awesome size and torments all those who
approach it. All of a sudden, from dry land, a horse
comes and tramples the giant salamander, crushing
its body and spreading its slime over the ground. In
every direction, the waters of pool and stream turn
to blood. After many days, the horse is thirsty and,
fearing death, dares to imbibe the bloody water from
a nearby pool. Immediately, the horse is struck with
pains and falls to the earth, thrashing and kicking.
Its body twists and crackles, changing in shape from
the majestic equine into the salamander itself. When
the body of the horse finishes its metamorphosis, the
waters are clear, and the new salamander dives into
the lake.

The old man offered an interpretation of both

visions: The patriarch had traveled far from his
natural home, and although prosperity seemed
forthcoming, he would be destroyed by the
local god of the Bowls unless he and his camp
left the Rushing Lake before sunset on the
following day.
The druids among Nerakbars retinue
recognized the clothing and speech of the old
man; his people were enemies to the Duadha
generations ago and were nearly extinct now.
These druids pressured the patriarch to pay
no heed to the mans interpretation, hearing in
them a political ploy against the allies of the
Duadha, but Nerakbar was too insulted by the
warning therein to ignore the hermits words
Stay with the camp, bold hermit, commanded
the patriarch. If your vision proves true, you
may take as a reward all the wealth our demise
leaves behind. His manner was bold, but those
who knew him sensed the rattle of nerves in his
The Vision Coming to Pass
Nerakbar was quiet the next day, his mind
consumed with the interpretation of the vision
given by the old hermit. He had never feared
the native gods of Lower Edrada, and the
region thus far had given up great riches to the
benefit of all parties. On the morning after the
appointed day of departure, however, when
the women went to draw water from the lake,
a fearsome salamander as long as ten horses
appeared and swallowed up many wives and
daughters of the caravan. The warriors of the
camp were quick to draw bow and spear, and a
great force led by the patriarch himself rode to
the edge of the lake.



The Greater Salamander proved a powerful

adversary. Its skin leaked a toxic venom, a thick
goo that stuck to ground and blade; its hide
was heavy and slippery; its movements were
quick for its bulk. Nerakbar lost many of his
hawad in the battle as well as his prized stallion,
Burahen Ata Phallosh. The fight lasted several
days, and each warrior tired many horses.
Victory came only after four of the most loyal
Berserkers sacrificed their own lives charging
the Fell monster on foot. Their jagged spears
pinned the forelimbs of the Salamander to the
earth, and their swords cut at its tongue and
face. Nerakbar led the final assault and slew the
beast with his own spear.
The loss of many beloved women kept the men
of the caravan from tasting a sweet victory that
day. Rituals of mourning were followed by all
survivors under the guidance of the druids. One
month later, in a spirit of renewed vigor, there
was a great celebration in the camp to finally
revel in the slaying of the Fell Salamander, and
the local lords were invited with their daughters
for a feast in the tents of Nerakbar.
The Plague of Gnats
During the feast of the lords, a host of gnats
arrived thicker than fog. They filled the
storehouses and the tents, spoiling the food
and weakening the horses. Their bites left boils
upon the skin, and the feast was cut short,
all fleeing in torment. Thousands of men and
animals were bitten, and the local rulers fled
the camp of Nerakbar ill and angered. Huge
fires were made on the edge of camp to lure the
pests away, but none could sleep or eat well for
several days.
Nerakbar called the old hermit to his tent:
What manner of curse is this? You mentioned
nothing of such a plague in your warning,
old wizard. The hermit responded with
rebuke, You brought this upon yourself, great
patriarch. I, Moreshi, gave you warning on
behalf of my master, but you did not listen.
At this, the proud patriarch bellowed with
laughter. I squashed your god under my
sandal like a fat toad. If this is the extent of his
retribution, then we shall bear it.


Moreshi responded: Make no boast, Nerakbar.

The Salamander was no great spirit, but a
servant like myself. He was known as Olyan
to the devoted. By not heeding my words, you
have angered our master, Ghorn Duul, the
Old One who resides at the bottom of the
Rushing Lake. He took much pleasure in the
Salamander Olyan, and my premonition of your
victory over His pet is what brought me here.
I tried to spare yourself as well as my fellow
servant this fate, but now there is no future
for you whatever your actions. These gnats are
simply the salt of Ghorn Duul. He prepares you
for his palate!
The druids moved to strike Moreshi down with
their large, sickle-shaped blades, but Nerakbar
held them back. Take me to visit your master,
Moreshi. One lord to another, I will parlay with
him. Moreshi doubted the intentions of the
patriarch, but the hermit reasoned that only a
direct confrontation with the Old One Ghorn
Duul would break the Alagoths spirit.
Two days after the men left to walk the
circumference of the lake, the gnats dispersed,
returning to whence they came. Two days later,
Nerakbar entered the camp alone. He made no
proclamation regarding the voyage, but ordered
the Iassata to make camp at once. They rode
back to Charzen directly.
Among the druids, it is believed that
Nerakbar made a deal with Ghorn Duul,
offering himself as a servant to Old One in
place of Olyan the Salamander and Moreshi
the hermit. Through Nerakbar, the god
wielded a greater power over the region. In
druid tales, the womens vision in the lake
is given preeminence, and the Nerakbar
who returned from visiting Ghorn Duul is
considered changed and reshaped in the
image of the dark god. Their anecdotal
evidence includes Nerakbars love of heated
spas and nighttime swims, his resilience
to the poisons they claim to have slipped
him time and time again, and his giving
up of wine and meat. The druids distrust
the Iassata, especially the descendants of
Nerakbar, to this day.

Cities of Lower Edrada

Architecture centered on wooden columns
and stone capitals. Flower and tree bloomed
indoors and out, gardens hanging from timber
arboretums in every plaza and palace. Large
patios and agoras allowed humid breezes to
pass through the many houses and public
chambers. The feel of the yurt and the
tabernacle of the caravans was somewhat
maintained even among the opulent stone
buildings. Interior rooms were formed not by
permanent walls but by thick, heavy carpets
hung on taut cords. Scenes woven on either
side decorated the temporary rooms and
dictated the uses of the spaces within.
Around the king, a base of ministers made
decisions that ruled the local horse lords.
The traditions of honor that governed the
camps became a complex system of laws and
ordinances that respected the sovereignty of
every patriarch no matter his domain or his
wealth in horses. Every Alagoth was trained
to ride the horse, shoot the bow, and speak
the truth. Philosophy developed among the
idle wealthy of substance. Art flourished even
within the roving caravans.
According to the religion of the trees, death
was kept from the earth by exposing the
bodies of the fallen to the elements atop sacred
towers. After a prescribed amount of time,
the bones were retrieved and buried in stone
tombs. No part of the body was given back to
the soil.
The Founding of the King City
In the year 829 of the Imperial Calendar,
six clans of Alagoth met together in the city

of Phessanika and rode east into the Great

Steppe. Lively caravans trailed miles behind
the ornately dressed patriarchs on wheel, foot,
and hoof. Large pillars of wood and the finest
carpets were brought on heavy wagons over
the hard earth; artisans from across Edrada
and Ragus had been hired at great price; horses
stout and strong had been bred for generations
for the labor to come. Of the clans present,
the Zaneshata were the wealthiest, and the
deep yellow tartan of their forefathers covered
most of the warriors who bustled in the mixing


The Prosperous King

By 860 IC, Charzen was the most populated of
the Free Cities. Nerakbar was the first king of
the city-state and ruled over the patriarchs of
six clans who used the city as hub and home.
He appointed his own son, Ghoreshan, as his
successor among the Iassata. The city became
the model for most Lower Edradan cities of the
next century.

The remains of six patriarchs rode in six stone

coffins on a grand barge, six sets of bones neatly
tucked in their padded hollows. Guarded by
powerful druidic magick and carved with the
patterns of stars and the image of the tree, the
square coffins proclaimed the heraldry of their
charges. This high honor given to the Duadha
helped motivate the acceptance of the new
religion among many clans and patriarchs.
Two hundred leagues into the Steppe a great
city was built to enshrine the relics of the
Alagoth heroes: King City, a tomb for the
mighty who came before and a signpost for
the weary still to come, alerting all wanderers
of the Steppe to the abundance of Lower
Edrada. Pillars of black wood held up stone
capitals and vaulted roofs covered in vines of
fruit and blossom. The laborers of the six clans
erected the entire polis atop a raised platform
on a site with no natural protections. It took
thirty-seven years to build the platform and
the under-chambers, and another forty-eight to
finish the palace of the patriarchs in the heart
of the camp. By 914 IC, when the second phase
of construction had finished, the city housed
ten-thousand warriors and eighty-thousand
wives and daughters.


The Anu Explore the Northern World


After many centuries spent in isolation,

solidifying the state and pacifying the local
gods, wealthy Anu lords took to exploring
further from the Kuludo Islands. Those Houses
with large coastal holdings began building ships
capable of hauling great quantities of resources
and goods. Longer and deeper than the small
skiffs and houseboats used to navigate the
archipelagos of the Eastern Islands, these ships
resembled those ancient vessels that carried
Hataro and Gazu in exile from the Unseen
Homeland. Such crafts often had five or six
sails, colorful banners of silk that bespoke the
wealthy Houses and their lords, and room for
fifty sailors.
Also in the Second Age, trade began with the
Neferatha Empire to the southeast. While new
goods made it into the Kuludo Islands from
abroad, new ideas rarely reached the isolated
peoples of the Anu cities and villages. Strict
measures were taken to keep the cults and
heresies of the Neferatha from influencing the
already ritualized lives of commoners and Sabu
Hiroto Tokuma the Sailor
One of the first to venture beyond the Eastern
Islands was Hiroto Tokuma of House Egret.
Four broad beige sails each bore the crest of
the Egret in dark, earth brown. Two smaller
sails of the brightest white made sharp triangles
high on the ships central masts. Hiroto took a
vessel of thirty sailors up the coast of Gundrada
(which at this time, the Anu called Hetixtul,
the Dry Island) trading silks with the towns he
found there in exchange for herbs and furs. The
Kuludo Islands provided little in the way of
luxurious furs, the coats of jungle cats making
poor clothing for the wealthy and used only by
priests and hermits.


Upon returning to Kuludo Island, Hiroto was

made a powerful lord. His annual stipend
increased from three hundred to three
thousand koku of maize, and he married into
the most powerful family of the House. His
success as a trader spurred other Houses and
families to fund voyages far from home.

Wakasin Hotl, Vayok-Friend

The second sailor to bring great honor to his
House was Wakasin Hotl of House Heron,
a lesser brother among his family. His ship
had three broad sails of indigo with the pale
yellow emblem of the Heron embroidered
on the center swath. Two triangular sails, also
of yellow, topped the ships masts. Wakasin
took twenty-four sailors with him: four sabu
relatives; two Thun, one priest and one pilot;
and eighteen rowers. He loaded the ship with
silks, coarse textiles, and spices. A storm kept
the party from landing on the desired coast
of Gundrada, and Wakasin decided to push
forward, his pilot drawing a new chart each
time the ship discovered new land.
After three weeks of sailing, the weather turned
suddenly cold. Like winter in the Kuludo
highlands, snow covered the shoreline as far as
Wakasin could see. The sailors were hungry and
running low on supplies, and the bold among
them asked their master if they might take
some hunters to shore for game. Wakasin bade
them hold off for one more day. He wanted
as many men on the oars as the ship could
manage, and the motion of the sea convinced
him a large island was just over the northern
By morning, Wakasin and his ship had reached
the coast of Vaankur, coming aground not far
from the cliffs that bore the Three Homes and
Wagshigaad. The sailors had little hope for
finding game in such a frozen land, the winter
animals of Kuludo not generally used for food,
and a grumble began to fill the ship. When
Wakasin gave the command for the crew to
disembark, he met loud resistance. One head
fell by Wakasins blade in the scuffle, and the
rest of the men quickly quieted. The landing
party was made, and seven men walked on a
thick layer of ice toward the cliffs. They spent
an hour hiking along the shore before coming
upon a large crevasse in the cliffs that led
upward. Built into the side of the crevasse was a

staircase of wood and iron, unrefined of

style but expertly fashioned.

Two fires warmed the vast hall from either end, and
the walls were decorated with trophies of bone and
metal. Furs lined the earthen floor, and furniture of
bone and hide were brought near the warm hearths for
the guests to sit upon. Wakasin and his cousin did their
best communicating with the Vayok elders, displaying
samples of the goods they brought and drawing
numbers in the dirt, but the elders seemed interested
only in serving the Anu a thick, sweet-smelling
beverage. After much confusion, Wakasin finished his
bowl of wheat beer to the smiles of the Vayok. At this,
the doors of the hall were opened and a feast begun.


The pilot spoke to the entire party

by addressing Wakasin: This is not
Hetixtul, and the people here are
unknown to us, my lord. With such
wonders of metal, it can be assumed
they possess weapons far superior to
those of the barbarians on Hetixtul.
Wakasin agreed, and the group pushed
on carefully. At the top of the staircase
stood a small structure, wide enough
only for a single person to stand inside
it. As the party approached, a figure
covered entirely in fur darted from the
shack and set off running over the snowy
turf. At the sudden movement, Wakasin
and his sabu companion drew their
blades. Three of the sailors fit arrows in
their bows. Let him run, said Wakasin.
He will let his people know they have
visitors. The next few moments will be
of utmost importance for our survival
and our future fortunes. My cousin is
trained in many languages and customs;
let him speak for us and put down your

seem absent, but so do any recognizable weapons,

responded Lord Wakasin. His men calmed a little.
Murmurs and whispers followed the Anu until the
entire swarm reached the central building of the city.

Inside the hall, the women and the weapons of the

Vayok became visible. Apparently, whispered Wakasin
to his companions, both lay hidden under layers of
fur. His men laughed, and all enjoyed the nights

Wakasins judgment proved wise. The

Vayok elders approached the Anu party
slowly, over many hours. Magicks were
cast and spirits invoked before the icedwellers dared address the Anu directly.
At nightfall, near the edge of the cliff
and the wood-watchers shack, first
contact was made between Anu and
Vayok through the persons of Wakasin
Hotl of House Heron and Grefwren
Jerik of the Hikjin clan.
The landing party was invited to a great
hall of stone managed by the Tekthukek
clan in the middle of Wagshigaad. As the
slim foreigners were escorted through
the flagstone streets, hundreds of Vayok
crowded the small group, peeking out
from fur hoods. Children climbed onto
their parents shoulders to gain a better
view. Where are their womenfolk?
asked one of the sailors. They do



Origins of Khazil Labor

Late the following day, Wakasin and his cousin
finished negotiations with the Vayok, eager to
load their ship with beer, furs, and axes. Upon
returning to their ship, however, they found
only three survivors, the two sabu and the
priest. The remaining sailors had fled in the
night to find food and never returned. Wakasin
unloaded the goods he owed the Vayok, his
frustration hardly visible through the carefully
practiced countenance demanded by Anu
culture: How would we row home without a


brought to the southern islands. The Anu had

many reasons for fearing the underground, but
Vayok miners took to life in mountain holes
readily. They plumbed new depths and brought
forth great riches from the earth. Also, the
wolves bred in Vaankur became fashionable
pets, powerful war machines, and durable labor
animals in Kuludo. Few of these adopted Vayok
returned to Vaankur in their lifetimes, spending
their years instead as indentured servants and
workers in the service of Anu nobility.
The name for the ethnic heritage of the
Vayok people is Khazil. All cultures outside
Vaankur refer to those of Vayok descent
who have emigrated to the Kuludo Islands
or Upper Edrada as Khazil. A true Vayok
to many people is one who participates in
the cyclical hunts of Vaankur and maintains
strong clan relationships, two practices
difficult for those living abroad.

The Vayok who accompanied Wakasin to

the boat understood readily and spread word
among their relatives. The next morning, a
party of eighteen Vayok youths volunteered
to row for Wakasin. It became apparent that
these rowers were fortune-seekers, experienced
sailors eager to seek adventure and wealth in
the Kuludo Islands. Payment was to be made to
the settlement in exchange for the labor of the
rowers. Wakasin left his priest with the Vayok
to learn their language and establish a better
trade relationship between House Heron and
the snow-folk.

Thun Rise

And so the relocation of Vayok labor to the

Kuludo Islands began. Initially as rowers and
petty laborers and eventually as wolf-trainers
and miners, Vayok children as young as nine
or ten were purchased from their clans and

Thun suffered under the Hhan aristocracy as

second-class citizens for centuries, but new
opportunities for trade and mobility in an
age of expansion brought great fortune to a
handful of Thun families. One such family, the

Igotutl, founded the first Thun House and rose

high enough to infiltrate Anu court life on the
Imperial Island.

Over the course of many years, Sagayu and

his allies purchased adjacent lands and built
estate homes rivaling those of the most
fashionable Houses, Heron and Tiku. Without
a kito, however, there was little the coalition
of families could do to gain acceptance as a
legitimate political House.
A kito is a holy stone that marks the
authority of a Sabu House. Each House
owns one stone, which is typically kept at
the center of a vast, labyrinthine garden
within a heavily fortified estate. The central
estate of each House supports the most
important members of the ruling families,
though the highest Lord will live on the
Imperial Island at Court. There were eight
stones originally, uncut blocks of rock that
bear the seal of the Imperial Emperor. With
the fall of House Dove, one of the stones
was brought to the Imperial Island and
decorated as a reminder of what happens
when one House pursues too much power.
In the 42nd year of the Age of the Sleeping
Owl, the Quihen Family, the ruling dynasty of
House Karras, lost much land in a handful of
skirmishes and business deals with the Wextutl
Family of House Egret. Neither House wanted
to support the conflict initially, and so the
two families were left to their own devices.
The losses quickly added up and crippled the
Quihen, however, and House Karras lost much

The families that remained in House Karras

pulled together to discuss what might be done
to regain their position. Lord Quihen left
the Imperial Island and returned to his home
estate. His servants warned him that the family
was nearing bankruptcy. His army of sabu,
however, was well-trained and rugged and,
better yet, paid through the end of the year.
Other families proved poor in maize but rich in
arms as well. The only option seemed a military


Sagayu Igotutl became wealthy building ships.

His annual stipend reached one thousand koku
before he was made Sabu by marrying into
the Tomotuga family. Sagayu promoted many
within his family and trained a small army of
swordsmen to protect his honor. Most Thun
who made Sabu turned their backs on their
heritage and lived among the Hhan ashamed of
their pasts. Sagayu was different. He rallied the
wealthy Thun families together and fought for a
voice among the Houses.

strength in Court. Many of the Karras families

allied themselves with other Houses and kept
themselves distant from the shame of the

The new, smaller House Karras began to covet

the growing riches of its neighboring Thun
families. Lord Quihen sent word to his peers:
These Thun families that border our lands
bind together to make a place among the Hhan
in court. They have few allies and little honor,
but their riches grow with every passing season.
Let us sharpen our swords with their stones
and reclaim the Hhan maize they grow. We
may even gain honor among the Hhan Houses
for putting an end to this upstart movement.
In one season of war, many families of House
Karras sent sabu and saboteur to weaken
Sagayu Igotutl and his allies.
House Karras under Thun
Fortune was with the Thun faction, however,
and many Karras sons fell before the army of
Lord Igotutl. Sagayu and his allies decided to
push their advantage, marching their forces
toward the Karras estate home. When the
defenses of Lord Quihen were all but broken
and his allies scattered, Sagayu sent word to
the cornered ruler: You and your allies have
nipped at my heels long enough, and now your
sons are dead. You will die today, Lord Quihen.
To stop that, nothing can be done. I was forced
to this action by your own strategy, and I offer
no pity. If you care for your lineage, however, I
will accept your daughter, Mikimo, to marry my
son. She can stay among her estate, and your
blood will remain within House Karras.



Lord Quihen acquiesced. He was executed

along with his sabu in the new Igotutl gardens.
Mikimo married Barabunto, eldest son of the
Igotutl. Sagayu, Lord Igotutl, took up residence
in the old Quihen estate and accepted his place
as guardian of the kito of House Karras. Over
time, Hhan families returned their allegiance
to House Karras, and Sagayu took up residence
on the Imperial Island alongside his peers.
Even a generation before, no Anu could have
predicted that one of the Seven Houses would
be ruled by a wealthy Thun dynasty.

Flower: Soma & Salve

High in the canopy of the forest that covers
two-thirds of Kapixtul, a flower was discovered
with unparalleled psychotropic effects. When
refined, the seeds of this flower produce a
potent opiate. The riches a good source of
Flower can provide a family or House become
the motive for war, sabotage, marriage, and
Vines will often flower in one region of the
rainforest canopy while their root structure
originates many miles away, which makes
protecting the entire length of a vine extremely
difficult. Much of the forest also floods for
many months out of the year, making passage
and exploration a tiresome effort. Inhabitants
of the forest build forts and estates several feet
off the ground, sometimes around large trunks.
The finicky plants are almost impossible to
transplant, but harvesting of seeds can help
spread a particular strain to other places,
mixing it with the native species or founding
a new Garden entirely. These Gardens are
often protected by local militia and guarded as
ferociously as any gold or diamond mine. Many
Anu rulers start into politics as a Garden Sabu,
looking over the supply of Flower to a higher


Particularly of interest to the Neferatha, Flower

is also the largest export of the Islands. Great
ships filled with ochre powder carry the wealth
of nations across the Hara Sea, guarded by
magicks and men-at-arms from both empires.

Flower: Soma and Salve

Grown on vines deep in the rainforests
and thickets of many islands within the
continent, Flower has become the most
precious resource in all of the Empire,
rivaling the place of maize in Anu culture.
Far from the ground, sometimes a hundred
feet high, vines of a particular genus will
sprout beautiful flowers in every imaginable
color. Flowers are harvested and treated to
become a medicinal product treasured for
a variety of properties. Most nobly, Flower
petals can be made into a healing salve
unparalleled by any other herb known to the
Anu. The darker side of Flower, however,
lies in its properties as an opiate, dulling the
senses while expanding the mind. Many of
the brothels, dens, and private chambers
across the continent harbor Flower-drinkers
on a regular basis. Houses hungry for profit
and recreation cultivate new strains with
unique properties and patent new leaf
shapes and color patterns.
Because Flower grows in remote places,
estate-forts grow up around particularly
productive trees and areas. A home or
community built around a particular source
of Flower is called a Garden. These house
the workers and weathersmiths of the plant,
tending to the strains and cultivating them,
as well as a full militia of guards, sometimes
entire companies. Sabu aristocrats who
embarrass their families are often sent to
more luxurious Gardens as a form of exile,
removing them from the play of politics and

The Vayok Build Ships

Tundra Wolves
The Vayok are proud breeders of Tundra
wolves and have developed six distinct
breeds over the long history of their
culture. The earliest myths contain heroes
with loyal lupine companions, and the
close relationship between the wolves and
humans became taken for granted by both.
The smaller breeds, Hukshis, are used
to pull sleds and as pets, their body heat
helping to warm family shelters and public
houses. Medium-sized wolves with fur of
pure white are used as hunting companions,
scouts, and messengers.
The largest of the breeds, male wolves
weighing up to 40 stone, are bred for two
distinct temperaments. Most of these are
used as pack animals and mated for a loyal,
industrious temperament. One lineage of
large wolves, however, is bred and trained
as fighters for sale to the Anu. Vayok
themselves never tolerate aggression in the
wolves they live and work with, but the
economic benefit of raising guard wolves
and combatants for the Anu merchants has
encouraged many talented breeders to try
developing the best lineage. An escaped
wolf of that size and temperament, however,
would cause great damage to the camp and
its inhabitants before being put down.

As populations grew and clans expanded, hunts

became crowded and harder to sustain. The
amount of food and lodging materials that had
to be carried along during the hunting season
made travel slow, and conflicts between rival
bravados became more common. This led
many youths to take to the seas in search of
spoils during the warmer months, leaving the
honors of the hunt to more established clan
leaders. These youths, however, began accruing
honors of their own, bringing back useful tools,
stronger weapons, and armor from settlements
on the Edradan outlands forgotten to their own
kind. Though less popular than hunting, raiding
became a substantial part of Vayok culture, new
generations seeing great advances in seafaring
longboats and weapon-smithing.


Over the next few hundred years, construction

was vast, and the remnants of the Old Empire
that once dotted the Vaankur coast all but
disappeared. Anu merchants looking for slaves,
wolves, and precious gems introduced coin
and finery to Vayok culture, visiting on routine
dates when waters were less treacherous.
Raiding parties against isolated Gundradan
cities also brought coin, artifacts of precious
metal, and war booty of all kinds, giving the
Vayok ancestral homes an eclectic mix of
international dcor. While hunters were praised
for their work tracking fish, whales, bears and
caribou, raiders were honored for equal bravery
and for distributing vast amounts of trophies
and looted household goods among the Vayok.

Nanuuruj of the Hikjin,

The Tamer
After the arrival of the Anu, many Vayok
skills once thought mundane became more
prestigious and celebrated. The breeders of
wolves were sought after by Anu merchants and
given significant gifts in exchange for wolf-lore
and lessons in training pups as work animals.
Of the Hikjin breeders, Nanuuruj was held in
the highest esteem. He took to escorting his
pups to the Kuludo Islands each year to oversee
the integration and early training of the wolves
with their Sabu masters. Nanuuruj was a bold,
impressive figure among the Anu, invited to
many parties and events during his one- or twomonth stays on Kuludo each year.
At one such event on Nanuurujs sixth visit,
a Khe concert held in the estate of House
Peregrine, the Vayok met a talented Thun
daughter, Fone Wen, in service to House
Osprey. She and her father tended the wolves of
their lord in the Eastern Islands, and Nanuuruj
was taken by her humor, exotic beauty, and gift
with animals.
The next year, Nanuuruj sold his best pups
to House Osprey alone and requested that



Fone Wen accompany the boats to Vaankur

to retrieve the wolves in person. Better than
he expected, Lord Rekashen made Fone the
official translator and liaison for House Osprey.
In Wagshigaad, Fone was to spend a great
deal of time learning the Vayok language and
studying the techniques of their breeders.
Disappointing Lord Rekashen, who had
planned several events to show off their new
trade partnership, Nanuuruj did not accompany
the wolves to Kuludo that year. Instead, he did
his best to woo the Anu girl during her stay.
The two fell in love before the next years boats
came to Wagshigaad. Message came from Lord
Rekashen that Fone must return home and
share her teachings among the workers of his
Fone Wen to Marry
Nanuuruj and Fone sailed to Kuludo with light
hearts: They would approach her father about
the possibility of marriage. The sabu sailors
of House Osprey, however, learned of the
couples intentions while en route to Kuludo
and informed their lord immediately upon
arrival. Realizing that Nanuuruj could easily
re-open trade with the other Houses once he
got what he wanted from the Osprey, Lord
Rekashen offered his nephew to Fones father,
Cheda Wen, as a suitor for the accomplished
daughter. With his daughters marriage to
Xanda Rekashen, the entire Wen family would
be raised to the rank of Sabu, an undreamed of
honor. Cheda set his heart on the union before
the young lovers could mention their plans,
even orchestrating an engagement ceremony to
take place in four days at the family house.
Fone was angered with her fathers
commitment to Lord Rekashen, but little could
be done. The honor such a union would bring
the family was impossible to pass over for the
indulgence of personal passion. Setting aside
her feelings for Nanuuruj, Fone Wen did the
honorable service and agreed to marry Xanda
Rekashen of House Osprey. She offered what
condolences she could to Nanuuruj, but the
preparations took much of her time in the
following days.


Nanuuruj was heartbroken. In public and

private, Lord Rekashen consoled the Vayok
suitor, who had no idea that the lord plotted all
this deliberately. Lord Rekashen took Nanuuruj
aside and pretended to think up a solution
on the spot: So long as Nanuuruj maintained
exclusive ties with the Osprey, Lord Rekashen
could justify keeping Fone at her post in
Vaankur. His advisors would not criticize the
expenditure with such a benefit to the House.
While her husband lived in the Kuludo Islands,
Fone would be free to spend as much time
in the arms of Nanuuruj as she desired. Such
affairs were not uncommon at all among the
Anu, and no dishonor would be done the Wen
family. While the Vayok traditionally practiced
sexual exclusivity within married couples, the
more casual customs of the Anu won Nanuuruj
over in the end. He agreed.
Two Lives
Fone spent half of each year in Tagorgaad
with Nanuuruj of the Hikjin. To his people
the two were a married couple, and Nanuuruj
never disabused them of their assumption.
The other half of the year they both lived in
the Kuludo Islands, Fone with her husband
and Nanuuruj among the regal apartments
near Lord Rekashen. Those who worked in
the estates knew of the arrangement, as did
Fones own husband, and the only harm done
by the situation was the pain carried during
six months of each year in the stomach of
Nanuuruj. Try as he may, the Vayok could not
learn to view marriage as the Anu did, and the
couple often argued when they met as Sabu and
servant among the gardens of Lord Rekashen.
In many areas of life, the customs of the Anu
appeared harsh and unforgiving to the Vayok.
The two civilizations had few similarities
historically or economically. Though they
shared an increasing amount of goods over the
following generations, cultural exchanges were
few. When ideas or sentiments did slip from
one culture to the other, it was usually the
Vayok who struggled with the pangs of change.

Fierce Raiding

Attack at Three Waters Camp

As Grenjuat aged, he continued his life of
raiding and sailing, though most of the Vayok
who gained riches abroad in youth eventually
took up in adulthood the cyclical hunts in
Vaankur. Grenjuat had a true love for the
forests of Gundrada and the warm rivers that
fed them. He also grew to love the slaughter of
the raid, when villages fell to fire and the spear.
Grenjuat was more eager than most to find new
villages and new treasures, and unlike his kin,
he never once sought trade as an alternative to
blind raiding.


When Marahuat was patriarch of the

Tekthukek, a group of thirty youths led by
the bold Grenjuat of the Kanaghash set sail in
three boats from the coast of Vaankur. Rowing
to the mouth of the Red River, they navigated
down the rushing waters into the heart of
Gundrada, reaching all the way to Let Fall Lake.
They set up a small camp on the shores of the
lake that acted as a hub for further exploration,
which soon reached even the shores of Edrada.
In time, many Vayok learned of the camp and
used it as a waypoint for raiding. Youths would
spend four or five months abroad amassing
loot before returning up the river to Vaankur.
Grenjuat always amassed the greatest booty
before returning home each year. Never was

there a mind to settle the area permanently or

set up a colony; the raids were always part of
the cyclical way of life rooted in the ice of the
Vayok homeland.

One summer, as seven trail-camps arrived

at Three Waters Camp by boat, a horde of
barbarians attacked from the trees. Tired of
being the victims of Vayok curiosity and sport,
several barbarian warlords had amassed a large
band of warriors and enlisted the sorcery
of revered shaman to cut down the Vayok
before the seasons raiding began. Although
constituted by lifelong warriors and heroes,
both sides in the battle feared the other as
inhuman and savage. The veteran barbarians
clashed spears with the young Vayok raiders at
the shore of the lake, and many lives were lost
on both sides.
Suddenly, from the forest came a terrible odor
that stopped the battle outright. It wafted
over the air and brought many of the Vayok to
their knees, clutching their faces and gagging.
Following the stench came a roar. Collared
and chained, an ogre lumbered from between
tall trunks, prodded on by the magicks of
witchdoctors bathed in incense. He is called
Lekjug, Lake Ogre, The Giant-Sloth, Feller
of Trees, in Vayok song. As the ten-foot brute
stepped towards the shore, the Gundradans
chanted Je juru, je juru in unison.
When the beast was finally let loose, the
barbarians all fled. Only the shaman stayed
behind, chanting and casting.



Lekjug charged through the group of fighters,

cracking and chopping their boats as he went.
Many of the Vayok were inexperienced in
hunting such a beast, but there were a few old
hunters among the horde who took to raiding
later in life. They led with the knowledge
they had, using ropes and spears to surround
and tangle the animal. Though Lekjug was
no walrus of the ice, he proved a similar prey.
Together the clans harried and speared their
In bravery and skill, the aged twins Loshi and
Wekishuk of the Glokur fell the rancorous
ogre. Many among their family still sing of
their victory.
Vayok Stranded
That so many boats had been destroyed
worried the hearts of the surviving Vayok.
They were stranded in the hostile land without
transport or supplies. Many became desolate
and cursed their foolhardy spirits. Grenjuat,
however, put them at ease: I have six strong
boats left in the trail-camp of the Kanaghash.
If your booty is light, they could each hold
twenty men and women on the journey back to
Wagshigaad. For half your spoils, I will give any
camp that asks a boat.
The Vayok spent the warmer months raiding
as usual, never locating the warlords who led
the assault against them earlier that year.
Much loot was gathered, and many new tools
discovered. Almost a dozen swords were found,
gifted to only the strongest warriors.


For a great amount of clothing, weapons,

coin, pottery, leatherworking, and jewelry,
Grenjuat sold all the Kanaghash boats at the
end of the season. When the trail-camps left
for Wagshigaad, where festivals to celebrate
the returning hunters would follow, Grenjuat
stayed behind with his stranded kin. Those
cousins who remained with him were strong
hunters who had grown famous in Vaankur for
revered articles they had plundered. With the
formerly bustling camp quiet and still, they
went about constructing walls and longhouses
in the fashion of the local tribes, preparing the
camp for winter.

Three Waters Grows

Over the years, the campsite became not a
settlement but an outland depot. Grenjuat
managed the bunks and peddled in smaller
wares among the nearby peoples, acting
as a third party to oversee many contracts
and treaties. His own prowess as a warrior
attracted throngs of followers from among
the Gundradans. In the summer months, he
made alliances with certain tribes and directed
incoming Vayok towards their enemies. In
the winter months, when his Vayok kin would
return to Vaankur, Grenjuat set about on his
own raids, leading bands of mixed heritage
deep into the wilderness.
Three Waters grew into a bustling nexus of
trade and culture, though valor and fighting
prowess remained the most valued attributes.
Word spread, and many frequented the outpost
for reasons other than trade. Able competitors
came from all over Gundrada to Three Waters
to test their mettle against the warriors of
other tribes and peoples. Some claimed that
the sport held in Three Waters took the place
of fighting and bloodshed for a time.
Death of Grenjuat
Each year, Grenjuat would set his cousins to
building boats, promising them they would
return at the end of summer to Vaankur. Each
year, Grenjuat sold the boats to raiders for a
share of their profits. He managed the outpost
and gathered much treasure, always generous
but always firm with his followers. One season,
the Kanaghash builders fashioned twelve
strong, hardy boats, each able to carry thirty
spears and much loot. When Grenjuat made
the deals to sell off the boats, his kin refused.
They demanded that the trail-camp take half
the boats and return home with their riches.
Grenjuat laughed in response: All twelve of
these ships would not hold half our booty.
Any of you may leave when you want, but
youll gain a greater share if you wait. Ten of
the boats were sold, and two took many of
the Kanaghash back to Vaankur with a large
helping of artifacts and tools. The amount
stunned those who stayed behind, wondering
how much truly existed hidden away by
Grenjuat. Over the years, however, the strain
hit them: More left, few stayed.

Deneraak of the Suuka,

Brood-Father, Giant-Kin
During a hunt colder than most, the Suuka clan
met a large pod of walruses far along the frozen
coast. Among the largest bulls was a group of
Lesser Walruses long in tusk and thick in hide.
Trying to avoid the tainted bulls, a group of
hunters set out spearing the smallest of the
females at the edge of the pod. The Fell animals
at the heart of the herd sensed the violence
against their mates and charged at great speed
toward the hunters and the hidden trail-camp
of the Suuka.
The small cluster of hunters, separated from
the larger camp, spent their greatest effort
keeping the Lesser Walruses away from the
children and supplies just behind the ridge.
Wolves were let loose, great beasts that nipped
and tugged on the fat tails of the sea mammals.
The pack tore through one of the walruses, but
the other two seemed unstoppable juggernauts
of blubber and tusk. Spears pierced hide, but
still the walruses trudged through the snow
seeking out the trail-camp and trampling
hunters that stood in the way.
When by luck the walruses pushed through a
snowdrift in the wrong direction, Deneraak
called orders to the other hunters: Ready the
camp and mush on. I will loose my wolves on
these final bulls. Do not look back. As the
party of hunters set off towards the hidden
trail-camp, Deneraak rode on in pursuit of the
walruses. As the tusks turned to face him, the
Vayok drove his own sled straight on toward
the charging bulls. His wolves were quickly
trampled, but the hunter himself dodged clear.

The charge had ended, and a lone hunter faced

two Lesser beasts as the snow began to fall.
Deneraak broke many spears on the hides of
the two Fell walruses. The Fray that tainted
them made them large and powerful, but in the
end, pierced and near death, Deneraak cut his
way to victory. The trail-camp would be miles
away, their tracks already lost to the storm that
grew overhead. He looked around. But for the
red slush that spread for twenty feet about him,
only white and gray spread in all directions.


Grenjuat died at the age of 80 never having

returned to Vaankur. It is said by many that
he had a treasure larger than all the riches
of his homeland hidden near Three Waters,
waiting for him to save enough boats and grow
homesick. His greed kept him from taking
what he could and becoming the first lord
among his kin, for he would not leave behind a
single iron weapon or trinket.

The Mothering
Deneraak found his toppled sled and added
two more coats to his attire, walking off in the
direction from which the sled seemed to have
come. He marched for hours, realizing quickly
that he was not heading for the rocky shore
where lay the walrus pod. He was far into the
empty waste of snow. Still bleeding, he dropped
to his knees as the gray sky and white snow
both turned to black.
From the snowy horizon came a lithe form.
Deneraak rubbed his eyes in disbelief as a
Mothering moved into focus with a light gait,
stopping just yards from his body. She was pale
of skin and clad in a single fine garment, sheer
and loose. Her words were warmth for his
bones: Let me lie with you. Deneraak knew
she was a giantess, a siren of the snow, but her
words brought such warmth he yearned for her
After lying with the Mothering, Deneraak felt
the spell of sleep coming over his eyes. He was
half-buried in snow and no longer clothed.
The giantess stepped from the furs and almost
skipped over the surface of the snow. He would
not let her get awayJust another moment of
her warmth and he would be fully rested and
healed. Deneraak wrapped the coats of fur over
his body and took to drink the thick, sweet
paste he bought from the Wikwasha priest in
Wagshigaad. It cost him four pairs of the best
wolves he had raised himself, and finally would
the serum be tested. The paste broke the spell
of sleep the Mothering had cast on the lying
Vayok and invigorated his limbs.



Through the falling snow, Deneraak pursued

the Mothering, using all this wiles as a hunter.
For six days he traveled further into the heart
of the ice, knowing not where he was headed
or if he would ever return. As the days wore
on, Deneraak saw along the horizon in one
direction a trail-camp. Along the other horizon
he spied the Mothering, her pace slowing as
she neared the Maalthor peaks. Forsaking his
people forever, Deneraak pursued the siren. He
dropped two coats of fur to lighten his load and
doubled his pace toward the giantess.
By nightfall the Mothering noticed the hunter,
her light hair growing fiery in her anger. He
was only a hundred yards off and still marching
when she abandoned the nook of crag she had
chosen as a camp and skipped up into the black
Maalthor rocks. The hunter sprinted after her,
climbing with hand and foot to reach the siren
under the rare light of the stars.
The Brood
He caught her as the sun rose over the dark
mountains. As his hand gripped her delicate
wrist, his body reeled in warmth and the sting
of his wounds softened. He lay with her again
and took her as a hermits wife there in the
It is said he fathered a brood of half-giants,
teaching them the ways of his people and
settling the caves high in the Maalthor
mountains where no Vayok dare climb.
In the presence of their father, the young
giants matured more nobly than those of
their kin who grew feral and lonely. Like
young mammoths, who need an older bull
to keep them from running wild during rut,
so the giants are said to have benefited from
the strong hand of Deneraak deep in the
wilderness. Their numbers may still grow in the
hidden tunnels of the Mountains.




Six-Fronts Wars (circa 920 - 950 IC)


Almost inevitably, a handful of related wars broke out among the civilizations of the Hara Sea.
The two empires never directly engaged one another, but tensions between the ever-expanding
Neferatha and the steely Anu were palpable to any political player. Violence had never left the
region for long, but this was a scale unknown before or since.
The Anu fought the Vayok and Edish for control of foreign resources, while the latter peoples
fought amongst themselves. Mirroring this series of battles, the Neferatha fought the Edish and
the Alagoth for control of Edradas resources, while the latter peoples continued age-old violence.


The Lake District in Ragus, a region of luxurious estate homes, holiday palaces, and opulent temples. Tucked
in the sandy foothills of the Parushaya Mountains on the shore of Bronze Lake, the city of Hastinpiro is the old
capital of a forgotten kingdom. Far from the statecraft and subterfuge of Ugurlu, these villages and countryside
hamlets serve more directly the personal needs of the ruling elite. In these chambers, the arts of manners and
personal manipulation play out on scales grand and small. Violence, however, is not unheard of.

Revolutions in Ragus, Wars in Edrada

Three fronts of conflict arose in Edrada, as the

Neferatha Empire launched attacks against
the Edish city-states as well as the Alagoths of
Lower Edrada. Cities burned and many turned
away from trading with the Empire.

The Crimson Front

In 919 IC, the common people of Xeruthan
revolted against the landed nobles who
controlled the city and the Neferatha state at
large. After decades of unrest and cultural shift,
immigrant populations remained unassimilated
into the caste system, which stressed the
infrastructure of a city organized around
the four recognized castes. Local Alagoth
patriarchs, notably Kerhez Ata Jedusha of
the Roshata and Adbar Ata Geruveh of the
Benarekata, took council from Duadha priests,
who always sought to undermine the influence
of the Crowns and their Empire. Kerhez and
Adbar led two thousand horsemen against the
Second Cardinal Army as it came into the city
for its annual procession. Peasants followed,
even those of the lower castes with Nibu blood.
The second-largest army of the Empire was
crippled for many years following.
In 920, Merekhun revolted as well, but the
Empire retaliated swiftly, not wanting the
resistance to build momentum. The First
Cardinal Army penetrated and occupied the
city, and General Aletha used the unrest as
an opportunity to clean house for her family,
deposing rival Rights unfit to govern and
appointing her own relatives into the estate
homes of Baring Road.
Later in the same year, Chethahan severed ties
with the Neferatha, relying on trade with the
Edish and Alagoths to support the economy.
Although the city had never fallen to Neferatha

soldiers and yet retained its own aristocratic

lineages, Neferatha culture spread to the region
through trade relations and entanglements
of state. Chethahan merchants organized
mercenaries to oust the residing Rights and
tear down the temples of the Crowns.


The Six-Fronts War was a time of unrivaled

conflict around the Hara Sea. Every civilization
was involved on more than a single front,
and the political landscape was shattered and

Fall at Chethahan
The 27th Empress, Uma of the Deshpadi family,
held a council to decide what could be done
about Chethahan. The Crowns had always
prohibited the State from sending an army
against Chethahan, and so Uma called for a
meeting without the Stewards present. In
direct opposition to the policies of The Ravi
Bacca, Uma declared that it was time Lower
Edrada shook under the hooves of Neferathan
horses. The Stewards learned of the plan too
Empress Uma led the First Cardinal Army
from Merekhun along the Crimson Sea toward
Chethahan, honoring General Aletha with the
imperial presence. In the water, a fleet of ships
followed, equipped with soldiers and siege
weapons. The army never saw the city. From the
hills came one of the Old Gods, a dark Tyrant
who had been slumbering since the hemming of
the world. Human blood spilled over the hills
under the cries of dying soldiers. Uma survived
due to the cunning of her chariot driver, and
made it to one of the fleeing ships. It remains
unknown what became of the Old God, who is
called The Soul of Chethahan.
Local Unrest
During the same years, ethnic riots broke out
in Ugurlu and other cities of Ragus, as domestic
Alagoths suffered persecution from members
of the lower castes who had lost relatives in
battles near the Crimson Sea. From Ragus
tensions spread to Oldfire and Lower Edrada,
sparking a generation of battles between
Neferatha soldiers and the resettled camps
of Alagoth patriarchs, who were forced by
blood ties to retaliate. Skirmishes broke out
everywhere: within cities, in the Nameless
Desert of Ragus, outside the Lake District, and
as far west as the Kesava Grasslands. Alagoths



who had been residing in Ragus for centuries

were torn between their current livelihoods and
loyalty to their heritage. Older cultures, those
made vassals to the Neferatha Empire over
many generations, revolted in turn, rebelling
against their abject position within the rigid
caste structure.
The South Treaty
Open violence ended in 950 when Empress
Uma signed The South Treaty with four
Alagoth patriarchs in The Field of Law, a
vast plain south of Uranishad. The Neferatha
state offered the city of Emluk, a wealthy and
powerful trade hub in the Guna Desert, to
the four clans in exchange for peace within
the State and abroad. The terms of the treaty
included the removal of all landed Rights from
Emluk but allowed the Crowns to continue
supporting temples in the city. This marked
both a practical and symbolic shift in the
relationship of the two peoples, Emluk being
the first city sacked by Alagoth riders under
the command of Neferatha generals and for
Neferatha profit. Also, a great amount of
wealth was offered to the King City in honor
of those patriarchs who died helping the
Neferatha Empire expand in years past. The
patriarchs of the four clans moved their horses
and wives to Emluk, securing their dominance
of local trade routes and taking up businesses
vacated by the Rights. The lower castes were
also free to stay, though Alagoth law recognizes
no distinction of caste nor allowed women to
own property. Emluk still bubbles with cultural

The Essapesh Front

the previous Empress. Lokod, Jewel of the

North, was funding many of the revolts along
the Lower Edradan coast with both coin and
supplies, and Praetawa had become a powerful
enemy of the Empire since the death of his
consort, Ahimsa. The Neferatha declared
war on all Edish city-states, viewing them as
a confederation with Lokod at the center,
though, in reality, the Edish tribes and cities
still lived in almost constant conflict with one
another. Gladly would Norwikod have sided
with the Neferatha in razing their most hated
rival, Lokod. As it went, however, the vision
of the Stewards went only so far, and a much
larger war was started.

When the First Cardinal Army fell to the

Soul of Chethahan, the Stewards of Ugurlu
spent little time gloating over the foolhardy
mistake of the generals. In 922, High Steward
Henashvah recommended the Empress strike
Lokod, a city grown rich on charity from

In 923, when ethnic riots disrupted commerce

in Ugurlu and beyond, General Kaithani
led the singular Cardinal Army by water to
the rocky coast of Upper Edrada, landing
between the Cataract Mountains and the
Essapesh River. The largest city of the Edradan

No fewer than three clans still live in open war

with the Neferatha state, though encounters
more frequently take the form of raids and
sabotage than outright war.


Kaithanis army traveled toward Dunbri,

cutting down several nomadic tribes on its way.
The city was easily occupied, and Kaithani
planned to wreak more slaughter before
reaching Lokod. While she remained in Dunbri
planning an inward invasion of other prominent
cities and separating her troops, the Edish were
organizing defenses.
Edish Unite Under Praetawa
Word spread among the Edish that only a
united effort could end this threat. Praetawa,


coast, Therikod, stood on a prominent cliff

overlooking the bright water. It took less than
a month for the Neferatha army to conquer
the city, destroying the walls and structures
entirely, erasing a city of some two-hundred
thousand from the map. Unlike the hard-won
cities of Lower Edrada, which had been built
for the purpose of war and defense, the citystates of Upper Edrada were less fortified
and well-positioned. Edish tactics of war
included raiding supplies, damaging crops,
and kidnapping children from rival tribes. The
Neferatha aimed not at siphoning resources but
at outright destruction.

Arbiter of Lokod, knew

the power of the Neferatha
firsthand. He also knew
firsthand that the city-states
would band together if their
economic stability were
put to the test, his history
as a pirate and raider not
forgotten. Praetawa sent
many extravagant gifts to
his rivals in hopes of uniting
the cities of the plains and
saving their sovereignty. Along
with wagons of gold and fine
ornaments, he sent message
to Gerund of Norwikod and
Haedanda of Onkod: Bring
your sons. Empty the manors
of sons and swords. Take
all who can carry spear and
shield and march them to
the Hillflame Field. For a
time, the petty rivalries were
put aside, and a marshaling
of soldiers brought the city-states together.
Even the nomadic tribes responded to the call,
their minewin convincing all to fight alongside
the urban Edish. Threads were followed, and
council made.
Through a handful of small victories at a great
price in lives, the Edish kept the Neferatha
within the Gold Plains between the mighty
Wanakiowa and the fruitful Essapesh. Eight
years later in 931, General Kaithani had neither
gained nor lost any footing in the Gold Plains.
In 936, a fleet of ships left Kelkala armed with
sea-fire and destroyed a large host of Neferatha
vessels bringing fresh supplies and soldiers
toward Upper Edradan shores. Until this point,
the blonde-haired Edish, consumed by a war of
their own against the Anu and Vayok peoples,
had offered little to the Essapesh Front.
Kelkala was already famous for its ships, and
the sinking of the Neferatha fleet cemented its
reputation. The Battle of Theron Cliff marked
a crucial moment of unity for the Edish people.



The Final Battle

In 944, General Kaithani brought her forces
back together in Dunbri. Orders had come
from Ugurlu that an organized army was needed
at home to put an end to the Alagoth-led
unrest; the Edish front was lost. Two Stewards,
however, accompanied the message to Dunbri
with intentions of their own. Gurashanti and
Drupadhana used their wiles to sway the weary
general: One more attack, pointing all forces
at Lokod. Kaithani marched the largest single
Neferatha force since the sacking of Dunbri
toward the river and the Jewel of the North.

The Wanakiowa Front

Patrolling tribes of the Gold Plains,

descendants of the Bear and Rat, harried the
army early in its journey and made time for
Arbiter Praetawa to plan the defense of Lokod.
Through strategy and deception, the Neferatha
army was diverted from its path and pushed
toward Onkod. It is spoken that Praetawa
led the army towards his old rival on purpose.
Close on Neferatha heels, Praetawa pinched
the foreign invaders between a rowdy army of
horseman and a towering city of three-hundred

In 946, after the destruction of Onkod and

the Neferatha Cardinal Army, two Alagoth
patriarchs from Charzen rallied many of the
nomadic hill clans and launched a raid across
the Gold Plains, slaying tribes of rural Edish
on their way to Lokod. Two totems were all but
plucked from the Tapestry in the massacres
that summer, and much magick was wrought
across the plains. In a final act of Edish
solidarity, the Alagoth horde was routed in the
Battle of Swallow Dale, pushed hard against
the walls of Ironwood, and chased over the

What happened next is still fogged in mystery.

From Harp Lake came a Fey spirit with no
equal. Some say the Duadha summoned the
beast; others that it awoke of its own accord
to stop the magicks of the Neferatha and
Edish from calling something even more foul
from the depths of the earth. As it was, the
Elder Fey swallowed three armies along with
the city. Onkod was extinguished like the
flame of a candle, blown out by the cry of the
Fey. Praetawa and Haedanda were both lost.
Kaithani and the two Stewards of Ugurlu were
never seen again.
The Treaty of Edrada
In 947, Empress Uma offered the Treaty of
Edrada to the Arbiters who remained, fearing
a counterattack might follow the chaos at
Onkod. The treaty was signed in the Hillflame
Field near Lokod by High Steward Bhimandi
and Gerund of Norwikod. Dunbri was rebuilt
after the war a much more cosmopolitan city,
heir to the trade routes of absent Therikod.


The Edish, united in efforts of war despite

their own animosities, struck at the Alagoths in
Summer Field and The Bowls in the 930s. Many
patriarchs remained loyal to the riches of the
Neferatha, and the city-states of Onkod and
Norwikod pushed hard against them. Relations
between the Edish and Alagoths had become
strengthened through trade, but the chance of
war rekindled much of the old hatred, which
had never settled too far below the surface.

Despite much destruction, the Edish had

finally cleared their lands of two foreign
armies. When the two treaties were signed
by the Neferatha, the Edish city-states went
back to competing amongst themselves, and
wars between the patriarchs and the Arbiters
quieted once more.

North by Northwest Bloodshed

All told, the northern fronts paralleled the

southern conflicts in many ways. By the end
of the war, Khazil nationalists in the Kuludo
Islands had created a semi-autonomous state in
the Eastern Islands and Vaankur was open to
trade where it pleased.

The Marg Barok Front

After a century of trade and growing cultural
relations, the Vayok decided they had little
further need for Anu imports. The cyclical
hunts were still maintained by powerful
hunters in Vaankur, and venturing abroad
was increasingly popular among youth in the
icebound settlements as well as the Three
Homes. New trinkets and trophies were
spreading across the ice from camp to camp,
and Anu goods lost much of their luster.
In the 24th year of the Age of the Bleeding
Dragon, after Vayok cities turned away Anu
trading vessels for the third year in a row, the
Anu responded in force: Lord Hado Xian of
House Egret landed four ships in Gundrada and
burned several waypoint camps the Vayok used
to muster resources before shipping them back
to Vaankur. Causes for the sudden outburst
from the Anu trading lords included tensions
at home regarding the role of merchants in
Anu society, the fear of Vayok goods reaching
foreign markets directly, and a longstanding
issue with the Vayoks disinterest in economic
gain. The Anu sought to make vassals of
those living on Vaankur and to regulate the
production of the weapons, beer, garments,
and tools as everything else in the Anu life was

The Anu violence created a new spirit among

the Vayok, who until that time had always
approached disagreements in a sporting, jocular
manner. After the burning of the trade ports
along the coast of Gundrada, Vayok raiders
sharpened spear-points not for sport but for
war. The elders of Tekthukek and Hikjin were
especially proud to send out their young raiders
against the Anu.


The Anu, dubbed the Celestial Empire by rivals

in Ugurlu and Edrada, spearheaded aggression
across Gundrada and the Hara Sea while the
Neferatha sent armies over Ragus and Edrada.
The conflict stemmed from the Anus desire
to maintain exclusive trade rights with the
Vayok, who were beginning to venture beyond
Gundrada and into the Hara Sea.

The waters around Vaankur were too dangerous

to approach that time of the year, and the
Kuludo Islands were too heavily guarded for
foreigners to reach. Thus, conflicts occurred in
regions of land and sea caught between.
Warriors from both cultures feared neither
death nor injury more than lost honor: The
bloodlust and ferocity displayed in any one of
the many battles that dotted the Gundradan
coast over the next thirty years would have
weakened the heart of the toughest Neferatha
general. The Anu took to hiring local barbarians
to harry Vayok warriors as well as those
adventurers on missions other than war. As the
violence dragged on, the Anu gained control
of the Gundradan coast, severing thousands
of Vayok raiders and warriors from their
Gundradan Barbarians
The barbarian peoples of Gundrada
comprise small tribes of hunters ruled by
warlords and wizards. Although similar to
the Edish in some respects, the barbarian
clans respect no totems and speak a myriad
of languages and dialects. They use long,
heavy swords and little armor, building
wooden cities that house up to three
thousand inhabitants. Few unions exist
between the diverse bands of barbarians,
and foreign powers have learned to make
use of the constant conflict.
Many new kinds of seafaring vessels were
developed on either side, and battles often
took place in the turbulent, deep waters of the



ocean. Shashu, the sea god of the Vayok, was

said to take great joy in the many offerings fed
to her in those years.

great fear and panic as the Thun priesthood

struggled to maintain the calendar of religious
life without the presence of the spiritual head.

By the 30th year of the Age, the Anu had

become the dominant side. A small fleet of
Anu ships positioned in the Marg Barok Sea
had isolated Vaankur completely. The cut-off
populations of Vayok warriors were hiding
out in Gundrada and beginning to war on the
Edish. Life on Vaankur was anxious without
the normalcy of the hunts, and the missing
youths and many deaths weighed heavily on
the families left behind. To protect the camps
and the Three Homes from threatened siege,
the hunts had to be curtailed or abandoned in
passing years, and traditional life was hard to

Not surprisingly, the two civilizations came

together again quickly after the end of
aggressions. The Anu effectively forfeit all
claims to Gundrada and even helped rebuild
the warehouses used by Vayok raiders in years
past. Many Anu scholars even claimed the war
between the two cultures only strengthened
their bond, and an entire district of Wagshigaad
was constructed to house Anu ambassadors,
sailors, and merchants. Although the increased
prejudice against those of Khazil heritage still
lingered among the lower classes of Anu, as
many as three heroic Khazil native to Kuludo
gained the rank of Sabu for services during the
wars against the Edish.

All the while, however, many of the

connections between the two cultures did not
cease, and trading in wolves and servants still
took place. Both cultures were able to divorce
the honor-bound war from other aspects of
interaction, though tensions were high and
many voyages that began under commercial
orders ended in violence.
Within the Anu state, growing prejudice
against Khazil servants inspired retaliatory
political action. Through strikes, religious
offerings, and political maneuvering, the Khazil
population, which had almost no ties to its
Vaankur kin, set up a semi-autonomous state
within the Kuludo Islands, taking for itself the
mountainous regions in the Eastern Islands
with high elevations and deep caves. This state
was governed by elders of new clans and lay
outside the system of stipends awarded by
the Sabu. All goods were produced within the
islands themselves or bought through coin.
The Khazil formed a wealthy trading state
composed of wolf-breeders, mercenaries,
miners, and craftspeople.


When the Empress went missing from the

Imperial Island in the 54th year of the Bleeding
Dragon Age, the Anu abandoned the blockade
in the Marg Barok Sea. All Sabu returned to
the Kuludo Islands under the grave omen.
The plight of the Anu people manifested in

The Red River Front

The Vayoks war with the Anu, however,

changed their raiding practices. As surviving
in Gundrada became more difficult, the cut-off


Vayok began raiding Upper Edrada as far back

as the Age of the Drunken Raptor, the late 7th
century of the Imperial Calendar. Villages and
seafaring communities were struck hard, and
Vaankur raiders collected many trophies and
weapons unavailable in their homeland. Raiding
became an expected and regular source of
luxury goods for the Vayok people over many
generations. The Edish response was minimal,
as most of the communities targeted lacked
strong relations with the more powerful citystates.

Vayok raiders spent more time in Upper Edrada

and the Hara Sea. The villages and nomadic
tribes of the Wilds and the Tall Wood felt both
the sting and the burden of the stranded Vayok.
Raids took on a decidedly more violent air as
skirmishes grew from voluntary trophy-hunts
into necessary supply-runs.
The most remembered attack has become
an atrocity of legend among the Edish, when
six boats of Valhenjorn Vayok massacred the
remote city of Melut at the edge of the Wilds.
The city housed only a small number of Edish
among its diverse peoples, but word spread fast
that the Vayok had for the first time remained
after the attack to make camp.
With the increase in lost resources and lives
and the threat of stable Vayok settlements in
the area, the nearby Edish city-states finally
responded. Leadership came from Kelkala and
Kelineph, who retaliated by sending soldiers
out into the countryside and equipping boats
for sea battles against the roving raiders. Direct
attacks began in Melut, Edish soldiers quickly
pursued many Vayok trail-camps out of Edrada
and onto the open sea.
Great battles took place over the Hara Sea for
an entire summer before the violence found
its way to Gundrada. With the help of trained
soldiers from Kelineph, the native tribes began
organizing larger acts of resistance as well.
The city of Ras was founded within a uniquely
well-preserved cluster of ruins by Edish tribes
who followed the Vayok over the Hara Sea.
Two tribes hunting under the protection of
the Cougar and another under the Raven took
up urban life after the model of Kelineph.
Edish tribes made up the dominant portion
of the citys political realm, while a handful
of impressionable barbarian leaders brought
their clans into the city as craftspeople and
shepherds. In 920 IC, the city-state elected
its first Arbiter, Boradeshu of the Raven, who
had been trained as a soldier in Kelineph years
earlier before returning to life among the


The Hara Front


The Edish became aware of the Anu

people only within the lifetime of
Praetawa. Without large-scale, unified
trade efforts on behalf of the Edish,
there was little to bring the two
civilizations together. Kelineph and
Kelkala had traded spices and cotton
for Anu steel as early as 830 IC, but
little was known of the island-dwellers.
Many argue that the shipbuilding of
both cultures advanced through shared
contact, though such stories are likely
the stuff of local lore and fraternal boast.

Ras was built strong and wide, a unique city of

mixed heritage. The barbarians of Gundrada had
for many years struggled against the Vayok, but no
infrastructure had arisen to organize the resistance.
Ras accepted all those with scars left by Vayok axe
and spear, and the city grew rapidly as both a military
and cultural hub.
The Vayok were then caught between expanding
Anu forces on the northern coast of Gundrada and
a formidable Edish colony to the south. Most of the
violence surrounded Ras and Red River, a campaign
centered on competition for Gundradan resources
valuable to both cultures.
The war between the Edish and the Vayok was soon
a conflict contained far from Edrada. Aggression
ended slowly as a kind of order took shape. When
tension between the Vayok and Anu ended, the Vayok
left Ras behind and regrouped around Vaankur. The
raiding efforts dwindled but did not cease completely
in Gundrada and Upper Edrada, though city-states of
organized Edish were avoided.


After the fall of Therikod in 923 IC,

while most of Upper Edrada fought
the roaming armies of Neferatha, the
cities of Kelineph and Kelkala offered
supplies but few soldiers. The two cities
had traded with the Alagoths and the
Neferatha for centuries, and were spared
direct attacks from either people. They
had little motivation to join in the
bloody conflict. The spreading violence,
however, eventually affected all peoples
and markets of Upper Edrada. With
trade uncertain throughout the plains
and a freeze affecting all business with
the Neferatha and Alagoths, Kelkala was
forced to look elsewhere for resources,
its wealthy families having grown reliant
on trade and foreign markets.
The pirates of Kelkala were equally
desperate for new markets, and a large
fleet led by a veteran captain took
to roaming north and east into the
Hara Sea. Moving down the coast of
Gundrada, Captain Neron, who bore
two totems in honor of his heritage
among the plains, encountered the
Eastern Islands of the Anu people in 930
IC, the 34th year of the Bleeding Dragon
Although the Orashi cultures of western
Gundrada were far different from
both the Edish and Anu cultures, the

Within a year, the House Lords of the Anu

identified Neron and his pirates as Edish from
Kelkala. They reasoned that the Edish were
an expanding people: Ras had already proven
troublesome, and now more of the savage
Edradans had pushed toward the sacred islands.
The Anu had cornered the Vayok easily enough
in the previous years by keeping a small fleet of
ships between Gundrada and Vaankur, and the
Edish peoples proved the perfect new target for
the war effort. By this time, many more pirates
had moved into Gundrada and the Eastern
Islands, using Ras as a port.

and set sail on the first day of spring in the

49th year of the Age of the Bleeding Dragon.
Bypassing Ras entirely, the thirty-two ships
sailed toward Upper Edrada, and a force of over
one thousand sabu alighted near Wilderwood in
945 IC.


seafaring peoples turned to the Sabu for help

when pirates began vying for power in the
trade waters. An Anu fleet led by Sabu Lixin
Po of House of Macaw clashed with Neron in
the Eastern Islands in late summer, just before
the monsoon rains began. Lixin was en route
to Ras with an armada when the Orashi elders
petitioned his vessels for aid. Protecting the Po
family honor, Lixin sent two ships to engage
the fleet of pirates. House Macaw suffered the
loss of over 100 swords in the following three

The sabu authored a dark carnage upon the

Edish peoples. Entire cities were slaughtered,
and the marching army suffered no hardships
covering the flat, navigable plains of Upper
Edrada. For years the sabu made sport of the
Edish. Though the allied city-states felt little
of the sting, a great hatred grew up between
the two civilizations. In 950 IC, suddenly
and without warning, the sword-masters of
the Anu disappeared. When the final Anu
ship left Upper Edrada, the plains north of
Tall Wood were dotted with burned villages
and bloodstained Thun shrines. Many Khazil
soldiers were discharged from House armies
due to domestic politics and forced to stay in
Upper Edrada.

A popular son of Lord Ushin Tagotl, Hazohano,

became commander of the Macaw fleet just
after his marriage in the early months of 35th
year of the Age. Hazohanos flagship, the
Winter Blossom, was heavily armed for open
sea combat and became the scourge of the
Edish pirates. After many years of conflict
in the Hara Sea, Hazohano sent word to his
father on Kuludo Island that routing the
pirates, however effective, only dealt with
the symptom of the sickness. The Edish were
almost indistinguishable from the Gundradan
barbarians to the civilized eye of the Anu, but
Hazohano had learned that the pirates were
from a more organized people and that their
strength in ships came from far away in Upper
An unparalleled armada designed by the
best engineers of House Peregrine was
commissioned for construction by the first
unanimous council ever held on the Imperial
Island. It took seven years to build. Sabu from
all the Seven Houses boarded thirty-two ships


Present Day (957 IC)


The loss of the Empress halted the aggression of the Anu against the Vayok and Edish, and the
treaties forced on the gluttonous Neferatha quieted the violence of Ragus and Edrada. A hush fell
over the region of the Hara Sea, though tensions had not abated. The two empires stood next to
each other tired but not exhausted, and armies were not altogether disband.
The wars did, however, put into place infrastructures for travel and learning. Maps were shared
and soldiers relocated. Contacts were made. Large numbers of Khazils from both Vaankur and the
Kuludo Islands stayed in Upper Edrada. Embassies were established, and trade became common.


Anu Gardens exist to cultivate and protect the blossoming Flower. Also called ineo, Flower is a striking feature
on the economic landscape of the Hara Sea. Sabu lords can rise and fall, taking entire Houses with them, over the
success of a single Garden fort tucked away secretly in the vast rainforest of Kapixtul Island. The ochre powder
produced by the blossoms is used as an opiate across the known world, and major players in Ugurlu, Charzen,
and Lokod all watch carefully the Anu Houses and who controls the Flower.

The Edish After Praetawa

The Edish are a people divided. Most still roam
over the plains of Edrada in tribes led by the
heroic Hattan. A growing number, however,
live in city-states each led by an Arbiter and
a landholding senate. Between the two ways
of life there is now little overlap and much
animosity, though the Edish people still share
a history that has proven capable of bringing
rivals together when needed.

Nomadic Tribes

Edish city-states trade among themselves,

with Edish coin, textiles, and material goods
reaching across Edrada, Ragus, and Gundrada.
Though the wealthy rely on this trade to
increase their stores, each city-state is relatively
self-sufficient. Slaves, indentured serfs, and
farmers, for example, rarely utilize foreign
goods. Manor estates rich with farmland,
orchards, mines, and flocks reach out into the
countryside around city-states protected by
private and public armies.

Though much technology and knowledge

has been lost in the region, slash-and-burn
horticulture is practiced where possible as
well as domestication of nomadic sheep and
small cattle. The Edish tribes exhibit much
inter-tribe diversity, though intra-tribe heritage
is starkly homogeneous. Outsiders are only
tolerated as merchants, traveling artisans, or
messengers. The Edradan plains are home to
countless peoples from the north and east,
including survivors from countless plagues since
the Old Empire crumbled and refugees from
other areas being taken over by the Alagoths.

The Edish are aware of the five regions around

the Hara Sea, though they deal infrequently
with Anu. Alagoths have been resettling
Edish lands in the Summer Fields for many
generations, and the powerful Neferatha
prevent any migrations of Edish tribes without
proper tribute. Vayok raid Edish settlements
in the Wilds, though since the Wars of the Six
Fronts these raids involve less violence and
resemble more commercial trade.


The outlying tribes are communal and

distribute wealth and food along kinship lines.
The Hattan acts as the leader and is held
responsible for providing game and sport.
Hattan are valued as generous, gregarious
leaders of the hunt, and often enjoy the fewest
material resources in a tribe, gaining prestige
and status by giving more than they keep.

The tribes have powerful histories and

mythologies, each claiming patron ancestors
from among a complex pantheon. A series of
totemic lineages originating with local fauna
construct the unique identities of the tribes,
centered on the person of the Hattan.

The 9th century marked the advent of a new
cultural strain in Upper Edrada, a way of life
characterized by Edish tribes coming together
and urbanizing in the image of the local
Edradan kingdoms. These city-states operated
more democratically than the local kingdoms
they replaced, with a large and diverse ruling
class holding much of the political power.
The eclectic mix of cultures gives the Edish a
wide variety of both talents and beliefs. Most
fight with spear and bow and shield. They use
horses extensively, though less often in war
than the Alagoths. Wealthy warriors use both
short and long swords forged by blacksmiths of
esoteric arts. Only the most powerful warlords
and Arbiters wear armor of metal, higher in
quality than armor fashioned by any other
people save the Khazil. Edish often shepherd
a variety of domesticated animals and so make
clothes and linens from combined fabrics,
seeking high prices in trade abroad.



The Jewel of the North is a thriving city led
by the Arbiter Cadolus and his wife, Lady Ara.
With over 600,000 inhabitants, Lokod is the
largest city in Edrada and the high point of
Edish culture. The city was built as the capital
of the Edradan Empire thousands of years ago,
though it lay empty for over a millennium and
was only recently reoccupied in the 9th century
of the Imperial Calendar by Edish nomads
seeking shelter and agriculture. Many lords
and totems come together within the high
walls, while the surrounding countryside is
divided into manors owned by the wealthy and
worked by those less fortunate. Religious life
focuses abstractly on a distant relationship to
the Hawk and Cougar totems, resembling little
the communal rites practiced by the minewin
of the tribes. In fact, many Neferatha cults
have taken over the city with gods and spirits
multiplying each season, and the influence of
the Crowns is impossible to ignore.

The youngest of the Upper Edradan cities,
Norwikod was settled in 862 IC by the
urbanized Hattan of Lokod who fled the rise
of Praetawa. Almost a century later, Norwikod
looks hardly distinguishable from Lokod
visually or politically. Hated rivals, the two
city-states demonstrate similar dress, food,
and everyday customs. Trade between them is
minimal, though merchants are known to find
ways around local laws and high tariffs.
Norwikod celebrates the Bear totem above
others, the religious life of the city focusing on
the Arbiter, Laetos. Totems are prayed to in
homes and at small shrines spread over the city,
but Norwikod lacks the temples and organized
priesthood of Lokod.
The city boasts the highest walls in Upper
Edrada and the most formidable battlements.
The military focuses on defense and relies on a
number of stone structures spread out over the
farmlands and manors. Although the holdings
of Norwikod encompass less than 100,000
inhabitants, the walls of the city and the many
forts spread about, if taken together, could
protect and support more individuals than
those of Lokod.
Occupied by the Neferatha for a generation,
Dunbri has become a cosmopolitan city more
diverse than any in Upper Edrada. While Lokod
boasts a high culture influenced by Ugurlu,
Dunbri houses several districts inhabited by
immigrants from foreign places far and near.
A large quarter of the city is given over to
Phanesh immigrants and laborers. Built beyond
the old walls of the city is a ghetto for Lower
Edradan natives displaced by Alagoths during
the siege of Charzen. A district to the north
houses Neferatha artisans much-hired but illtreated. Many Khazil work as blacksmiths and
miners in the city, craftspeople sought after by
the wealthy of Upper Edrada.


The city is protected mainly by the Hareshata

clan of Alagoths who make camp outside the
walls in a tabernacle of expensive wood and
lush carpets. The Arbiter of Dunbri, Jendrew,

With a large poor population and many

merchants who reside in the city only during
certain months of the year, Dunbri has a small
senate relative to its population and influence.

Formally founded in 920 IC when the first
Arbiter took office, Ras is a young town of
order on the Edish frontier. The city has built
into the ruins, forging a strong port city and
large sphere of influence over the Gundradan
coast, all the way to the Eastern Islands and the
Orashi people, who live outside the Anu state
but exhibit many of their customs. The current
Arbiter of Ras, Lady Induesh, is still offering
great lands and holdings to Edish settlers
willing to brave the Hara Sea and take up a new


fought many battles against the Neferatha

alongside the Hareshata before the death of
their patriarch, Maneran Ata Xoshek. The
clan has yet to settle on a new patriarch,
with Jendrew filling the role unofficially. The
Edish leader even allowed his daughters to
marry members of the late Manerans huol,
buttressing his unofficial position.

Kelkala & Kelineph

The twin cities that straddle the Strait of Uzik
house the only blonde-haired people in all of
the Hara Sea and represent a powerful alliance
within Upper Edrada. The Edish of Kelkala
and Kelineph exhibit a maritime culture based
on fishing, shipbuilding, and textile trade.
Kelineph soldiers are feared by rival city-states,
and the Kelkala navy is unmatched in the Hara
Sea. Many Hattan live in the two cities, holding
unofficial power among those still connected
to tribal totems. More citizens seek ancestors
among the animal pantheon than in other citystates, and few of the Neferatha cults have
emerged. This gives the region a decidedly
traditional flavor, and the two cities are much
less hostile to the nomadic tribes than the
other metropoles.
The Cities of The Lovers practice less
agriculture than the other city-states and thus
contain the smallest populations of slaves and
poor. This rests most of the political power
in the hands of a few wealthy merchants who
control trade, relegating the senate and Arbiter
to lesser concerns. A single Arbiter, Ekedacia,
leads a single senate over both cities. She is
known as a ruthless general and keen diplomat
abroad, though her influence at home is
mitigated by the alliance of the six merchants.
It is widely known that since the Six-Fronts
Wars, most of the pirates residing on the
island of Kelkala have been assimilated into
the navy in one way or another: Controlled by
the merchant oligarchy, the navy of Kelkala is
a formidable foe in the competition of world



The city is also attracting the interest of other

speculators, including the rival families of
Edrada. Luxurious estates are being built far
from the harbor, and the enslavement of locals
is common practice. The Vayok still raid from
time to time, though merchants in Ras are
apt at telling apart the small groups of raiding
longships from larger trade vessels sent from
Three Waters on strictly commercial business.
The presence of well-preserved ruins has
also drawn many Crowns to settle the area,
and temples to various gods of the Neferatha
pantheon are beginning to pop up in the city
and its protected environs.


Across the sea from Ragus and Edrada lies

Gundrada (West Plains). This region marks
the northwestern limits of known civilization.
Mostly in ruins now, Edish have sparsely settled
there in recent times. The plains resemble
Edrada, though they are warmer and more arid.
A high wall of mountains keeps exploration
limited; most inhabitants hug the low coast in
large fishing or trade cities. Gundrada is both
a bustling frontier and a region of criminals,
exiles, and secessionists. Tribes in these parts
remain relatively unconcerned with the wars
and political maneuverings of their Edradan
counterparts. Warships remain forgotten
knowledge, and so the wide Hara Sea keeps
most conflicts confined to the continent that
spawns them.
Kelkala, a much-navigated and heavily
trafficked area, is a large island separated from
the Edradan mainland by the Strait of Uzik.
Fish, including cod, salmon and halibut fill the
waterways feeding into the channel and are
staple foods for area Edish. The island houses
ruined castles and battlements throughout, the
southern coastline dotted with watch towers
and wall fragments, suggesting that at one time
almost one-third of the entire coast was circled
by stone walls. Superstition surrounds Kelkala,
and only one city of Edish inhabit its shores.


North of the plains and lowlands lie the

Wilds. The Wilds are harsh lands of cold and
crags, the western edge a high plateau with
mountainous peaks that overlook the basin
sweeping eastward. Storms circle through the
area regularly, with tornadoes and lightning
storms frequent in warmer months and
blizzards reshaping the landscape with ice and
snow during winter. Ogres have been seen in
the highest elevations, though numbers are
becoming frequent just south of the plateau
as well, encroaching on the foothills that
broach the plains. The Wilds harbor many Fell
creatures and represent the very edge of human
settlements. The whole region reeks of magick
gone wrong. All maps blur at the Wilds, and
incursions led by even the most intrepid scouts
have never been seen again.
Frequent, unpredictable storms from the Wilds
can cover the Lowlands suddenly, spooking
local animals and sending many into frenzy.
Domesticated animals brought to the region
are often injured or killed during these storms,
and they generally handle the area much less
successfully than indigenous species. This
keeps modern Edish from settling the area in
great numbers, and most of those living in the
region are exiles, explorers, or hermits. The furs
and foodstuffs of the forests can be sold for
healthy sums in the warmer plains and western
highlands, but even merchant companies are
wary to set up permanent hubs within reach of
storms leaking from the Wilds.

The Edish are commonly thought to be
descendants of and take their name from
a long-dead empire that ruled much of the
known world. Edish have tawny or copper
skin and dark, straight hair. Their eyes are
dark and colorful, with hues less intense than
neighboring peoples. Edish represent a mix of
disparate tribes and heritages, so they exhibit
less similarities than communities of other
regions. Only the old families of Kelkala and
Kelineph exhibit the blonde hair now famous
around the Hara Sea for its exoticism.

The Neferatha Still a Force

The Neferatha state encompasses most of the

Nibu people of Ragus, who have skin often
black like ebony, but sometimes bronze or
polished brown. Eyes are colorful but dark,
including rich yellows, ambers, blues and
greens. The original four castes were all of
Nibu heritage, though the many vassal states
and conquered cities include all peoples of
the world. Desert-dwelling Neferatha practice
whole-body depilation, removing all their hair
save the eyelashes.

Vendhi Delta
Ugurlu, the Golden City, the Capital of the
World, the oldest city in existence, stretches
back into history further than even those cities
known only in myth. Sprawled out over miles of
fertile soil at the mouth of a dark river, Ugurlu
has been populated for millennia, building
layer upon layer of homes, temples, palaces,
and public houses. The city is part of nature,
as old as the desert that encroaches on it, as
old as the river that feeds it, as old as the Hara
Sea upon which it rests. Below the current city
lie catacombs immeasurable, vast systems of
streets and structures long-buried below the
bustling life on the surface. Below even the
catacombs lie untold mysteries.
The beginning of the Imperial Calendar
marks the claiming of Ugurlu by the newly
enriched Neferatha Body. The First Empress
Hashtani and her two daughters, Mishtani and
Nanthuni, fought alongside Crone to conquer
the powerful city and found an empire. As they
took control of Ugurlu, the Neferatha began
their rise. Since the Six-Fronts Wars, the city
has grown no less proud or spirited.

Ugurlu The City

The city itself is surrounded by high, thick
walls and advanced battlements. Architecture
of domed roofs, spires, and obelisks shimmers
under the hot sun, over the dark, hairless heads
of the castes. Many bridges span the Vendhi
River. Some are large enough for an army
to cross upon; others, made of worn stones
arranged in narrow arches, are taken only by
messengers and peddlers. The roads are twisted
and winding, some three floors deep. Staircases
bring the uneven ground together, growing like
barnacles over the buildings.


Ragus, the large continent south of Edrada,

includes a sweeping desert, the five Great Trees,
a fertile coast reaching out from the delta of
the Vendhi River, the Parushaya Mountains,
and a sprawling jungle. The continent is the
largest of the known world, yet much of it
remains wilderness unseen by human eyes.

Temples dedicated to the gods are ornate,

covered in reliefs of many sizes. Hundreds
of cults exist, where the lives of the gods are
taught and celebrated in ancient rites. Statues
and large public sculptures fill the city, and
many plazas bear the names of the works of art
that reside in them.
The only bare buildings are the slope-walled
temples of the Imperial Cult. Shaped like large
trapezoids, the temples narrow slightly as they
rise, giving the impression of even greater
height. Unadorned and austere on the outside,
Imperial Temples house many chapels given
over to the empresses who have ruled since
the days of Crone. The largest altar is generally
given to Szedarc, while a shrine dedicated
to the current empress takes a prominent
position near the temples center. Ahimsa and
Hashtani are also revered in most cities. There
are a handful of temples given over to a single
empress, usually in her hometown or funded by
her descendants.

The Nameless Desert

A vast desert stretches from the coast of
the Hara Sea all the way to the Parushaya
Mountains, the very heart of Ragus. The desert
is both rock and sand, showing dune after
dune in the southern and eastern regions, with
rocky flats and steppes reaching west toward
the forested foothills. The Great Trees sprung
up less than three thousand years ago but have



been hacked and cut into terraces, allowing for

stonework to be suspended off the trunk like
oyster mushrooms. The cold, north-facing side
of the tree houses two ghettos and the Tanners
Field. A large sliver of the city never sees the
sun, the grand bulk and canopy of Tian Das
blocking all exposure. The walls of the city
extend only around part of the circumference
of Tian Das, and a large palace dedicated to
the Vasuvedhi family tucked in the heart of
the Trees base boasts higher spires and thicker
stone. Many new people arrive in Tiantip each
generation, the city a bubbling cauldron of new
ideas and art.
Emkadhi and Esvesthi are less populated cities,
though the trees at their hearts are almost as
large as Tian Das. Esvesthi is known for its
position as a trade route at the edge of the
Parushaya Mountains, a meeting place for
caravans of the Desert and goods from Oldfire.

already strangled the life from all but the very

edges of the desert. It is not known whether
the Trees or the Cursed Wind came first, but it
is said that both are the result of dark magicks
brought into being when the Loom was
first discovered by ancient humans. Threads
crisscross the region, amplifying the heat of day
and cold of night.
Three Tree Cities
Three of the five Great Trees lie inside the
Nameless Desert: Tiantip, Emkadhi, and
Esvesthi. Tree cities have a culture somewhat
their own. Mosses are eaten quite regularly
and become a staple, much like bread or maize
for other climates. Grapes grow on vines that
creep around the roots and trunk of the Trees,
producing a strange wine, tart but potent.


Tiantip is large and dark, the city an unruly

blend of Nibu, Alagoth, and native peoples.
Semi-complete structures found leagues away
were dragged by slaves on rollers to build a
pastiche of stonework at the foot of the tree,
which is anthropomorphized as Tian Das by
locals. At a few places, the face of the tree has

The fourth-largest city in Ragus, Karesh has
always been an important military waypoint.
The Second Expeditionary Army uses Karesh
as a base as well as several smaller contingents
used for keeping the peace along the coast.
Although the region is much less fertile
than Ugurlu, Karesh lacks the political and
commercial distractions that characterize the
capital. Industries include all those focused on
training, equipping, and entertaining Neferatha
All armies are trained in Karesh, and most
generals retire there. It is a military city to the
very core, the last six governors being former
officers in the First Cardinal Army. Since the
Six-Fronts Wars, the Expeditionary forces
have been pushing further west and south,
and Karesh has slowed little in manufacturing
soldiers for the Empress.

Lake District
At the southern edge of the nameless desert
The Bronze Lake feeds a thriving ecosystem.
The Lake is an oasis of unexplained origins,
the harsh winds of the desert falling short


of the broad, leafy trees. All kinds

of animals inhabit the dense treecovered shoreline, encircling a crystal
blue pool of unknown depth. A lush
savannah of grasses and tall trees
stretches beneath the Lake far down
the foot of the Mountains, providing
for a diverse range of flora and fauna.
Long a destination of leisure and
luxury for the wealthy Rights of
Ugurlu and Anishad, Hastinpiro
was in older times the capital of
a prosperous kingdom. In 327 IC,
the 12th Empress, Radhepan of
the Tathagan family, laid siege to
the capital, tearing down its walls
and razing the fortresses there.
Surrounded in all directions by
natural boundaries, the remote city
required few defenses during the
rise of the Neferatha. When armed
skirmishes with the many clans of
relocated Alagoths began, Hastinpiro
suffered for its years of serenity:
For almost a generation, the roving
patriarchs took turns raiding its
granaries and dismantling its summer
homes. In recent years, Hastinpiro
has become once more a city of spas
and wine.


A region of charred earth and little

growth, Oldfire marks the edge of
Neferatha expansion. Local cultures
are resilient and hardy, and the
cities of Phanesh and Emluk have
dominated the region for untold
centuries. Those trees that do survive
in Oldfire form large forests of thin
trunks and high leaves. Underbrush
burned away in a legendary wildfire
a thousand years ago never returned,
and the forests canopies rise high
above the hard, cracked ground.
Visibility in a forest such as this is
clear for miles but for the spindly,
twisting trunks of dark wood.



Oldfire is alive with the old magicks, and many

mages are wary of what could lie undiscovered
in the ruins buried by sand and scrub. The
Crowns have less influence in Oldfire than they
would like, and exploration is limited by the
presence of the Neferathas oldest enemy.

the large trading halls and luxurious public

houses. Newer buildings illustrate the standard
architecture of the Alagoths, featuring open
chambers hung with heavy carpets. Older
districts display eclectic constructions of
stylized woodwork.

The central rival of Ugurlu and at one point
surrounded by the reach of the Empire,
Phanesh rebuffed seven siege attempts and
never fell. Fed by a large well and many tunnels,
even attempts to starve the city failed. The
people of Phanesh are not of Nibu stock but
share many qualities with peoples of the region.
They are dark-skinned and regal in appearance,
but shorter and honor no castes. Phaneshi
soldiers are feared across Oldfire and have
been known to aid those seeking to harm the
Neferatha Empire. They wear black armor
scored and painted to diminish the shimmer of
the well-made metal plates.

Material Culture

The current King of Phanesh, Xar Edrek

the Broad, has recently re-divided the lands
that support the thriving city, solidifying his
base and rewarding local lords. The walls of
Phanesh are said to be protected by seven Fey
spirits whose Hearths have been built into the
A city of wealth and historical significance,
Emluk surrounds the venerated tree called
Emshell by native people. Alagoth rulers
refer to the tree as The Royal Oak, though
no evidence that Emshell is related to the
oaks of Lower Edrada exists. Behind the walls
of Emluk, the Alagoths have recently begun
building projects resembling those of King
City. Four clans vie for dominance among


The Empire trades with everyone it has not

conquered. Sailing large, multi-mast ships
across the seas, Neferatha seek foreign ports
in Edrada, Gundrada, and the Kuludo Islands,
called the Lands of the Wet Sun. The Neferatha
recognize the Khazil of the Eastern Islands,
calling them Dvarhavs after the shape of their
axes; trade focuses mainly on metals and premade armors.
Daily Life
Neferatha share clothing styles among the
castes. Crowns and Right Hands wear white
silks and cottons draped over the shoulder or
wrapped at the waist. Gold jewelry embedded
with precious gems is common. Headdresses
marking rank and lineage are also common.
Right Hands also always carry a sword on
their person; the wealthy sport curved, ornate
blades, while the majority don swords the size
of knives along with their spears and javelins.
Archers of the Right are especially rare, but
their weapons are skillfully made as well.
Neferatha levy taxes on villages and entire
areas, not individuals or families, and so the
Foot and lower castes are brought together in
toil and tribulation. They raise sheep in more
remote locales, the fertile valley hosting a range
of domesticated cattle good for eating and

Present Day Quarry City, Faht Ghabbi


While she appreciated the strain inherent in such labor, Ghabbi, as Faht, could not excuse the lack of focus
apparent in the work of her fellow Lefts. These errors are unacceptable, Heomar. Their frequency has
become an issue.
Ghabbi, laughed the young man, rubbing his tired eyes, Surely a measurement of tons does not require the
accuracy of ounces.
Heomar was a slender man, his stature belying the success of the Right whose enterprises and wealth he
played a role in managing. Ghabbis body was more indicative of that success. The cotton straps of her
traditional sarong pressed into her olive skin, always free of any body hair, and the softness of her cheeks
gave her expression an artificial air of pleasantness. Heomar knew better, however: the Faht was cold
and thorough in a way considered excessive even among their peers. He was the only Left who addressed
her without her honorary, and even he would never do so were they not alone. The other Lefts had long
since been dismissed for the night, and the two of them labored on with only a single guard present. The
methodical ticking of her stylus on the ledger reminded him of the small music box gifted to Ghabbi by
Mandhava, the Right who now governed much of this region.
The box would chime a short tune by way of some artful Khazil mechanism, which was brought to life by
turning a small key protruding from the objects side. The nature of it was foreign to Heomar, as was the soft,
lilting song it produced. He was puzzled every time he heard the music, finding it grossly at odds with the
harsh, cold metal used in the construction of the box, but enjoying it nonetheless.
He rose from his chair and approached the shelf where Ghabbi had left the music box. In their years of
travel together it was one of few personal possessions that she carried with her from house to house, city to
city, continent to continent. Always they were moving, always counting and partitioning, dividing the spoils
left in the wake of Mandhavas forces and attempting to manage the chaos inevitably left behind. This one
item, much like the presence of Ghabbi herself, had been a reassuring constant in his life throughout this
tumultuous period. He had thought the Two Treaties would have slowed the machine of war, but the generals
only pointed their soldiers further south and west, looking for new cities and pushing old boundaries.
Currently, they were in a city somewhere south and east of the Guna Sea, the white shoreline of which he
last saw six months ago. The traveling was more enjoyable when they were based in the Kuludo Islands of the
Anu, handling trade ledgers. Ghabbis talents had brought them to the attention of Dhrughavi, a Crown who
frequented that region and showed an unusual interest in the Flower trade there. The two Lefts had enjoyed
the Crowns patronage, and she had even instructed Ghabbi in some magickal arts. He had fond memories of
their offices in the port city Kelhi, and of the occasional trips as part of Dhrughavis retinue to Wo, Kuludo,
and the extravagant Xio. Though the work was often as tedious and time consuming as their current employ,
the comforts afforded by Dhrughavis grace and the Anu culture made the hardship easier to bear. But now,
across the world from that Anu hospitality, Heomar could not name this current city nor locate it on a map,
having arrived just two nights ago and worked steadily at the ledger ever since.
He and Faht Ghabbi were transferred from the Kuludo Islands after the Wars to the Guna Desert and the
foothills of the South Iron Mountains, owing to Ghabbis abilities and, no doubt, some intrigue between
Dhrughavi and Mandhava. They were brought to this current, nameless city on the heels of the Third
Expeditionary, and their convoy passed through the very field on which the city was won. During this



passage, the sounds of the dying were all around them, and Heomar was disconcerted and upset in the
palanquin in which he travelled with Ghabbi and the ledgers. He caught occasional glimpses of the carnage
through the covered palanquins flap, which was held aloft by one of Third General Leshas lieutenants while
Heomar and Ghabbi documented the officers reports of the battles toll even as they passed across the field
on which it took place. They were carried straight to this manse, former home of a high-ranking municipal
officer by its looks, and had been working ever since.
Heomar readily admitted that he was beginning to make mistakes, but they did seem quite trivial in light of
the volume of materials they were processing and their pending departure in a days time to the next site, to
the next new addition to the Empire. One can simply not be expected to keep up with such a demanding
schedule without Ghabbis magickal training to sustain and aid the work. Her powers so impressed that he
sometimes suspected that she could manage the whole operation without a single physical ledger.
Heomar turned the key in the music box. He was comforted by the familiar tune, which always called to mind
the presence of Ghabbis soft bulk. He faintly detected her smell, and closing his tired eyes imagined that one
night in Xio, when Ghabbis mechanical nature disappeared for once, and she revealed her true self to him.
Memories of that night often maintained him now, and the song always revived them.
He glanced over his shoulder at her while the machine chimed, but she was focused on the ledger to the
exclusion of all else. A second stylus had begun dancing independently across the ledger, apparently under the
influence of Ghabbis arts. He longed to touch the smooth, olive skin of her scalp, to smell her body.
The song ended.
Perhaps you should retire. At the sound of Ghabbis voice, Heomar snapped awake, realizing that he had
drifted off on his feet, the now silent music box still in his hands. You seem to have reached your limit, and I
can carry on for a time alone.
Of course youre right, Ghabbi, you know that I cannot maintain this pace. Ill only require a few hours
before Im back at my best. Ill sleep in the palanquin.
With this, Heomar gently set the music box on the table, next to his abandoned stylus, and turned to go.
Heomar. He turned, and was surprised to meet her eyes. Ghabbi rarely looked away from the ledgers when
there was work to do. Thank you.
Heomar smiled at this rare moment of connection, feeling all the better knowing that she never shared such
moments with anyone else. Perhaps there was hope that they would someday revisit that space created for
one night in Xio.
Of course, Ghabbi. Ill return in a few hours.
Ghabbi had already returned to the ledger before the door was closed behind him. She worked on for a few
minutes in silence. Habdun, she said suddenly, not pausing in her calculations. The guard standing by the
door stepped forward, squaring his broad shoulders to his mistress and waiting silently.



Habdun had been a soldier in a garrison city taken by the Third Expeditionary several years ago in the arid
waste of the Guna desert. This city was the key element of defense in the region, and the defenders had
held out for months before Ghabbis arrival from the Kuludo Islands. One of Ghabbis first acts on being
appointed Faht was to orchestrate the bribe that prompted Habdun to open a side gate during the night.
The city fell to Third General Leshas forces within hours.
Despite his contributions to the advance of the Empire, Habdun was a base brute and considered unfit
for elevation to any caste above Foot. As such, he appeared destined to share the fate of so many other
assimilated soldiers. They were organized into under-equipped regiments that Third General Lesha was
known to use as sacrificial elements, often tying up enemy forces with them and then slaughtering the lot
with her mages from afar.
Ghabbi saved Habdun from this fate by enlisting him as a personal guard for the ledger. Through her
magick, Ghabbi had become fluent in Habduns language in a matter of hours. She now found it useful to
keep a strong sword arm near that only she could communicate with, and she found his simple mind easy to
manipulate with the arts taught to her by Dhrughavi. Habdun was a brute and a murderer, but he was hers.
The employment of that Left no longer contributes positively to the Empire. End it.
Habdun left silently, his strange, short dirk already drawn. Ghabbi would have to manage the ledger and the
other Lefts by herself until a more capable replacement could be found for Heomar, but his position was too
important for such errors.
She imagined that perhaps the time would come when her abilities too would fail. There was great political
pressure on the Third Expeditionary to maintain its string of successes since the Empire had lost so much
influence in Edrada with the Two Treaties. Any failures or setbacks in the disbursement of spoils tended
to be ascribed to the Faht, and the Rights demanded harsh punishment. Such thoughts rarely distracted
Ghabbi for long, though; her focus returned quickly to the work at hand. Reaching across the table, she
moved the music box off of Heomars ledger and amended his calculations on the tonnage of wheat required
for the daily maintenance of the Third Expeditionary, adjusting the number down by a few ounces, one less
mouth to feed. The other stylus, animated by her magick, continued its mechanical scratching unabated,
recording the inevitable advance of the Neferatha Empire.


The Alagoth Patriarchs and Kings


Little is known about the Alagoths before they

entered Lower Edrada. What can be gathered
from their accounts encompasses the mythic
past, long before their appearance near the
White Forest, and many stories conflict with
one another. But if the majority of the tales are
to be believed, the Alagoths spent countless
generations migrating in separate, isolated
caravans across the Great Eastern Steppe,
developing and refining their reliance on and
reverence for the horse, moving their livestock
from one patch of short grass to the next, and
using eagles to scout safe routes away from the
prides of cave lions that inhabited the fissures
and savannahs there.
Even the oldest stories of the Alagoth say little
about the time before the migrations. Many
scholars among them wonder if this was not by
design, the cause of so many years of movement
a self-imposed exile. There is the chance that,
as a people, they simply forgot where they
came from over generations of travel, stories
of their homeland one by one becoming lost in
the darkness of time. Whatever the case, the
Alagoth have retained a multitude of stories
about the patriarchs themselves, and these
stories pass from one generation to the next,
changing as the world around them changes.


Oral tradition among elders states that the

Alagoth emerged from the Steppe six hundred
years ago and began settling near the White
Forest in the plains and rolling hills of Lower
Edrada. Stories hold that their horse caravans
were halted at the edge of the White Forest,
the speed and power of their venerated animals
availing them little among such thorny thickets
and dense trunks. Slowly they moved along
the forests southern edge, displacing and
assimilating those they encountered. Eventually
they crossed into the fertile valleys of the coast
and spent over a hundred years clearing the
region of Edish villages, setting themselves up
as powerful gatekeepers to the East. As more
and more caravans arrived out of the Steppe,
lands were shared in the fertile hills and a new
way of life alongside the Forest and amidst the
Old Empire ruins emerged.

Alagoths are the largest people of the Hara

Sea, though the Edish are on average taller.
Their skin is a range of browns, with black and
rust- colored hair often bleached or dyed with
natural plants. They wear large folded cloaks
knitted in the heirloom patterns of their clans.
These intricate geometric patterns are, like a
great number of Alagoth textiles in general,
dyed bright yellows, deep blues, and wild
reds. Distinguishing one clan from the next,
such tartans can usually been seen peeking
out from under a family members cloak and
other vestments. Their dress is always ready for
horse riding, so cloaks can be tucked or folded
away from the legs at a moments notice, and
although hoods are uncommon when riding,
they have become normal dress in the many
cities and temples.
Camps and cities alike are also known for
their ornaments and finely made silver jewelry.
Wealthy Alagoths decorate themselves with
rings, earrings, torcs, necklaces, charms, and
pendants. Even cloaks and cloth for everyday
garments are inlaid with silver and embroidered
with gems. Smooth stones, agate, amethyst, and
amber are worked into even the heavy weaves
of battle clothes.

Mobile Camps of the Patriarchs

All Alagoths descend from the same horse
culture birthed in the far east, and the
majority of their population is scattered
among autonomous clans, each having its own
patriarch and tartan. Some clans comprise
many individual camps ruled by wealthy and
masculine sons of the huol, several caravans
sharing a single tartan and name; other clans
are much smaller and encompass only a single
caravan, including as few as forty males. Each
clan has few official ties to any other, though
ranging groups of Alagoth meet up often for
trade and socializing. It is said only the druids,
the religious power base in Alagoth society,
keep track of all the patriarchs, the camps, and
their territories.


The warrior-shepherds travel in vast hordes

of livestock and horses across the steppes of
the east and range over the grasslands and
hills of Lower Edrada. These hordes contain a
robust assemblage of Alagoth culture including
druids, warriors, councilors, artisans, women,
slaves, and children all managed by a single
patriarch and his family. Each horde constitutes
a veritable mobile city, and few of these camps
remain stationary long.
Inhabiting the fields and foothills between
an impassable forest on the one side and
a dangerous coast on the other, Alagoth
settlements act as the central waypoints for
travelers in that part of the world. In recent
years, a new wave of migrating clans has begun
to build, with many new patriarchs entering
the lands around King City and causing much
confusion. Roads are now being built in Lower
Edrada for the first time in many centuries,
carrying chariots, war-wagons, and other
refugees into fields near Phessanika and the
There is much speculation among the
incumbent Alagoth about the causes for
this new migration. Old ways are mixing
with new and tensions are rising. Popular
Edish ruminations say the new Alagoth are
still fleeing the collapsing side of the world,
a catastrophe the Edish claim the Alagoth
themselves caused.

Urban Ecologies
The Free Cities of Lower Edrada are large,
fortified urban centers that pay no tribute to
the Neferatha Empire. Thick walls protect
many layers of kings, princes, bureaucrats and
native noble families. Patriarchs in these cities
are wealthy merchant-lords and businessmen.
Outside the walls, their sons and nephews run
trade-caravans and work as mounted patrollers.
Kings rule over the internal affairs of the city
and levy taxes on all clans that use the trading
halls, stables, and public buildings and on all
those that travel private roads.

Prowess in war is still important among the

urban Alagoth, and those men who compete
for wives and horses are still warlike and proud.
Horse raids are the most common source of
violence, and hunts are made for leisure over
necessity. Coin is obviously important, but
nowhere is any piece of metal worth more
than a prized stallion. Young men are feeling
the strain of the new environment on their
access to symbols of power, however: Horses
and families require land and resources, both
of which are harder to acquire in a stationary
settlement. As in the autonomous camps, ones
lineage, personal prestige, and wealth in horses
are the root of power and influence.
An old city of Lower Edrada, Charzen was
taken by the Alagoths in 834 IC by Nerakbar
Ata Mushab of the Iassata. Nerakbar built a
powerful, wealthy city, becoming the first of
the Alagoth kings of Edrada. Before Praetawa



took control of Lokod in 862 IC with the help

of a Neferatha legion, Charzen was the richest
city in Edrada. The city has always been a dark
horse historically, attracting little attention
since the Iassata settled but amassing influence
and wealth.
Phessanika & King City
People settled in the valley near Phessanika
when the Kevmor Road still onnected one
side of the White Forest to the other. Over
many years of turmoil and migrations, all but
the Gate was forgotten. It was long after the
Alagoth had raided the city that any patriarch
took an interest in what lore may have been
lost in the violence. Since the discovery of
the Duadha, Phessanika has grown in size
and importance, becoming the central base
of all the druids outside the White Forest.
Phessanika is the only city to have permanent
druid residents unattached to a patriarch or his
family, and the flats near the city house several
henges of sod and stone.
From Phessanika, the six clans traveled into
the Steppe to build King City. Construction
was complete in 914 IC and a substantial
gift was given to the city at the signing of
the South Treaty some years later. The city
attracts migrant horsemen from the Steppe
each summer, swelling enough to double its
size in warmer months, but shrinking again
when the cold winds start. The current king of
the city descends from the feared riders of the
Zaneshata and bathes in riches sent by distant
patriarchs who hope to one day gain the honor
of being buried in a tomb on the East-facing
slope, called the Kings Mark.

A Rich Culture


Preferring to fight and raid on horseback,

Alagoths use bows, spears, and circular shields
in combat. Slightly curved swords are becoming
increasingly popular as Alagoths who once
fought for Neferatha armies return to Lower
Edrada. When traveling, Alagoths reside in
elaborate tabernacles constructed of dark black
wood from the White Forest and heavy carpets

hung as walls. Tents take on very different

shapes depending on the use, and expert
designers are always ready to add or enlarge
rooms with minimal inconvenience to the
residents. These carpets, sometimes two inches
thick, are often covered in scenes of conquest
and consumption. They can take upwards of
twelve months to weave, requiring dozens of
slaves and many artisans. Alagoth carpets offer
the greatest detail, most vibrant colors, most
intricate patterns, and the best craftsmanship
seen in any textile in and around the Hara Sea.
When taking up residence in Empire ruins,
tapestries are hung from the walls to replicate
the aesthetic of the tent. Carpets are soft and
lavish, and floors are covered with many rugs
at overlapping angles. Alagoth rugs are sought
after the world over and provide a symbol of
luxury for the wealthy of the Kuludo Islands,
the Vendhi Delta, and Upper Edrada.
In the presence of the mighty Forest, the
Alagoths absorbed a nature religion and honor
esoteric rites emphasizing the druids teachings
on astrology and cycles of growth. The White
Forest offered a kind of safety unimagined by
early generations, who spent the majority of
their lives in the flat, unsheltered spaces of the
Steppe. The ever-present fear of lions faded as
the Forest gave cover and building supplies to
the camps. The eagles of the steppes proved
equally useful at infiltrating the forest to locate
prey as they had in the grasslands at spotting
predators, and many Alagoth retained their skill
as falconers. New foods entered the Alagoth
diet as new game and vegetation became
available, and the roots, herbs, and spices of
the White Forest, first considered delicacies
soon became commonplace in Alagoth cooking.
Within a short time, the Alagoth became
skilled forest dwellers, though few actually
wandered far into the dangerous wood.
Sex and Gender
Alagoths recognize three genders: male, female,
and gharun, the eunuch or barren gender.
Gharun are treated equally whatever sexual
characteristics they exhibit. Male heads-ofhousehold have authority over their wives and
their offspring, though their patriarch exerts
absolute authority over the entire camp.

Gharun are respected as useful viziers and

councilors. They are trusted above all others
in a patriarchs home, often above even the
huol. Without property or a family of their
own, gharun have no political power and thus
nothing to gain from betrayal. Gharun are
known for being ascetic and cool tempered,
and for wearing plain robes of brown or blue
that do not reflect the family patterns. While
druids act as political and spiritual advisors, a
patriarchs gharun fill the roles of confidantes,
assistants, and personal retainers.

Eagles take a smaller role in Alagoth

symbolism, but were as vital to life in the
Eastern Steppe as they were in the forests of
Lower Edrada. Because they combine images
of eagle and lion, the griffin pique the Alagoth
imagination, becoming symbols of immense
power. Many tales relay the adventures of
young heroes against such winged beasts.


Males are permitted to have more than one

wife, with two or three being common.
Concubines are allowed in a small harem, if
the mans wives permit it. Concubines take
over the household chores of the wives and
are permitted no offspring themselves. Wives
who give their lives to art or song often allow
husbands to accept concubines to manage
the caravans and servants, but this does not
mean tensions are abated. As in any inclusive
living arrangement, the deep bonds of familial
relationships are aggravated and tested by
shared intimacy.

After these three animals defined Alagoth

society for untold generations, the tree took
root in their mythology as well. A symbol of
homecoming, fertility, strength, and protection,
the tree came to represent the epitome of
stationary, homebound life. Although most
Alagoths still routinely move through the
lands they settle, these paths are now generally
circular and seasonal, following grass as flocks
increase in size and need new pasture. The hills
of Lower Edrada are felt to be home, and it is
through the symbol of the tree that Alagoths
share this new sense of belonging and safety.

Central to the iconography of the Alagoth
are the symbols of the horse and the lion.
Alagoth depended upon the horse to move
their livestock, families, and supplies across
the arid steppes, and came to rely on the horse
to escape the tooth and claw of the cave lions
that roved the plains. The wide-open steppes
offered little in the way of shelter or protection
from the large cats that hunted human and
animal alike, and the Alagoth were always at
risk of an attack. These two natural forces
collide in the iconography: For the Alagoth, the
horse represents the power that comes from
wisdom and discipline, and the lion the power
birthed in aggression and instinct. As a result,
much of Alagoth material culture, including
architecture, textiles, and art features horses
and lions in various forms, often with human
heads replacing their own.


The Anu Without an Empress


Anu exhibit an elaborate and aesthetic Court

life dominated by grace, wit, and style. Elite
Sabu compete in areas of taste, and fads
are common each season as a new beautiful
daughter is introduced to the Court or an
especially flashy marriage is remembered.
Highland Anu wear layers of silks and cottons,
fur being an element of status in gloves, hats
and leggings. Anu often decorate with feathers
and fine, metallic strands of woven chain.
In the lowlands and forests, less clothing is
required, but ornamental feathers and jewelry
still dominate outfits. The wealthy wear mostly
short skirts, and styles resemble those of the
Court. Serfs working in maize fields or in the
vine cultivation of Kapixtul decorate attire
with feathers as well, though furs and jewelry
are less common. Anu bathe regularly and have
a vast amount of soaps, perfumes and brushes.
Mirrors are popular in highland estates.
Anu live on a continent of many islands, some
more remote than others, covering a range of
environments and climates. The three most
distinguishable ways of life are split evenly
among the total population. One third of Anu
live in forested regions on Kapixtul and the
Eastern Islands, one third live in the highlands
of Kuludo and the Eastern Islands, and one
third live in the lowlands of Kapixtul. Despite
these different ecologies, the Anu are at the
same time a strikingly homogeneous culture,
and many elements of everyday life are shared
across the various topographies. In fact, much
of the struggle of Anu social etiquette is aimed
at following and establishing a status quo
that permeates the entire empire. Of course,
poor Anu without ties to the populated urban
areas tend to live life without any concern for
what goes on at Court. Behind the aesthetic
connection, a strong, centralized government
and a common religious life bind the various
localities together.


Most Anu wealthy enough to own land live as

extended families in estate homes in or near
a commercial city. In the forests, these homes
consist of multi-tiered buildings on stilts
wrapped around the trunks of tall, straight

trees. Elaborate fortresses and travel-ways

connect the visible estates across miles of
rainforest, as canopy palaces often open high
above the foliage. Some remote settlements,
however, are hidden from mapmakers and enjoy
no such lavish modes of travel. Highland Anu
build estates of many connected structures and
courtyards elevated only a few feet from the
ground. Lowland Anu inhabit vast wetlands
fertile enough for many crops and agriculture,
building stilted cities of stone and wood. In
all cases, interior walls are often constructed
of many folded screens, thin wooden blinds
painted on either side with ink and dye.
Anu armor is usually laminated wood, and
helmets are almost always carved into animal
shapes. House colors are painted onto the wood
before layer after layer of stiffening polish is
added. Helmets curve outward down the neck
and shoulders to deflect blades, and shoulder
armor is overlapped and bulky. Due to the
speed and quality of most Anu swords, armor
is rarely worn all over the body. The armor of
the head and torso serves to protect from the
largest blades, which can only be swung in an
overhead manner down on opponents.
The terrain being severely adverse to open
combat, maintaining agility is essential to
survival. And heavy armor would weigh down
a fallen swordsman in the rushing waters of
monsoon season.

Missing Empress

On the last day of spring in the 54th year of the

Age of the Bleeding Dragon, Empress Chan
Tzi, Heiress of Hataro, Heavenly Daughter of
Gazu, disappeared from her chambers on the
Imperial Island. It was discovered immediately,
but no trace could be found. The Order of the
Red Petals, the priests who personally attended
the Empress at the behest of the Sabu Lords,
had failed in their sole charge.
All priests above the rank of Novitiate have
been arrested and are imprisoned in seven
jails across Kuludo Island. The lowest-ranking


The Seven Houses contest with one another

now more than ever, and the rising stakes of the
political game have claimed many surprising
victims in the last seven years. Lords thought
above reproach have lost their influence,
generals considered untouchable have died in
their own quarters, and even the estate of a
wealthy Khe firm was seized by House Heron
under charges of plotting an insurrection.

Anu Economy

members of the Order scattered, though many

retain their wine-colored robes and continue
performing rites to protect the Empress,
wherever she may be. The Sabu keep a watchful
eye on any suspicious activity while they
interrogate the leaders of the Order with the
many means at their disposal.
Without the center of the Empire in place,
the stewards fight like unchained dogs. Lords
grab for power, hoping to marshal enough
resources to weather the coming storm. Bloody
skirmishes between House militias are more
common now than before the Wars abroad, and
the Sabu press a firmer hand over those of the
lower classes. Anu society demands that such
enemies maintain close social connections, the
tension among the noble families palpable at all
functions of state.

The economy is centralized, with the Seven

Houses controlling all trade, both inter- and
intra-realm. Anu are relatively isolationist and
more so since the Wars; little concern is spent
on affairs not directly relating to the islands.
Local areas grow maize and rice and send the
vast majority of the crop to families and Houses
who legally own the land the peasants live on.
The lords then distribute maize throughout
their realms in koku, one koku enough to feed
one immediate family for one year. Each officer,
servant, and peasant earns a set amount. Rice is
sold on open markets, which are influenced but
not entirely controlled by the House lords. Anu
coins are valued highly in urban areas, though
most villages have little use for coin. Other
goods are distributed from the center of the
aristocracy, and from year to year certain goods
become regulated more or less heavily at the
whim of the powerful families.
Contact with the Vayok provides servants,
animal products such as oil and furs, and
wolves, which are used as guard dogs and war
beasts in the cooler areas. Breeding of the
tundra wolves has been less successful in the
hotter climates, where the offspring never
reach the size or vitality of their parents.
New breeds have been established as pets and
work dogs. Pure wolves, fresh from Vaankur,
are outfitted in laminate armor, decorated in
House colors and sometimes fit with tusks and
other offensive weapons. Wolves accompanying
sword-masters into battle will often carry two
or three extra blades, the longest swords of Anu
warriors often too large to carry on the back in
a scabbard.


The Kuludo Islands


The Kuludo islands begin in the west with both large and
small archipelagos spindled about a series of active volcanoes.
The seas are rough and stormy throughout most of the year as
activity below the earths surface frequently sends waves and
quakes through the region. The largest of the islands was the
last to be conquered, but now much of Anu culture revolves
around the rainforests of Kapixtul Island. The lush islands are
covered in mountains, dense jungle, dark volcanic beaches and
exotic wildlife. For thousands of years, tribes and villages have
explored the labyrinthine straits and channels, hopping from
coast to coast to discover new land. Charts have been made
but dangers untold still exist in the open seas and seemingly
quiet waterways.
Kuludo City
Although the Imperial Island hosts the Empress and the
noble House Lords, the true capital of the Kuludo Islands is
Kuludo City. Here the richest families have their estates, and
from the offices and public buildings of Kuludo City the Sabu
administer and expand their holdings.

Tall towers overlook the hills

that slope away from the city
walls. A citadel of stone rises
from the eastern wall of the city,
looking toward the Harbor Road.
It has been two hundred years
since House Peregrine launched
an attack on the city, which at
the time was governed by an
unlikely alliance of Egret and
Owl families. Harbor Gate was
never rebuilt after the explosions
that began the siege, so decidedly
final was the eventual victory of
the incumbents. House Egret
runs the local government
currently, a tight network of legal
and illegal players making sure
the capital stays at the center of
Anu commerce and politics.
Kuludo City enjoys the mildest
weather in all of the Kuludo
Islands, a truly superlative city of
grand scale and beauty.
Other Highland Cities
Although foreigners often find
Xio more beautiful, the Anu
consider viewing Wo City from
Takorei Hill a sacred spectacle.
The two highland cities are
similar in most respects: Neither
rest on tall stilts, the marker of
all lowland settlements; both
are large port cities that display
the wealth brought by heavy
taxes and welcome bribes to
local governors; and both have
remained relatively neutral in the
many wars among the Houses.


Nex Hotl adjoins the coastal

cliffs by means of a platform and
scaffolding. It grows out from the
rock face over the water on stilts,
making the entire city resemble a
wharf. The warmest of the cities
on Kuludo Island, Nex Hotl is a
leisure and medicinal destination.

The city is known for its baths, most of which

are cut deep within the rock, and its exotic
foods. Standing over the quiet waters of Ying
Na Bay, the city is one of the cleanest while at
the same time most industrial of the Anu cities.


Eastern Islands
Surrounding the Black Earth Sea are Khazil
blacksmiths living in highland crags or
mountain caves with elaborate ventilation
systems. Mines of precious metals, arcane
metals stronger than iron and more luminous
than platinum, are fought over above most
other resources by wealthy Anu. Warfare in the
crags and mountains of the mines is almost a
day-to-day activity, rival Houses controlling
many professional militias that roam the
frontier islands.
Lowland Cities
The sweltering city of Preexi Latl, the Second
Capital, City of the Wet Sun, lies at the heart
of Kapixtul Island. A mornings walk from the
Central Temple, Preexi Latl is the soul of the
Anu people, the center of the Thun priesthood,
and the most ethnically diverse Anu city. It is
considered by most accounts the second-largest
city of the Hara Sea and has the fastest-growing
population. Counting its visitors, pilgrims,
and transient poor, the city sees more unique
individuals each year than Ugurlu. Every day
thousands of people pass through each of the
citys nine gates, the roads congested with
bodies, livestock, muck, and market goods.
The Sabu who live in or near Preexi Latl
consider it a necessary evil, viewing the whole
city as a marketplace of politics and loyalties.
A dozen roads cut through endless maize fields
to reach the city, though even the most cheaply
bought messenger or spy would know another
dozen paths in or out.
Rosh Hotl and Kelhi are similarly congested,
the lowland cities much denser than the
sprawling highland estates, but the height
of their stilts offers much cleaner air. House
Osprey has large holdings in Kelhi, being the
dominant players in much of the southern


The Thun priesthood has two central tasks:

Maintain the slumber of the Tyrants and
protect the harvest of maize. More so than any
other people of the Hara Sea, the inhabitants
of the Kuludo Islands know and fear the power
of the Dark Ones. A poor harvest of maize
one year might be the groan of an Elder near
waking; a storm that catches many ships out
of port may be traced to an Elder said to sleep
beneath a nearby island; two children die in
a single village, and the priests consult their
charts calculating the nearest known Barrow or
Many spirits aid in the growth and harvest of
maize, and every field houses more shrines than


A Day in the Life


Zu awakened in his bamboo lean-to with a start. The rain running of the roof at his back made it difficult
to hear his masters wife calling from the house. Even the clanging of the bell was muffled in the sound of
sunrise monsoon. He hopped up from his mat and muttered a perfunctory prayer, offering thanks to the
Maize and Rain Spirit for another life-giving morning downpour. He tied his pants up around his waist and
donned the reed apron and hat that would protect his silks from the rain. A deep breath and a sprint across
the mud to the porch. He sat quickly to wipe off his feet and tie on his sandals, before winding his way
around the large estate home to his mistresss private chamber.
Good morning, Zu, offered his mistress as the scout hunched over, panting before her. He bowed his head,
giving a short groan in recognition. Two Thun servants fitted a garland of fine silver leaves across her scarlet
robe. The turkeys got out last night, and Gatu is nowhere to be seen. I need at least three of them back by
midday. Zu stood, his eyes wide in protest. I know, Mistress Kayo offered, There are three edhi in it for
you, kintin Zu. She was both generous and polite, but chasing stray turkeys was quite beneath his station as
his masters best fowler. You are very kind, my lady. Thank you.
Zu turned to leave just as his masters second son sprang from behind a painted screen depicting Ikthu Gawa
swallowing ships in a storm. The boy held a toy bow fitted with an arrow that looked a portion too dangerous
for a child of six. My, said the young mother, looking to Zu, I think you should be worried of little Hatzi
here. He seems to have been touched by Akoyo this morning. Indeed, the boy was quite the image of a hero,
his face painted in whiskers and teeth. Lady Kayos mention of the hero-maker was not far off, as many in
her birth family were revered soldiers. Most of the servants imagined that fact the central reason Medhozu
pursued Kayo so ardently, to make up for his own lack of martial valor. Zu dodged the arrow with a roll,
which set Hatzi giggling, but the man did not have time to play. He whispered another prayer, this time to
Akoyo Gawa for his unborn son. Maybe one day the Anxai family would sire a soldier instead of a folwer.
Zu bowed once more to the Lady and turned, already at a trot, his sandals sliding on the polished wood as he
rounded the house. Four covered bridges and another short sprint in the rain brought him to the bird coops.
Gatus brood shared a lean-to with two other Thun families: They were all in charge of preparing the animals
for the kitchen. Zu was a sportsman, and a Hhan, and he would never be caught wringing the neck of a
caged, wing-clipped bird.
The fowler kicked at a huddle of youngsters sleeping under a mat, rousing them with his heel. He barked
a few orders and set about looking through the main building for a decent piece of rope. As he rummaged
through the heavy chests, all locked tight against the humidity of the season, a pair of priests entered the
They addressed Zu formally, recognizing him at once as Hhan, and asked after the weeks offering: Two
cockerels and a young capybara. He replied, I have no idea where the cockerels might be in this mess of
coops, but I would take it that capybara chewing through the post out front is for you. He could not guess
what the cockerels were for, but the capybara was for last nights storm. Ikthu Gawa demanded attention,
and only blood shed on the altar would suffice. The cockerels may have been for young Hatzis half-birthday,
which Zu believed to be tomorrow. No, Lord Medhozu was entertaining visitors today from Kuludo City. The
cockerels would be for Endu Gawa, in honor of the Seven Houses and the wisdom of the State.
Zu found a length of rope and stepped out into the rain, tying the reed hat tightly against his brow. He
rubbed the jade figurine in his pocket: Onca, the Helper of Men. It would be a chore finding these turkeys,
but three extra endhi this month could mean a new robe and a new sash. He smiled, fingering the stone jaguar
through his thin pants, and set off down the path.


The Vayok at Home and Abroad

Khazil Heritage
Vayok are stout, capable hunters, inventive
fisher-folk, and feared warriors. Thick beards
and long hair are common, with braids and
hair decorations popular markers of status and
valor. The culture is the origin of the Khazil
heritage that has, since the Wars, spread over
the Kuludo Islands and Edrada. Khazil have
eyes that are generally bright and colorful, with
much superstition and colloquial groupings
created by eye color. The eyes are small,
however, so color is not always immediately
noticeable. Featuring well-muscled bodies
of short stature, Khazil are still quick and
dexterous, their broad frames adapted both to
supporting heavy weights on loose snow and to
swimming easily in the icy sea.

Three Homes
The southern coast of Vaankur is an area of
minimal agriculture where the Vayok spend the
coldest months. The three centers for social
life are called the Three Homes, and all Vayok
settlements and homesteads have a connection
to one or another of the Homes. Mead
halls, temples, large kennels, tanners, ports,
smithiesall the necessities of a flourishing
city are present at the Homes, though the
close-knit nature of the Vayok people makes
most comparisons of the Homes to cities rather
slim. There are no strangers, nor vagabonds.
If each Vayok does not know every other,
they would surely find a common relative or
shared friend easily enough upon meeting.
The Homes, more like extensive villages,
offer a variety of warm accommodations and
sport. The great festivals bring Vayok from all
reaches of Vaankur to one or another Home for
celebrations and reunions, as the last hundred
years have seen a vast expansion of people
across the warmer coast.


The Vayok live on the cold, northern island

of Vaankur and have adapted to hazards
common in the frozen tundra that would mean
death for other cultures. Most Vayok live in
mobile settlements for the greater part of
the year, following fish and large game along
seasonal routes both near shores and deep
into the glacial plateaus. The age-old routes
vary according to clan, and the earliest songs
of Vayok history recount hunting victories
and the founding of successful routes by
ancestral heroes. These mobile Vayok return
to rebuild homes in the warmer coastal
highlands during the coldest months of the
year, bringing stores of meat, fur, gems, metals,
and story. Some Vayok dwell in these more
permanent communities year-round, tending
to common-owned groups of domesticated
wolves and running trade with merchants.
Three permanent settlements exist, known
collectively as the Three Homes, and much of
the Vayok calendar centers on activities taking
place in Wagshigaad, the only true city. Larger
clans have guards, chiefs and families in the
Three Homes at all times, while smaller clans
hire keepers who perform the appropriate
ceremonies and mend structures on family land
for payment from the years hunt.

Material Culture
Vayok dress in heavy layers of furs and skins.
Tools are commonly of wood, stone, antler
or tusk construction. Metal weapons used by
Vayok raiders are more often than not procured
through raiding, as blades made by native
smiths in the old ways exact far too high a price
in payment and status for the common warrior
to afford. Khazil blacksmiths in other areas
are renowned for the secret arts they use to
produce weapons of unparalleled quality.
Jewelry is worn in the hair more commonly
than anywhere else, with shells, gems, precious
metals and trinkets of foreign origin the most
popular choices. Male and female Vayok are
indistinguishable to outsiders during the colder
months due to the shared dress, though in
warmer times and in the Three Homes, men
wear more jewelry and cover their faces and
hands less often than women. As a matter of
style, females tend to stay covered from the
wind, even in warmer weather, and wear lighter,
more decorated parkas and furs.



Vayok marry across family lines, sharing sons
through traditional arrangements of giving
and receiving, making the Vayok culture a
matrilocal society. Clans intermarry with
small formality, marriages usually cementing a
contract or agreement between the two social
groups. Smaller clans with excess children will
trade off youngsters to Anu merchants as well,
sending them away to seek fortune among a
foreign land. It is not well known among the
Vayok exactly what these adopted children
encounter after leaving the frozen islands, as
Vayok rarely have reason to travel to the lands
of the Anu.
Aggression & Bravery
The frozen climate and deeply communal life
of the Vayok create no room for crime or open
war, though conflicting bravados are common.
When enough rivalries or grudges become
apparent in a community, the lot of them
is handled by open competitions in raiding,
sport, or wrestling. In this way, the troubles
of twosomes are taken up and resolved in
communal activity, holding all accountable to
the health and success of the camp.
The foundation of Vayok society is the
collaborative effort toward survival in the
tundra and freedom from the giants; any
behavior putting the camp in danger is taken
seriously. Though the Vayok have no formal
laws, the wisdom of the clan elders is steadfast.
Grievous offenses or violence against an elder
result in forced labor or deportation as slaves to
Anu merchants.

Vayok Abroad


Inhabitants of Vaankur established contact with

neighboring peoples almost two hundred years
ago but created few settlements themselves
outside the territory encompassing the cyclical
hunting season. These early contacts led to
trading relationships between prominent Vayok
clans and merchants of the Anu people but
developed into less civil relationships with the
remaining settlements of Edish in Gundrada
and Upper Edrada.

Younger Vayok engage in raiding when trailcamps on the cyclical hunts grow too large.
Longships land on the Gundradan coast or
navigate the deep waters of Red River before
reaching the Hara Sea and Upper Edrada.
The scope of Vayok exploration is sorely
underestimated: Phanesh traders have been
hawking Vayok-made axes since as early as
680 IC. Many tales of unknown attackers
that haunt the coasts Lower Edradan coast
could well be tied to Vayok raiders in search of
handsome goods and adventure.
A rough semblance of Vayok culture exists
in the many ethnic villages of Khazil spread
over Edrada and the Eastern Islands. Those in
Edrada are former soldiers, earning their keeps
as mercenaries or skilled laborers, though there
are likely those who enjoy tending a bit of
farmland and the chance of starting a family.



As the two men turned the

corner, they met a rush of fleeing
bodies. The Elder Giant towered
over the warehouses of the wharf,
debris of wood and stone flying
in the wake of each swing of its
powerful arms. It must have clung to
the underside of their boat the entire
journey from Vaankur, thought
Onoltet. He damned himself for
leaving his armor on board while
they searched for the delinquent
dock-master, finding the handle of
his fathers sword with his fingers.
At least he carried Hentl Bon,
Slayer of Spirits, The ThoughtForge.
Across from the sabu, Nanuuruj
hefted the angled hand-axe gifted
him by a Khazil elder of the
Eastern Islands. Nanuuruj, too,
had left his armor on board. He
had been eager to shed the final
layer of clothing before stepping
into the balmy Kuludo streets.
Onoltet stood firm against the
wave of screaming Anu, eyeing
his foe. Nanuuruj gave a whistle.
If the Vayok trainers wolves had
survived the giants resurfacing,
they would soon be near to aid
their master.
The two men agreed, it would be a
good battle.



Basalt cliffs line the western coast of Edrada for many unbroken
miles between Kelineph and The Wilds, restricting access to
the depths of the continent to those few breaks in the black
wall large enough to accommodate a port village. Despite the
number of small coastal towns, most foreign goods still enter
Upper Edrada through Kelineph. This is due in no small part
to the Kelkala vessels that patrol the northeastern bulge of the
Hara Sea. Though the cities Arbiter assures all who will heed
her that the vessels sailing under The Owl do so as protectors
of the Sea and her passengers, the small coastal towns under
their protection feel that the navy raids and plunders as many
ships and port towns as it safeguards. Additionally, all goods
passing through these waters are subject to a steep tax in order
to support this security. Smuggling in this area is a lucrative
endeavor, and rumors of sabotage and aggression between
Kelkalas merchant oligarchy and the fractious ports to the west
buzz constantly across the waves of the Hara Sea.

The interior of Edrada is riddled with ruins of an empire long

dead and nearly forgotten. The indigenous peoples encountered
by migrating Edish and Alagoth know naught but fantastical
stories of the horrors and wonders lurking in the remains of
structures left behind, which are often no more than a broken
rib cage of columns or a subtle mounding of the earth where a
building once stood. Looters and scholars vie for control of the
secrets lying dormant in these ruins. Much wealth may be found,
but much danger also looms for those foolish enough to seek,
who discover something altogether more terrible than trinkets of
wealth left by a forgotten people.

The scout walked at a quick pace over the

swaying bridge high in the canopy, a solitary
stretch of boards almost two-hundred feet
long connecting the small Macaw estate to
the higher floors of Rosh Hotl. The sabu
in charge of the estate, Lord Etzu, was in a
stern mood brought on by his recent lack
of Flower. The scout, though dressed for
rain, lengthened his stride as the drops
began to fall, keeping his eyes open for
snakes in the lush walls of leaves that grew
over the bridge. If he did not return with
a clutch of ochre powder before the other
Macaw guests arrived, he would be made an
example of.

The Nunji are rarely seen. They stealth

below the floor on errands of murder and
sabotage, and any who spot their mischief
soon feel the cold of steel. They master
a set of tools known only to themselves:
climbing claws, sickles and hooks fastened
to the ends of thin chains, pronged blades
designed for piercing specific organs, and
many kinds of poison. Rarely seeing the
sun, they survive on Flower and the rituals
of their Order, training ceaselessly until
finally summoned for their mission.

Emkadhi grows out from under the smallest of the Great Trees. A handful of temples and
a single palace jut from sand and root, the same sand and root that go on for a hundred
leagues in all directions. Of the three thousand people who live in Emkadhi, more than
three-fourths have never lost sight of the Tree: Not once in their whole lives. The other
fourth are Crowns and Rights from the Coast, most of them exiled to Emkadhi for a spell.
The city has no walls, but the Nameless Desert is protection enough, a sea of sand no boat
can cross. Yet, somehow, the tax collectors of the Empire find their way through it.



In 861 IC, a sickly yet ambitious young Alagoth named Aduth Ata Xanun traveled to Lokod
in search of ancient magicks. He penetrated the depths of the ruins alone, avoiding the
Edish who now inhabited the safer parts of the city, delving into a realm few magickers
would dare approach unaided. Of particular interest to Aduth were texts and images
describing the ogres ability to assimilate living matter. Through reading and fieldwork,
he furiously studied the genealogy of creatures birthed from ogres paunches. After some
years, the son of Xanun was certain he had discovered a formula whereby the traits and
abilities of ogre-spawn could be bred selectively.
The Alagoth retreated into the wilderness, roaming far into The Wilds before taking up
residence in a ruined tower. There, he conducted several decades of experiments with
ogres and goblins captured in the surrounding plains. It is said that, in a bid to inherit the
strength that his human body lacked, Aduth Ata Xanun fed himself to an ogre, hoping to
be reborn as a magickal brute.
None can say if he succeeded, but an old tower was found settled in Alagoth carpets deep
in the stormy cold. And it is rumored that two ogres inhabiting the plains wear half-eaten
harnesses and silver chains of Alagoth make hanging from their terrifying bulks.



Where the seasonal floods strike most severely on Kapixtul Island,

entire cities are built atop stilts from two to seven yards tall. Large
stone towers erected against the erosive effects of the water act
as anchor-posts for wooden platforms that constitute the floor, the
artificial ground-level of a raised city. Within these stone towers are
shrines and guardhouses, the gear-works of Khazil-designed lock
systems, and storage chambers. Districts of cities are often named
after the gates and towers that support them, and canals are arranged
to allow travel through the flooded city during high waters.
Beneath the floor lies the domain of the smuggler and miscreant.
Much like the back alleys and forgotten nooks of an Edradan city,
the pathways beneath the floor in an Anu city house the lawless and
the poor. Even when waters are low, respectable Anu do not travel
beneath the floor, keeping to platforms, suspended walkways, and
bridges high above the ground.
Travel between cities is easiest when waters are high enough to
support the weight of boats or absent enough to leave dry ground
capable of supporting wheels and hooves. Many cities, however, are
positioned in regions that remain for some months out of the year in
a condition of limbo, surrounded by mud too thick for either form of
transport. Out of necessity, Anu engineers have developed a system of
cable transport that relies on gondolas and pulley technology to reach
such cities. This cable system also exists within cities isolated by
dense rainforests, which also suffer high floods during the monsoon


Ankrigi, a Khazil from the Eastern Islands, kept his hood low to shield his eyes from
the cutting wind. Though he had not visited the frozen expanse of Vaankur before his
22nd year, the Khazil had become quite familiar with its fickle nature over the past eight
winters. Soon, the storm would break, and the crystalline expanse of ice-encrusted tundras
would sparkle into the distance.


Over the howl of the storm, Ankrigi heard a different noise, distinctly inhuman yet still
somehow familiar, as though it were a voice speaking a tongue that he could almost
understand. The source of the sound gradually materialized in the wall of frozen sleet,
a man-sized shadow shambling with an awkwardly stiff gait. The tundra is no place for
hesitation, and Ankrigi struck the figure down immediately: The man was frozen and
should have died long ago. It appeared that something had eaten his lips and tongue away,
too, leaving exposed teeth and a masticated stump. More shadows loomed; more strange
murmurings sounded. Ankrigi began jogging away from them and their chilling voices.

Eta hesitated for a moment as the priest drew a sword and doffed his sacred plume. Why
had Lord Ketl sent him to stop this sacrifice? What was the boy to him? Killing the priest would
be easy enough, though House Karras had always maintained good relations with the
Thun who kept the Calendar and tended to the Elder Gods who lie sleeping beneath the
black earth. Eta hated the politics of Court: They made him feel insignificant. Maybe the
Empress was truly missing and all these sudden moves and feints were the best efforts of
ignorant Lords. They keep her as a prisoner on an island all her life, out of sight, and then
when she finally does go missing, they scramble about without any idea at all what to do.
Eta chuckled to himself as he adjusted his matte-black armor, the livery of House Karras.
Placing his toe deliberately on the stone before him, he gauged the steps of the now
charging priest: The holy man would die before he took four more, maybe five, but dead
soon enough either way. Of the other two priests, one would fight; he looked steely. The
third, already shaking, would run. And then the boy would need to be attended. Sigh. Go.



[ Fold-Out Map From Hardcover Available Online ]


Edish Neferatha Alagoth Anu Vayok

Life of Hataro

The Siblings of the
0 IC

Take Ugurlu
Life of Gazu


Age of Migrations


Patriarchs arrive
in Lower Edrada

Life of Tenwa
327 -Hastinpiro
329-Kenis Revolt
344-Hetl Qins Revolt
353-Sabu Founded
404-Raid Emluk for


Age of Structures


620-Imperial Seclusion

711-Fall of House Dove
800 802-Battle of

Kevmor Road
821-Ahimsa born
829-King City begun
Second Age
834-Iassata in Charzen
850-Ahimsa governor

of Ugurlu

the pirate

864-Thun Dynasty

takes Lokod
870-Empress Ahimsa
914-King City complete




950-Emluk won


Three Waters

Meet Anu

950-Empress Disappears

[ Fancy Timeline From Hardcover Available Online ]

Chapter the Third

Census of Heroes
Creating a hero is the first step of inhabiting the world of the Hara Sea. In Early Dark, each
player gets to role-play a hero who springs up from among a people. This organic hero is
not a detached wandered but an individual bound to a culture for better or worse. The glory
is grand indeed for the hero who wins a following, but the longevity of any legend depends
not just on the feats of the hero but on his or her relationship to those who come after.
The following chapter will include all the steps necessary to build a character in Early Dark,
though information on choosing Arts will be the bulk of Chapter 6 and improving your
character through experience makes up the content of Chapter 5.


Finding A Hero in Myth

Creating a character in Early Dark does not
start with classes or archetypes. You do not
swing a sword because you are a warrior; you
become a warrior because you swing a sword.
In Early Dark, players begin the campaign
as characters in medias res, not as unattached
vagabonds with weapons and spells but no
individual history.



Step 1: Roll Scenario

Step 2: Milieu
Step 3: Aptitudes & Traits
Step 4: Dice & Arts
Step 5: Back Story Epithet
Step 6: Equipment
Relax. You will create a unique, fullycustomized character by following steps
familiar to any gamer, but Early Dark asks you
to do so in a different way: imagine that you
are not building a character from scratch, but
rather finding one among a populace, within
a world. Imagine you are donning a hero who
already has a life, a place, a past.
In Early Dark, you will not roll or buy stats and
then invent a fitting backstory to justify your
choices. To create a group of heroes, players
roll up a setting and scenario and then flesh out
the individuals best fit for such a geography,
culture, and situation. Best fit individuals
are already on their way to becoming heroes.
In this way, character creation is not before
the game, but part of the game. Because Early
Dark is set within the myth and legend of the
world around the Hara Sea, all that a character
does and says throughout the game is in some
way always-already part of one long back story,
the oral history of a hero passed on from
generation to generation.
Just as the modern human is a complex
collection of drives, interests, ambitions, and
memories produced by living and learning in
context, so too a mythic hero is the product of


a narrative tradition and a historical situation

that needed a good story.
If a group is making a few or several
characters in one evening, all
characters will share the same Setting
and Scenario.
The first rolls decide where your story begins,
the Setting. Different regions have unique ways
of life, economic classes, and social climates
available for your characters. After zooming
in on a specific region of the world, players
roll up one Scenario that gives an immediate
context for the characters birth in story. All of
the following steps in the character creation
process bring those heroes to life within a
specific time and place, populating the scenario
with interesting, fleshed-out characters.
The Characteristics,
Aptitudes, Arts, Initial
Epithets, Traits, and
Equipment should be
chosen with attention
paid to how that
character exists within
his or her culture,
milieu, and past.

She was up there, somewhere.

Kalisatha caught sight of her earlier this morning, hours agoand then, nothing. Just the
occasional rustle of brush, the faint vibration of a branch, and a few drifting pale leaves (each like
snow of white gold, each bleached in the coming of Autumn).
A nagging feeling gnawed at his gut. Maybe I shouldnt have come all this way alone. Hed cast off his
servants one by one: Charna back at Ugurlu, Rollick in the Lake District, and Wren back at the
start of the White Forest. He didnt need them. They slowed him down. They complained. They
balked. To hell with themat least, thats what hed thought at the time.


Now he felt exposed. Vulnerable. He hadnt seen anyone in days, hacking his way through the
curling thorns and dark knotted wood, and now he caught wind of someone following him. A
woman. By her dress, one of the Edish. Irritating. Of little concern, really. A hungry fly looking to
sup a little blood.
He flexed his left hand: inhuman knuckles, ogre knuckles, popped like rat skulls under a heavy boot.
His right hand was human. His feet: also ogre. Some of his flesh was the flesh of a fell creature,
stitched across his body and held fast with magick, like gray leather sewn across horsehide. He was
still Neferatha in heart, soul and mindbut some of his body was no longer his own.
It helped him. Gave him size. Gave him focus, even. He took another step
Above him, a creaking branch. A whorl of white leaves circling down, orbiting him like moths until
they drift to the ground.
Shes here.
I grow weary of this, he said aloud, his voice low and slow and given over to a rheumy rumble.
With but a thought and a sweep of his hands, he cast a mighty wave of searing airthrough it, the
world shifting, distortingand set fire to the trees around him, a ring of fire, a circumference of
The air burned. The smoke smelled good, though; clean, bitter, bright. It awoke him.
Then: movement.
The air shimmered. More leavesthese smoldering, like true firefliesdrifting.
Then she was upon him.
Her feet planted hard on his collarbones as she dropped upon him. If his calves and feet were not
that of a stalwart ogre he mightve toppled, but he held firm. He reached up to grab her but she
was already gone, far too fast for him, a cricket leaping.
She handplanted on the ground and now he saw her... and worse, recognized her. Shed been
following him all this time. He remembered her. From the Lake District. Back when he cast
Rollick aside and he saw her at the margins, watching. And he was right. Shes Edish, he thought.
Dark nettled hair, a nest over pale skin: Feckless scavengers, worthless tribes of
Her foot pivoted, shot up and snapped hard into his jaw. He bit his tongue. It ended his thought.

Two Killers by Chuck Wendig, throughout the text and
concluding on page 386.

Thena cartwheel, and she was on her feet, dancing around him. Her hands lashed out, and in
them: two blades, each curved, each gleaming like they had been cleaned and kept in their sheaths,
reserved for just this moment, just for this trick.
Enough, he growled, and as she swiped a blade at his throat he cast a heavy breath of concussive
air underneath her feet, lifting her up above his head. Her blade slashed open space, and he then
used his magick to return her to the earth.
She crashed hard. Gasping. Hitching for air.


He laughed. Stupid girl. He stood over her and reached down to crush her delicate windpipe.
It would be so simple. Like pinching off a reed.

They ran in the grass and the weeds, the green as high as their hips, the two Edish children
laughing and thwacking each other with long swatches made from bamboo.
Neferatha vulture! the boy, Ellas, cried.
Khazil dog! the girl, his sister, Nela, shouted.
They clashedtwo bamboo reeds whacking together.
She danced around Ellas (who was the bigger and older of the two) darting this way and that.
Youre like a sneaky ermine, he said. Quit squirming around!
She just laughed and ducked into the grass, rising again only when she was behind him. She
brought the bamboo hard against his ear. He howled and dropped his own weapon, bending over
and holding his hand to his ear.
Ow! You hurt my ear, Nela.
She waved him off. Quit whining, you big baby.
Im not whining! I hear a ringing sound.
So it goes, she said, shrugging. She poked him in the rear with the bamboo prod. Life is hard,
big brother. Once more, she laughed.
And in her laughing, she failed to notice who had come up behind her.
A heavy hand fell on her shoulder. It squeezed. Pain shot through as the fingers pulled up on the
muscle bridging her neck and shoulder.
The sheep need shearing, said their patron, Arnon. Arnon was liaison to Arbiter Orlin, who had
many years ago helped to unite a handful of tribes in a new settlement cut among the ruins of a
long dead city.


Youre hurting me, Nela said.

And your lack of responsibility hurts me, Arnon said with a smirk. He pinched harder. The girl
cried out. Ellas, the brother, clenched his teeth and in a fast movement snatched up his bamboo
from the grass and brought it hard against the mans side.
It did nothing, of course. Like trying to chop down a tree with a buzzards tailfeather.
Arnon just laughed and backhanded the boy to the ground. He let the girl drop, too.
Get back to work, he said, leaving the two siblings lying there in the field.


One day, the boy said, Im going to leave this city. Maybe Ill find a Hattan who will take me,
and I can live like our father did. I hate it here.
When you leave Ill come find you.
Ill always come find you, big brother. Somebody has to take care of you, after all.

Nela felt his hands around her neck. The darkness came fast, bleeding in at the edges of her vision
like a pool of spreading ink. The pulse-beat in her neck thumped like a line of Edish drums, like a
stampede of Highridge Cattle, like the footsteps of war.
Her grip felt soft, mushy, uncertain.
The face above hera certain abomination, half-Neferatha, half-creature, this the first time she
had seen the grotesque visage so closeleered, triumphant.
But she was not one for giving up.
Her fingers tightened and she jerked her hand backward...
...plunging one of her blades into the back of her assailants leg. Right in the crook of the knee.
He screamed, and let go.
Nela drew a saving breath and slid out from under the monster.

No one escapes you, Rollick said. A grinning idiot. Little, too, like a stunted donkey. A cackling
clown of the Anu courts, a giggling imp with a heavy pack on his pack. Kalisatha stopped walking.
A breezeunusual even for this paradise oasiskicked up and cast a few sand devils swirling
around their feet as if a response to Kalisathas unpleasant presence.
Im tired of you, Kalisatha said. It was how he spoke, most times: proclamations, decisions, firm
certainties. You must go now.


Step 1: Roll Scenario

Finding the Scenario requires two preliminary
rolls, which can be made on the chart below.
The third and final roll is made in the
Appendix among the numerous Scenario


The first roll determines the Region in which
your story begins. There are five dominant
civilizations around the Hara Sea, each with a
Region of influence. After rolling once for the
entire group of players in the campaign, write
the same Region on each character sheet in the
Local Culture
The second roll determines within which
Local Culture the story is set. Each culture
represents a particular setting and way of life
within the broader Region and civilization.
Though a dominant political structure may
reach throughout the region, local customs,
modes of dress, and material culture can vary
greatly from one area to another. Different
cultures within a single region will have
different social expectations, prejudices, and







Roll once for the entiregroup of players, and

record the same Local Culture on each players
character sheet.
The Scenario is the final roll to determine a
complete setting for the myths beginning. Each
campaign begins from a premise or snapshot
that acts as a prelude to the campaign the
starting action that introduces the characters,
brings them together, and begins their journey
toward eternity in the annals of myth. After
rolling for a Scenario, the Scribe and the players
flesh out the scene and begin developing a story
together, tentatively shaping the world they will
share for the remainder of the campaign.
The group only rolls one scenario for all to
share. This scenario will take shape and change
over the entire character creation process, as
players come up with new ideas for each others
characters. The scenario does not need to be
recorded on the character sheet; it is the
lens through which the entire character
creation process is viewed.

Upper Edrada, the plains of the Edish hunters

0-2: City-States, within the ruins of a former Empire the Edish build new life
3-4: Lowland Forests, the glades and woods of the temperate climate
5-7: Vast Plains, where the nomads follow herds
8-9: Gundrada, a remote continent settled during the Six-Front Wars
Ragus, fertile valley of the Neferatha castes
0-4: Coastal Cities, the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, home to many cultures
5-7: Tree Cities, bustling ports that dot the desert, inhabited by scoundrels
8-9: Bronze Lake Region, where the affluent Nibu live, tucked away from conflict
Lower Edrada, where the Alagoth live among the horses
0-4: Camps of Patriarchs, bands of raiders and shepherds, traders of the Alagoth
5-9: Free Cities, the sprawling urban centers of Alagoth civilization
Kuludo, home of the Anu Lords
0-2: Kuludo Island, the wealthy estates and manors of Anu Houses
3-6: Lowland Wetlands, the stilt-borne cities of Kapixtul
7-9: The Rainforests, where both rich and poor mingle in tree homes
Vaankur, where the Vayok hunt tundra bears in the frost
0-6: The Three Homes, the cities that host the clans during the warmer months
7-9: Clan Settlements, the glacial tundra where the Vayok hunt and feast

The Scenario ensures each character is

different but relatable and offers a ground
from which to build the heroes and their
relationships to one another.
Check in the Appendix (380-387) for the
chart that contains your Region and Local
Culture and roll a Scenario now.

Keep in Mind

These scenarios are merely suggestions for

bringing player characters together. By no
means must an entire campaign be launched
from the hooks provided. The conflict stated
in the Scenario might follow through several
sessions in the narrative, bleed through only
a few sessions as momentum builds toward
the central campaign, or be wrapped up in
just a few minutes with some quick roleplaying before starting the Scribes original
Smaller, less studied cultures exist
in the uncharted and borderland
areas of the world, and upcoming
supplemental materials will explore
and open up these other regions.
If you are running a fully custom campaign,
try coming up with ten Scenarios that could
possibly lead into the adventure and let the
characters roll on an original, DIY chart.
This generation process assumes a group
of characters being made together. If only
a single character is needed, play through
these rolls as part of the characters past.
Work through the full resolution and have
the character meet up with the current party
as soon after the Scenario event as possible.
Alternatively, work with a current situation
the party finds itself in as though that were
the Region, Local Culture, and Scenario for
the newcomer. Work the new character into
the narrative as a stranger coming across the
group in medias res.


Step 2: Milieu


With the Scenario in mind, players now go

about finding a potential hero among the scene.
Will you be the anxious parent whose child is
a potential sacrifice? Are you a corrupt scout
selling out his own people? Maybe you are the
beast let loose from its cage on the wharf, a
feral loner experiencing humid city streets for
the first time. Players need not stick to those
characters mentioned explicitly in the scenario;
any number of other people would be involved
in the complex situations behind-the-scenes.
Stunned passers-by, thieves watching from the
dark, local officials presiding over the area
the possibilities are indeed limited only by the
imagination of the group.
Whomever the player decides to be, he or
she will have to choose a Milieu. Every
human community and local culture contains
more than one way of life; societies are often
arranged as amalgams of overlapping networks
and smaller subcultures. In tribal groups,
it is easy for each individual to know every
other individual in the community. In larger
settlements, such as cities, there are often
different social circles at play that hardly
overlap at all. These larger societies may be
divided along lines based on class, occupation,
heredity, or gender. The particular group or
social circle that shapes the characters values
and habits is his or her Milieu.
Characters do not need to share a Milieu, and
players who want to play as foreign characters
may select milieus from different civilizations.
Either way, your character most likely has
a home, friends, and a family somewhere.
Nobody comes from nowhere.
Each of the five civilizations of Early Dark
offers a handful of Milieus available to new
characters. These represent the social circles
that give the character his or her values,
outlook on life, sense of purpose, routines, and


For example: A wealthy sabu in Anu culture would

have a very different definition of what it means
to be Anu than an equally wealthy merchant, even

though they may live on the same street and spend a

good deal of time together each day. Their positions
in society affect how they see even the most mundane
interactions and social events.
Or: In Ragus, each of the four castes have a unique
way of looking at their home and the world. Rights
tend to view the caste system as a responsibility, a
necessary infrastructure that helps society manage
itself and run smoothly. Feet tend to view the same
system as no less necessary, but as a burden to be
carried by the strong.
No Milieu, however, is completely
homogeneous, and there will always be groups
of individuals who display subversive or
challenging ways to look at the world and live
in it.
Is the character part of the political game? On
the streets with the criminals and destitute?
Living with other soldiers in a military
barracks? The Milieu represents the physical
environments familiar to the character as well
as what clique the character associates with,
where his or her contacts and friends will be
The Aptitudes listed in the Milieu Charts
that follow are for heroic characters that
typify those social contexts. Everyday nonplayer characters created by the Scribe do not
need to follow the Aptitude guidelines given.
The Alignments, however, would be fitting
for any and all characters who participate
in that Milieu, even non-player characters
created on the spot.

Within each Milieu are options for Gender,
Age, and Heritage. Following along the charts,
each player decides which paths to take and
records them on the character sheet. Every
Milieu will have certain expectations and
requirements, training up some parts of the
individual and devaluing others. To reflect
this, the characters Milieu itself will fix one

Aptitude in place. Likewise, Gender, Age, and

Heritage will each set one Aptitude. None of
these four Aptitudes may be changed during
the remainder of the character creation
process, ensuring that every character begins
with at least one weakness (a 1 in at least one
Aptitude) and one strength (a 5 in at least one

Gender is a product of cultural values, and
different cultures have historically defined
gender in vastly different ways. This selection
represents a characters acceptance of his or her
cultures idea of gender and his or her success in
portraying that gender in the social field.
As is often the case, some genders or heritages
are prohibited by custom to gain certain
positions of power, or relegated to certain
forms of labor. Different Milieus will restrict
certain Gender or Heritage options for
characters, reflecting that social classs norms
and expectations. In Ugurlu, for example, a
foreigner could never become a priest without
first becoming embraced by the Crown
caste and recognized as related to the Nibu
people. Alagoth society practices strict gender
segregation, and Edish peoples of the plains are
more apt to exclude outside ethnicities than
their city-dwelling relatives.
Heritage is a good word for describing how
many pre-modern cultures viewed difference.
The cultural tradition that formed someone
defined who he or she was, not some ostensibly
biological racial type as some people today

The Edish, for example, are the most ethnically

diverse civilization. Many ethnic identities
have remained over time. Kelineph contains a
density of blonde-haired individuals, though all
other Edish have dark hair. Though all Edish
have a ruddy skin color, some have bright eyes.


Appearances can be deceiving: The Milieu does

not force four Aptitudes on you. While finding
out where your hero belongs, you are the one
choosing which Gender, Age, and Heritage fit.
If you want a high Cunning, select the option
that affords a high Cunning. Or, select an
option that does not mention Cunning at all;
you can always give it a 4 later when divvying
up the rest of your Aptitude points.

In some locales the Heritages of Early Dark

have been mixing and intermarrying for
centuries, and strict lines between them have
become harder to discern. In other regions
ethnic purity is a valued practice not often

Age is handled differently in different cultures.
Do we measure age in solar years, lunar cycles,
the number of battles fought, the presence of
wisdom, sexual or marital rituals completed, or
social authority achieved? Some cultures value
youth, others age. Adulthood may commence
at age twelve, when the individual marries, or
after a certain ritual.

The Milieu of each character will require
of him or her at least one Alignment,
which should be recorded on the front of
the Character Sheet and filled in with as
much detail as the group feels necessary.
Alignments are important ways for characters
to acquire goods and receive crucial bonuses
to interactions inside and outside combat. In
many places, Alignments are what take care of
the characters basic needs, the means to avoid
sleeping on the streets. Such precarious lodging
often leads to significant Shock penalties that
lower a heros potential Guard.
The Investment for starting Alignments is
always 1 Renown (See the Heraldry for
how Alignments are used to advance your
character). Characters with a high Relate can
take their Alignments further than heroes
with a low Relate, giving them access to
more authority and social power. Having a
high Investment in a handful of Alignments
gives players an advantage earning Renown
each playing session.


The Six Alignments



Look at your heros Alignments as fundamental

aspects of who and what your character is.
Why would a story about you be told and
remembered unless those still living feel deep
connections with your hero? Think of the
campaign you are about to begin as a chance
for your character to become the cultural hero
of future generations. Each Alignment is a way
to define and describe what kinds of people
those future generations are.
Are you a hero to your people of origin? Or
are you a hero to a tribe far away you saved
from tragedy? Does your name spread terror
in a city you all but destroyed, while it is all
but forgotten in a city you protected? Are you
remembered as a lover, a patron, a leader, a
servant? All of these foundational questions are
answered in your characters Alignments. These
are why you stand out from all those wouldbe heroes who rise and fall in the history of a
It is from the Renown gained by playing
to Alignments that each hero unlocks new
Epithets. In other words, you must be popular
among the people before they can fill their
legends with your deeds. Gaining popularity
involves building and sustaining relationships
with other people, often through routine
interactions and daily communication. The
more deeply involved you are in the mundane
social life of your community, the more likely
you are to transcend that mundane life and be
remembered as someone slightly more than


Heroes can have memberships to a clan, family,
house, or other group. These Alignments
represent the cohesion of such groups,

the shared values and goals, and the sense

of identity that comes from belonging to
something. Memberships often require the
hero to put aside his or her own good for the
good of the group. This includes the heros
safety first and foremost, but can also include
honor, reputation, possessions, or opinions.
A membership is the broadest Alignment and
can be played to in many ways. Any time
the hero makes a decision for the good of the
group, he or she earns the Invested amount of
Renown. Looking to his or her own needs first
or tarnishing the honor of the group will garner
a tax.
Either side of the patronage fills out this
Alignment, whether you are the benefactor or
the beneficiary. A patronage is a one-on-one
relationship with a clear hierarchy. Patronages
can demonstrate any of various forms of
authority: political, religious, or scholarly. The
patron is expected to take care of the underling,
passing on support, knowledge, material goods,
or wisdom. The beneficiary then owes his or
her services and labor to the patron.
A patronage plays out whenever either side
performs one of the socially expected duties for
the other. Taxes come when either side ignores
his or her duties or breaks the formal social
expectations of the relationship, maybe asking
too much or pushing the relationship beyond
what that culture expects from a patronage.
Professions are more than jobs, they are
lifestyles and life-worlds. Skills and knowledge
do not come easily in dark ages, and a hero
must walk a path alongside others to master
any trade. Knowledge is produced within
social circles unevenly, and finding knowledge
requires building relationships with masters,
travel to far-off places, and passing knowledge
on to the next generation.
A profession can take many shapes: scribe,
smith, councilor, scientist, artisan, scout.
Playing to a profession requires using,
learning, or teaching the appropriate skill.

Players must take care of their heroes reputations as masters

and authorities in whatever crafts they employ. Taxes come
from failing crucial Checks, missing a chance to use the
skills learned in the profession, or ignoring ways to learn
more. Building an Epithet without care for the characters
profession is a sure way to suffer a healthy tax.

A hero plays to a romance not just by wooing and securing

a mate. The failures of love are just as important as the
victories. Any action that makes for a better romance in
that culture counts, whether impressing the mates father,
angering the mates father, or slaying the mates father. Taxes
are levied when the hero ignores the romance or takes lovers
outside the bounds of cultural expectations.
A rivalry is the center of many world stories. Taking a rivalry
gives the hero a chance to earn Renown competing with a
fellow. Rivals can be beloved kin or hated enemies, so long as
the ever-rising stakes and dangers progress the lives of both.
Champions need villains, and heroes can take rivalries in
beasts as well as humans.


Quests are temporary Alignments
that bind the hero to a course
of action. These represent many
kinds of missions or greater
goals, and Scribes can introduce
quests to give players a chance to
win Renown for progressing the
greater narrative. Following along
in the quest, solving the mystery,
seeking out a resolution-- all of
these actions work better with
motivated players.



Many heroes are known for their romances. A romance
offers a grand motive for heroes beyond the epic and
transcendental. The play of love, relationships, and sex
is a big part of mythology, and your hero has a chance to
influence future generations by living the model love.

A hero plays to a rivalry by

competing with the rival and
winning. It is your tale we are
telling after all. Boasting, sporting,
seeking out, humiliating--the
relationship can take many
forms. Taxes come when the hero
puts aside differences or loses a

The best way to play to a quest

is to follow the course of events.
This should not be a heavyhanded coercion from the Scribe,
but instead a simple motivation.
Delaying or leaving the quest may
be necessary for any number of
reasons, but a tax will follow.
For more on playing to
Alignments and being
taxed, check out sections
in Chapter 5, Heraldry.
Each group of players will
develop their own norms
and traditions for awarding
Renown and maintaining
the Alignments of their


Edish Milieus: Nomadic Tribe Settlement


Nomadic Living- 5 Touch

1 Guile
1 Labor
2 Relate
2 Thrive
Hattan Totem- 4 (Choose Tribe, 191)
Membership (Tribe)
Membership (Minewin)
Edish who live in the tribal settlements are nomadic hunters and horticulturists. All individuals in
a tribe are connected by a tribal totem chosen and worn by the Hattan, representing one of many
animal spirits related to the human leader. Animal patrons are said to protect and jealously guard
their descendents, especially the Hattan who lead their people. An individual with many totems is
part of a large family of animal spirits, related by blood and breath to the spirits of the Plains.
Tribal Edish honor resourcefulness and wisdom above all else. Living peacefully with others in the
tribe while showing ferocity to outsiders makes up the two-fold path of the tribal hero.
The only Alignment needed by tribal Edish is a Membership
to the tribe. For an Investment of 1, all members, male and
female, are valued and respected as equals among the
tribal settlements, and each individual has equal access,
according to the leadership of the Hattan, to food,
shelter, supplies, weapons, and clothing. Each adult is
granted a horse by the community.
For any character to begin the game with Arcana or
Arcane Talents, he or she must take a Alignment in
a Rivalry with another member of the group. This
Alignment will often be at odds with the required
Membership, and characters will feel the tension
between the conflicting commitments.
Beginning the game with Loom Insights requires no
further Alignment.


Later in the campaign, however, any Edish character

can take up the art of the minewin if the hero has
at least one Insight and one Arcanum. This can be
chosen as a Membership and offers the shaman
an amount of Source equal to the Alignments

Edish Milieus: Urban Arcanist

5 Thrive
4 Guile
4 Move
1 Touch
1 Labor
2 (Choose Tribe, 191)


First Totem-

Edish Magickers are the hermits, wizards, and dark

artists of Edish city-states. Magickers are generally
distrusted and persecuted by Edish society, though many
are kept in secret by wealthy nobles in the burgeoning
urban settlements and multiplying fiefdoms spread over
the Edradan plains.
A Profession is required to give the arcanist a
small income and a place in Edish urban life. For an
Investment of 1, a magicker is said to make a living in a
way unrelated to his or her dark arts or may choose to be
supported by a host noble.
In the city-states of the Edish, ruled by powerful
Arbiters and wealthy landowners, magick is a dangerous
thing. The ruins of the Lost Empire prove fickle
hosts, and tampering with the borders of the Tapestry
can bring unrest from buried spirits as well as legal
Using magicks in public is a grave offense, and Edish
magickers require a Patronage to a powerful lord to
avoid persecution from the start.
Even Loom Insights would disturb the consciences of
city dwellers and require a Patronage to avoid snitches,
conspirators, and inquisitive authorities. Higher
Investments can cover more visible acts of magick.


Edish Milieus: Urban Landowner


1 Touch
4 Fight
4 Guile
5 Thrive
5 Labor
Family Totem- 2 (Choose Tribe, 191)
Membership (City-State)
Membership (Family)
Landowning Edish are those influential members of the city-states and fiefdoms who have say
in local decisions. They are the voting citizens and lesser vassals who form political bodies and
manage laborers. Lords are generally respected patricians who reside in family houses in particular
districts. Arbiters and their families live off the labor of others. They rely on strength in war and a
supply of warriors from their constituents. Landowners command the serfs and merchants in their
areas, direct the communes and cottage industries, and lead the warbands.
Landowners must choose two Alignments, a
Membership in their city-state to represent
involvement in the local political body as well
as a Membership in a particular family lineage
to represent their heritage. These leaders rise
into position as defenders of lands and farms
or as elite members of merchant troupes or
mercenary armies. For 1 Investment, the first
Membership provides income, peers, contacts,
food, shelter, and basic supplies. In bigger citystates, landowners have family wealth in land
spread out in the neighboring countryside,
animals maintained by paid serfs, and access
to servants. In the more feudal fiefdoms
that spring up outside ruins, much the same
arrangements exists, but riches are more often
gained through conquest than inheritance.


Elite Edish landowners must also select a family

lineage. For an Investment of 1, characters
have a family identity that offers them esteem
among their peers. Families provide characters
with relatives and histories. Famous names can
gain elite honor outside their own settlements,
most often among the wealthy Alagoths and
Neferatha. Without a family name to rely on,
the Edish landowner could garner no respect
nor access any trade from foreign merchants.

Edish Milieus: Traveling Merchant


5 Guile
2 Labor
2 Touch
1 Move
1 Thrive
1 Fight
4 Relate
4 Cunning
Membership (Guild)
Merchants make up important go-betweens for Edish leaders and have grown in prominence since
the years of the Six-Front Wars. As trade with outside cultures grows, only the merchant class
enjoys enough flexibility and mobility to capitalize on new structures. With the growth of the
merchant class, Edish society changes as well. Hated by the Arbiters of Edish city-states, merchants
are becoming necessary to convert land and animals into coin (a precious resource in world
markets), so they inhabit a relatively secure niche in Edish culture, both in the larger cities and
among the fiefdoms. Merchants live on the road, often conflicting with the nomadic Edish, though
many merchants have developed professional relationships with tribal camps.
Merchants must choose a Quest which is the main source of their income: Produce profit. For 1
Investment, the merchant is part of a new culture focused on surplus and profit. Merchants rub
elbows with the elites, but survive by trading
manufactured goods rather than by living off
raw materials and natural resources.
Optionally, the Merchant may have a
Membership in a Guild. Merchants in
Guilds maintain contacts outside their own
places of residence. For an Investment of 1,
the Merchant receives contacts and news
from other locales, access to trade secrets
and magicks, and other resources from his or
her peers. He or she would know a number
of clients who provide him or her with
contacts, goods, and services sold for coin.
Merchants spend much of their time leading
caravans across the wilderness. All is fair in
love and war... and profits.


Edish Milieus: Indentured Serf


4 Labor
5 Move
5 Touch
1 Cunning
1 Fight
2 Thrive
2 Relate
Membership (Guild)
Serfs are the artisans and laborers of Edish city life. They are the farmers, smiths, shepherds, and
masons of the manorial fiefdoms and the tailors, shopkeepers, guardsmen, and bakers of the citystates. The life of the serf resembles something between slave and employee. Although they have
no voice in the politics of the city-states, some
will live within the walls. Most, however, inhabit
farmlands surrounding the readily protected
cities or manor fortresses.
Serfs must have a Profession. For an
Investment of 1, they receive income
enough to sustain themselves and a
small family.
Performing magick within the
walls of a city-state is considered
a subversive practice, and trying
the same within the villages
and hamlets can also lead to
persecution. Edish serfs may
optionally be a Member of a
Guild. Guilds offer Serfs much
needed access to higher-class
education, rare goods, and
magicks. For an Investment of
1, the character is an Initiate
in a Guild that matches his or
her profession and has a faction
that will protect a caster from
public accusations.


Edish Tribe Listing

The nomadic tribes of the Edish take their names from totem ancestors associated with the
powerful men and women who lead their groups. Rather than directly worshipping certain animals,
the Edish embrace a animals as ancestors both physical and spiritul. A pantheon of animal spirits
exist, and most Edish interpret dramatic events in their lives as the influence and play of one
animal or another. Through ancient rituals that tie individuals to the threads of various animals,
Edish adults develop a family lineage of animal ancestors and tie themselves for good or bad to
the fates of those animals. This is a spiritual and also a physical connection. Totems are generally
tattooed onto the bodies of the Edish, one of the few practices that shows up in one way or
another in all of the scattered, dissimilar tribes.


Bear (Labor, Thrive, Fight)

The Bear is a powerful ancestor with a robust thread-life. Many tribes connected to the Bear exist,
most notably the Bear of the Red Plains founded by Kwewu in honor of his lost love Ferndedaw.
Other famous Bears include the Cave Bear tribe of the Wilds; the Bear of Uzik, a tribe of powerful
hunters who raid coastal city-states with ardor; and the Golden Bear tribe famous in the Summer
Field for violence against Alagoth traders.
Cougar (Move, Cunning, Relate)
A Totem of agility and intelligence. Heroes from the Essapesh to the Northern Strait have made
names for themselves by mixing blood with the family of the Cougar, a popular thread.
Raven (Guile, Move, Touch)
The Rave Totem is associated with both trickery and wisdom. Many tribes have been led under her
banner, and many shaman join the bloodline of the Raven. At least two branches exist within the
family of the Raven, and those from the east have proven more powerful magickers in recent years.
Boar (Fight, Labor)
A thread-family popular in the warmer regions near Kelineph and Dunbri, in marshes and dense
forests. Hunters aligned with the Boar are thought lucky in sport and romance.
Mammoth (Thrive, Relate, Labor)
Since the days of Tenwa, the Mammoth has supported many
powerful Hattan and long-lived tribes. The Red Mammoths
are the descendents of Tenwa today, while the Mammoths of
the Marsh are a younger tribe at conflict with the Wolf and
Boar. Other Mammoth tribes arise from time to time with less
Stag (Cunning, Relate, Touch)
Wolf (Fight, Relate)
Hawk (Move, Thrive)
Badger (Fight, Guile, Labor)
Rat (Thrive, Cunning, Touch)
Serpent (Move, Guile)
Owl (Cunning, Guile, Touch)


Neferatha Milieus: Crown Caste


Membership (in

1 Touch
4 Cunning
4 Thrive
2 Relate
2 Move
5 (Choose Cult, 197)

Crowns are named for the apex of the head, the very top of the human body. They are the opulent
priestly caste of Neferatha society. Whether venerated or hated by the other castes, they are rarely
challenged. They work in thousands of cult temples and palaces spread over Ragus, which are
more ornate and decorated than the austere Imperial temples residing in Ugurlu and Hastinpiro.
The Stewards are the most elite Crowns and rule over the state from behind the shoulders of the
Many Neferatha frequent several shrines for seasonal and incidental
reasons throughout their lives, each dedicated in various degrees to a
handful of personal deities among the sprawling pantheon. Crowns
generally wear colorful robes to mark their caste, with ornate
jewelry and personal ornamentation common. As in the other
castes, females enjoy noticeable privilege over males.
Crown characters must select a Membership in their
caste. For an Investment of 1, characters receive food,
shelter, basic supplies, and access to a temple. No
mentors or masters are available at this Investment
level. Crowns can also ask for any donation from
a Right or Left at or below their rank. Feet of
any rank must offer a Crown whatever he or
she asks. Crowns are forbidden to interact with
Most Crowns run and lead the cults centered on
their temples of worship. In other words, the caste
Membership slightly overlaps with the duties of running
the sect. Heroes may, however, take a Patronage to
control a small cadre of followers.


The Crowns control access to the dark bowels of Neferatha
cities. Though open use of magick would lead to public outcry,
Crowns have the most social power and could rarely be tried for
such offenses. Getting away with such acts, however, may push
on the caste Membership (see 278).

Neferatha Milieus: Right Caste

(Choose Cult, 197)


Right Hands-
Membership (in Caste)
Membership (Family)

Right Hands are the aristocracy, generals, and philosophers of Neferatha society. They are the
landowners, the lords of everyday life. And while they profit from the work of others, they are not
often lazy themselves. Rights can be birthed on the battlefield or in the library, and either way they
follow a strict code of decorum when in public. Rights most often wear glittering white robes, and,
like all Neferatha, practice complete depilation of bodily hair.
Right characters must choose to be a Member of the Right Hand caste. For 1 Investment,
characters are respected as Rights and given all privileges accorded to the caste. This involves no
income, however, as Rights must earn their keep in society.
Characters must also select a family Membership.
Rights live off the wealth produced in family
estates that dot the fertile coast of Ragus
far beyond the walls of Ugurlu. For an
Investment of 1, characters receive
housing, food, shelter, and an array of
common and rare goods.
Optionally, the player may
select a Profession to further
enrich his or her character.
For an Investment of 1, the
character has clients and
contacts in the city and access
to the coins of underling Lefts.
In this case, at least two or
three Lefts serve as merchants
directly under the Right.


Neferatha Milieus: Left Caste


Left Hands-
Membership (in

5 Guile
2 Touch
2 Cunning
4 Move
4 Labor
4 Thrive
1 (Choose Cult, 197)
1 Relate

Lefts are the merchants, clerks, and accountants of Neferatha culture. They are the only caste
allowed by law to handle coin. All transactions among the Right families are handled by the
mechanisms of the Lefts. As their numbers increase, Lefts are also often seen as shopkeepers,
tailors, bakers, and common folk of Neferatha city life.
Lefts must choose a Membership in their caste. For 1 Investment,
characters are granted the privileges and rights given to all Lefts in
Neferatha society. This offers no income or housing but allows
them access to Foot labor and dealings with Untouchables.
Lefts can choose a Profession to secure income. For an
Investment of 1, characters have a trade that earns them
a modest income and allows them access to housing,
food, supplies, and contacts among the higher castes.
Magick is strictly illegal outside official state
business, much like violence: The Empire has sole
right to magick and other means of force. Within
the Imperial Cult, Lefts are employed as magickers
outside the watchful tutelage of the Crowns. The
heros Profession may offer a government job that
allows the use of Arcane magick.
Alternatively, both Arcana and Insights can be
employed legally to any Left with a Patronage
to a powerful, government-bred member of one
of the higher castes. For an Investment of 1, the
hero has such a tie.


Neferatha Milieus: Foot Caste

2 Fight
1 Move
1 Cunning
4 Labor
4 Touch
5 (Choose Cult, 197)
5 Relate


Membership (in


Feet are the serfs, farmers, and shepherds of Neferatha society. They make up the vast majority of
the population throughout the countryside, as well as in the large cities and Lake District. Feet can
own no property or possessions, handle no coin, nor wear any jewelry. They can, however, become
soldiers and friends of Rights and Crowns. Feet often make up petty guards, house servants, and
messengers among the elite. They can perform any job that requires no handling of coin (reserved
for the Left) or unclean objects (reserved for the Untouchables).
Feet, like all castes, must purchase a Membership to fit into
Neferatha society. Without belonging to a caste, the character
would be ostracized and nearly invisible. For an Investment
of 1, the Foot receives no income or access to goods, but
is part of the culture and recognized as human.
Characters may choose a Patronage to secure
income, housing, and access to goods. This
patron is of a higher caste and employs the
Foot on a stipend. For an Investment of 1, the
hero has such a tie. The vast majority of Feet
are farmers, but Feet make up the most flexible
and versatile of the castes.
Feet employed by a government representative
can use magick according to local laws. Because
Feet back up the bulk of soldiers in times of war,
many are adopted by cults and cadres of Crowns to
be trained as magickers and apprentice alchemists.


Neferatha Milieus: Untouchables


Elder- 1

(Choose Cult, 197)

Untouchables have no caste and therefore no place in Neferatha society. They belong to secret cults
and worship alongside the wealthiest of persons but enjoy no access to contacts outside temple
halls. Untouchables are most often poor foreigners or disinherited members of other castes. They
must wear black at all times and would be hard-pressed to wear jewelry or carry weapons in front of
a Right or Left without having such possessions stripped from them. Untouchables have no rights
under the law and live on borrowed land and borrowed time.
Untouchables hired as servants cannot interact with Crowns and so are much less valuable than
Feet employed in the same service. Aggressive Untouchables often form roving bands of brigands
or mercenaries, since they already live outside Neferathan law and social structures. Their only legal
trades are butchers, tanners, and grave-diggers, though even these tasks go unpaid and are regarded
as part of the poors religious duties to the temples that sustain them.
Untouchables must choose a Patronage.
Whatever network of contacts the community
of Untouchables has, they all live off donations
from temples unattached to the Imperial Cult.
When individuals of the Untouchable caste seek
food and resources from countryside temples in
great numbers, the swelling congregation increases
the power and prestige of the cult at large. For
an Investment of 1, the character has access to a
temple, from which he or she receives alms.


Neferatha Cult Listing


There are literally hundreds of different cults in Neferatha society, all save one run by factions of
Crowns. They act as mystery religions, professional guilds, sources of arcane power, social clubs,
aesthetic hubs, and political parties of the people. Some are allied and others at odds. Many have
deep connections to the hidden powers that ebb and flow beneath Ugurlus great halls and spires.
Most pretend to such things whether true or not. Secret rituals, details of which are protected by
threat of death or worse, fill meetings and follow regular calendars. Some of these calendars may
belong to only a single cult, the seasons and holidays shared by none outside the private members.
The echo of chants and the fog of incense envelop catacombs that host such colloquies, a barrage
to the senses, both stimulating and intoxicating. Crowns maintain their power through these cults,
tugging strings, purchasing loyalties, and spreading their spies, all while capturing the hearts and
imaginations of the Neferatha populace. What dark powers do lie hidden beneath the cities are
desired above all else, the cults always embroiled in political struggling and scheming.
Keshava Cult (Fight, Cunning, Guile, Thrive)
A powerful cult based in Ugurlu, run by a cadre of twisted and half-withered Crowns. The cult
leaders and ranking priests meet in what was once a stepwell in an older incarnation of the city.
The lesser members and initiates meet around the city and in places as far off as Oldfire. Few
know what arcane secrets are held by the Crowns, or what further secrets are pursued.
Rikesha Cult (Cunning, Guile, Move, Relate)
An ancient cult grown in dark caves from the Kesava Grasslands to the Parushaya Mountains.
They worship feral monkeys of the more lush regions near Kesava and the Lake District, often
taking monkeys as pets and including them in cult rituals. One of the less secretive cults.
Parwami Cult (Thrive, Labor, Touch, Relate)
Focused on the cycles of the Vendhi River, this cult has spread surprisingly far from its natural
origin. Parwami Crowns exert influence across Upper Edrada, although the largest hub of
devotees existed in the watery catacombs of Onkod, now destroyed. A very wealthy and secretive
cult, the Parwami are rumored to be favored by the current Stewards of Ugurlu.
Janeshkha Cult (Cunning, Thrive, Move, Touch)
The Elephant God, a wise teacher, playwright, and minstrel. Janeshka imbues his followers with
creativity, fertility, and wisdom. The central cult devoted to Janeshka meets in chambers beneath
the city of Uranishad, near the southern rivers.
Imperial Cult (Fight, Guile, Labor, Relate)
Created under the reign of Szedarc, the Fourteenth Empress, the Imperial Cult is the only sect
ruled by the Right caste. Temples are austere, decorated with smooth, four-sided obelisks instead
of ornately carved spires.
Bhimavagra Cult (Fight, Labor, Move, Touch)
Followers of Bhimavagra, the Giant-Brother, Guardian of Anishad, Slayer of Vadu, are warlike and
violent. Cult rituals are bloody, often involving close relatives of the most powerful cult leaders.
Bhimavagra is a cult of betrayal and fratricide as old as the city of Anishad with roots older than
the Nibu people.


Alagoth Milieus: Druid Circle (Duadha)



Membership (in

4 Cunning
5 Touch
5 Thrive
1 Fight
1 Relate
1 Labor
2 Move
2 Guile

Druids live in isolated Circles within the White Forest where they function as oracles and seers,
tending to the spiritual and preternatural well-being of the Alagoth people. The bold few may travel
with patron Alagoth families in nomadic settlements as holy men, priestesses, and counselors.
Male druids tend to have a greater mastery of the Threads, and thus concern themselves with the
stars, esoteric wisdom, and fate. Female druids on the other hand have a greater propensity for the
Arcane arts, and can usually be found performing sacrifices, devouring a tome, or communing with
spirits of the Fray.
Druids function outside the rigidly patriarchal
Alagoth social hierarchy and are more or less
accepted by the many prominent families despite
their sometime unsettling practices. When druids
are found in urban environments, they usually
downplay their heritage and busy themselves with
clerical duties for pay. All druids draw their power
from the White Forest and make pilgrimages to
renowned holy sites as often as they can.
Druids begin the game with a Membership
related to their particular Circle. Most Circles are
named after a tree and a color. New characters with
an Investment of 1 can expect benefits related to
friends and professional contacts. Few benefits are
maintained outside the immediate environs of the
Druids and other Alagoths can perform all kinds
of magick allowed by any given patriarch or camp


Alagoth Milieus: Warrior

5 Fight
1 Guile
2 Labor
2 Relate
2 Cunning
4 Move
4 Touch
4 Thrive


Membership (in
Membership (in

Camp or City)

The vast majority of Alagoth males fall into the warrior milieu. Archers, berserkers, skilled
horsemen, and talented swordsmen-- When the Alagoth settled the foothills and forests of Lower
Edrada, when they survived the centuries of migration over the Steppe, it was credited to the
skill, flexibility, and power of their warriors. The powerful patriarchs in their mobile caravans, the
lesser sons and nephews with undying loyalty to their families, and the hired riders who have sworn
allegiance to one family or another are all part of the warrior Milieu in Alagoth society. Warriors
command respect and obedience from those below them in the family hierarchy and manage their
own lesser relatives and servants while serving He Who Bears the Horn.
Warriors begin the game with a Membership in their clan group. Each clan has a family tartan
worn on cloaks and sashes, identifying members. A clan fits the Warrior into Alagoth history as
a part of one Patriarch or anothers lineage. For an Investment of 1, Warriors own a single horse
and may take a single wife. At an Investment of 2, the hero commands a handful of horsemen and
a stable of horses under his care. As the Investment increases, Warriors gain renown as a male
of the hawad and finally the huol, granting
them more servants and lesser relatives. This
Alignment grants the male access to the
competition for wives and horses, but does
not include any income or equipment.
Alagoth warriors also begin a campaign with
a Membership in their particular camp or
city. An Investment of 1 grants the character
access to food, relatives, everyday supplies,
and a household of his own. In cities, this
membership most often assumes income
from shepherding and routine merchant trips.
Warriors with many horses who hail from
notable clans can also enter into Alagoth
political life and engage in the world of
intrigue and sabotage that determines the
power balance among clans sharing a city.


The gathered Rights on the extravagant streets of the Lake District all turned their heads to see
this fellow Neferathaif he could be called that, given the pastiche that formed his fleshchide
his servant.
But, no, wait Rollick said, pleading. Im good for you! I carry things. I make you laugh.
I do not laugh.
On the inside, Rollick clarified. On the inside, I meant!


But who will carry your pack now that Charna is gone and Wren is off procuring supplies?
Kalisatha shrugged. Leave the pack here. I should learn to travel lighter. But I could at least carry it a few more days for you. Rollick reached up only to touch
Kalisathas arm, just a light touch, just a reassuring Surely, were friends touch.
Kalisatha charged a numb rush of magick into his hand, grabbed Rollicks wrist, and snapped it at
a sharp angle. The bone jutted out. Fresh blood ran into the sand.
Rollick keened like a banshee and rolled onto his back: a kicked puppy.
Youve done me no good, Kalisatha seethed. It was a lie, a ruse: Rollick had done him plenty of
good, and was doing him well right now. He spoke loudly so that all could hear: Have you found
me the Alagoth diplomat? The one known as Ikazamir? No. You have not. The liar remains at
large. Thus you have failed me, and thus I must look for someone else to show me the way.
He offered one last profane gesture to Rollick, who had crumpled in upon himself like an abused
pillbug. Then he strode away.

Later, Rollick huddled between two tents. In the air hung a scent of rotting cardamom, candy-like
and cloying. A shadow descended upon him.
You did well, Kalisatha said. An old man came to me. Said that the Alagoth had come through
here but had gone. Likely onto one of the tree cities, away from the Lakes edge.
He took a pouch pregnant with coin and pressed it into Rollicks one good hand. The pale Rollick
blanched and bleated his response:
Are you sure you dont want me to follow you still? We... we make a good team.
I have Wren, Kalisatha said. He glanced down at Rollick. In his gaze was nothing but shame
and embarrassment for this little man. Besides. Your wing is broken, little gull. I do not need a
broken-winged gull to hop after me.
And those were Kalisathas last words to Rollick.


Alagoth Milieus: Lesser Relative

2 Fight
5 Relate
5 Touch
5 Thrive
4 Guile
4 Cunning
1 Move
1 Labor


Lesser Relative-

Domestic servants and lesser relatives make up a third social milieu in Alagoth society. Poor female
domestics are maids, cooks, seamstresses, and messengers. Wealthy females need be nothing more
than an important daughter, wife, or mother. Males unfit for horsemanship can be shepherds,
performers, and artists. Gharun are respected advisors and strategists. They all have a place below
the ranking males of the clan.
Lesser relatives can take a Patronage to a host patriarch or other important male. For an
Investment of 1, lesser relatives gain access to shelter, food, reasonable protection, and travel
supplies. These characters, however, are beholden to a superior male. Alagoth religious life and
common philosophy provide all relatives respect, rights under the law, and a certain autonomy.
Domestics who do not take a Patronage must choose an Alignment in a Profession. Professions
offer unattached domestics basic needs and a small income. For an Investment of 1, Domestic
characters can live in a city and know a trade. Trades may often require Arts to support them.


Anu Milieus: Sabu Caste


5 Fight
4 Cunning
4 Thrive
1 Relate
1 Move
1 Touch
2 Guile
2 Labor
Membership (in Caste)
Membership (in Family)
Anu society is arranged around a rather rigid class system, but prestige rather than wealth is the
mark of class. Most Anu live according to a set stipend of maize. A koku is enough maize to feed
one immediate family for one year. Sabu are the most prestigious class and have certain rights over
the other ranks of society, but a low-ranking sabu can make less koku each year than a renowned
courtesan or successful merchant. Sabu belong to families and Houses based on kinship and kinbased alliances.
Each Sabu character must choose two Alignments. One is to be a Member of the Sabu class,
which offers the character benefits in prestige and a yearly stipend of at least 20 koku. For an
Investment of 1, the sabu has a sword and a household with however many servants and lesser
relatives he or she can afford (a single servant costs 1 koku, but that gives the Sabu rights to make
servants of the entire family).
Sabu characters must also choose a family Membership. The prominent families of Anu court life
are continually embroiled in alliance and rivalry, intrigue and maneuvering. Each House is made
up of several families. Those Sabu who live outside a family are branded Roji and are prohibited
from receiving official stipends. They become wandering mercenaries or bandits, if they attempt to
retain Sabu honor at all. For 1 Investment, the character belongs to an established family with ties
to a respected House.


Arcane magicks among Sabu
are seen as evidence of a
powerful spirit or anima.
Less wealthy Anu magickers
generally have to join the
priesthood to make use
of their skills. Weavers of
the Loom are respected as
weathersmiths whatever
their abilities and are
frequently hired by local
villages and lords alike.

Anu Milieus: Independent Khazil



Independent Khazil- 5
Membership (in Clan)

The descendents of Khazil children who were sold to Anu merchants in centuries past are now
paid as indentured laborers and servants in the Kuludo Islands, though some have forged a semiautonomous state of their own in the Eastern Islands, Hatzilotl.
Following a cultural revival within Khazil communities and the political changes of the Six-Fronts
War, many Khazil workers were set free from a bonded way of life. Because they are not Sabu, they
accrue no stigma from being Roji. Many of these Khazils migrated to the Eastern Islands and set up
a new state of their own, arranged by clans and elders. These Khazil are miners, mead brewers, and
metalsmiths who have grown obsessed with the riches of the earth. Gems and precious metals line
their pockets, and knowledge of metallurgy and the Arcane arts make them very useful to the Anu
who hire them.
Khazils must choose a Profession. For an Investment of 1, the Khazil has a trade that supports
him or her with basic needs, food, clothing, and shelter.
Optionally, the Khazil may choose a to be a Member of a clan in Hatzilotl. Though
inspired by the clans of their childhoods in Vaankur, the Khazil living
in the Kuludo Islands have forged their own clans and
fictive ancestries. Some clans have spent a dozen
generations in Kuludo and know nothing of the
frozen continent at all. For an Investment of 1,
characters gain contacts, relatives, and a clan identity.
Only Khazil in prominent families are respected by
the Sabu, who value heritage and nobility.
Khazils are part of the Anu culture and value magick
in similar ways to the Hhan and Thun that surround


Anu Milieus: Khe


Young Adult-
Membership (in

5 Relate
4 Guile
2 Thrive
2 Fight
1 Labor
1 Cunning

Khe Courtesans and entertainers to the Sabu court are their own class among the Anu. The class
includes all those of the khe gender, which contains both biologically male and female individuals.
Khe are creators of beauty and sought after councilors and teachers among Sabu and wealthy
citizens. All khe children are recruited to the Courtesan class and raised as professional performers,
aesthetes, and escorts. When young children show a favoring of the left hand, they are regarded as
of the khe gender and given to a firm or trained privately among the family. All khe are left-handed,
and all left-handed Anu are khe. They take the feminine pronoun.
A Membership in the class is required of
all Courtesans. For an Investment of 1, the
Courtesan is a trained entertainer with a
series of clients and access to food and shelter.
Clothing appropriate for a Courtesan, however,
must be purchased with coin. The khe lives in a
household with other Courtesans and works to
sustain the community house or lives on retainer
on a wealthy Anu estate.
Courtesans can also choose a Profession, which
supplies them with coin. For an Investment of 1,
the Courtesan is semi-autonomous and may leave
her house un-chaperoned. Khe may develop their
own clients and business dealings, even rising to
the status of Keeper, one who runs a house of khe
Khe are not property kept in brothels or used
as objects by lecherous Anu. They are a gender
considered natural and biologically ordained. Khe
are the artists, musicians, and performers of the
Anu and often run their own affairs as part of a


Anu Milieus: Citizen

1 Thrive
4 Move
4 Touch
2 Fight
2 Labor
2 Guile
5 Relate
5 Cunning



Citizens are the artisans, servants, farmers, and merchants of Anu society. Servants live and work in
Sabu households and are more often than not connected to a particular Family for generations. The
vast majority of Anu are Citizens. Citizens make up over seventy percent of the Anu population
and can be wealthy or poor, urban or rural.
Most Citizen Anu choose a Patronage to work for a particular House in exchange for a yearly
stipend of maize.
Additionally, or instead of a Patronage, Citizen Anu may choose a Profession. Servants with a
Profession can become more valuable to their lords and gain additional income to their Patronage
In Anu society, merchants are not a separate class of wealthy guild members. Merchants are
shopkeepers, food sellers, and wandering salespeople who sell goods and services for coin instead of
koku stipends. Merchants are those citizens with a Profession but no Patron.


Vayok Milieus: Urban (Three Homes)


Membership (in

5 Relate
1 Thrive
1 Fight
4 Move
4 Cunning
4 Labor
2 Guile
2 Touch

Most Urban Vayok live in Wagshigaad, the largest Vayok settlement and the only port on the
Vaankur continent. The other permanent camps, Tagorgaad and Hendrgaad, are much less
populated. Wagshigaad is the only place on Vaankur where Vayoks live outside the culture of the
ritual hunts and raids and is one of the Three Homes. Vayok of Wagshigaad may be merchants,
smiths, boat makers, city officials, or foreign workers, but even in this more modern environment,
Vayok still maintain their Clan identity and ties.
Urban Vayok characters may begin the game with a Membership in a family Clan. For 1
Investment, characters gain access to food, relatives, supplies, and wolves. These characters work as
traders and laborers for their Clan on the docks and in the city at large. Foreigners cannot usually
have a Clan identity.
Characters may instead or additionally choose an
Alignment in a Profession. For an Investment
of 1, the character has a trade that supports him
or her in the Wagshigaad economy. The player
may need to choose an Art to support this
Magick is not feared by the Vayok. In
fact, more than any of the other cultures
surrounding the Hara Sea, the Vayok
embrace the manifold arts of magick.
Although wicked shaman exist and
witchcraft has risen in popularity since the
Six-Fronts Wars, Vayok still cultivate deep
connections with the Fey of Vaankur and
the Old Gods who walk among the animals
in the frozen plateaus.


Vayok Milieus: Clan Settlements

1 Guile
2 Cunning
2 Relate
4 Sense
4 Fight
4 Thrive
5 labor
(Wikwasha 5 Touch)



Membership (in
Membership (in


Vayok who live in the outlying settlements practice a way of life that has changed little in centuries.
These Vayok hunt the great animals of the tundra, raise wolves, raid the shores of Edrada and
Gundrada, and celebrate both the triumphs of such undertakings, and the sorrows, in song. They
are mead brewers, robust hunters and fighters, and tinkerers of magick. The harsh conditions of
living in the Vaankur wilderness require two complementary Alignments for all characters.
Vayok in the settlements must choose a Membership in a family clan to belong to. The Clan
provides identity and access to food, supplies, relatives, and shelter. Without a Clan, a Vayok would
have no place in settlement society.
Settlement Vayok must also choose an Alignment in a Membership to a Settlement. For an
Investment of 1, characters get access to other Clans, foreign goods, friends, and rivals. Being a
member of a settlement also gives the character much more knowledge of the outside world, access
to the knowledge of elders, and use of communal spaces such as shrines and longhouses.


Vayok Milieus: Shaman


Family Clan

5 Touch
2 Move
2 Labor
4 Guile
4 Cunning
1 Fight

Shaman are the medicine men and women and the spiritual guides of the Vayok. Priests and
magickers, however, do not need to be shaman and may flourish in other Milieus as well. Both
Arcane and Loom magicks are used in Vayok traditions, and many Shaman wield them in equal
measure. Shaman live within the settlements as well as the cities, though some are hermits who
come only when directed or sought after. At such times they perform everyday rituals, heal the sick,
create charms for hunters and travelers, and offer support in times of danger.
Shaman must begin the game with a Patronage that connects them to their mentor. New
characters are apprentices to the Shaman of yesterday and must learn their skills from an older
Characters must also choose either a
Profession or a Family Clan to support
themselves. Professional Shaman generally
live in one of the Three Homes, and Shaman
attached to a particular Clan live in the tundra
Shaman practice many kinds of magick,
serving under mentors or the spirits
themselves. It is not unknown for shaman
to take up relationships with motherings in
exchange for Arcane lore, though such a bond
would forsake the shamans relationship to his
or her people forever.


He met Wren by the Lakes edge. Light glittered on the blue water like a handful of diamonds cast
across cerulean tile. Around them, the tents and trees, the smell of opium, the cries of distant
Is it done? Wren asked. She was a tough thing, more like a wild hog than a little bird, thus
making her name more ironic than anything.
Kalisatha nodded. It is. Rollick did well for what Rollick does.


It was then that he saw her. The girl with the two knives. Standing by a crimson pergola, the
dark red wood thrust deep into the sand. She was watching them. He didnt think much of it;
the piercing gaze of vigilant stares was part and parcel of the Lake District, watchful faces eager
for a taste of gossip, a dollop of salacious rumor to fall sweet upon the tongue. In fact, Kalisatha
expected it. It was useful to him. They told one another of the strange Crown looking for
Ikazamir, and word got around.
Still. It tickled at the back of his neck.
But soon hed forget. Hed forget until the White Forest.

The knife in the back of his leg shot a lightnings bolt of pain up into his hip and down into his
foot. He danced around, almost falling, but still managed to wrench the blade free from the back
of his knee. An arc of blood spattered the ground.
And all around him, the trees burned.
Smoke rose. Great clots of it. It stung his nose. His eyes.
Something moved. He couldnt see the girl. He cast a heaving wind toward the smoke and cleared
a path, but if she had been in that spot she wasnt there now. He held her knifestill dripping his
own bloodtight in his inhuman grip.
He decided to do something unusual. Unusual for him, anyway. He decided to talk. Or, even
stranger, to ask. He declared. He stated. He never asked. Still. The fire around him. His leg oozing
blood. He had to know. Had to get this over with.
Why? he called out, his voice loud so as to drown out the snap and crack of burning branches
(calling to mind pig-fat popping in a hot pan). He wanted this over. He was in a hurry. The
question was the only way.
She answered him, then. As a whisper in his ear.
Because you killed my brother, she hissed. Her other knife plunged deep behind his shoulder



Step 3: Aptitudes & Traits

Early Dark is built around eight Aptitudes
that simplify and summarize the myriad ways
a living organism can approach a challenge.
The Aptitudes represent how an animal could
respond to its environment and how likely it
is to use one particular drive or instinct over
another. Using Aptitudes instead of attributes,
the game focuses on what a person is good
at, not what is good about the person. Every
action in Early Dark combines two of these

This Aptitude encompasses all manner of

tasks requiring mental acuity, whether through
a good a memory, a collection of notes,
experience and training, the ability to visualize
events unfolding, or innovation. Humans forge
plans as much as they forge iron, and Cunning
is useful both in and out of combat. Beavers
build dams; chimpanzees use sticks and tools
to catch ants; otters use rocks to break open
clams; snakes use rattles to warn other animals
away instead of fighting them.

How would the sword-master respond to being

locked up in a cell and forgotten? How would
the sage react to the charge of a bloodthirsty
giant? How would the destitute rogue go about
earning a little coin? That is the art of the
game: Making choices, not raising statistics.

combat, melee, spirit, tenacity, aggressiveness


After choosing a Milieu and assigning the
Aptitudes related to the categories, each
player has 12 more points to allocate among
the remaining four Aptitudes. For starting
characters, each Aptitude is limited to 5, and
the sum of all Aptitudes is limited to 24. The
four Aptitudes fixed from the Milieu cannot
be changed at this point, but Epithets can
improve any part of your character in the
future (see Heraldry, 273). The absolute
limit for any Aptitude is 7.
Distribute 12 points among the
remaining Aptitudes. You cannot
change the four already set, and no
Aptitude can start higher than 5. This
ensures each hero begins with both
strengths and weaknesses.


This Aptitude encompasses both an organisms

willingness to provoke open combat with
another creature and its potential to cause
physical damage. Whether reliant on
strength, size, speed, training, bravado, or
luck, the Fighting Aptitude represents all that
would make someone more likely than her
opponent to get what she wants from physical
confrontation. Fighting covers strength,
training, reflexes, battle experienceall the
potential factors that make one human more
capable of surviving body-to-body conflict
than anotherbut also the natural weapons
and armor of animals. Humans fight with
weapons, and their knowledge of weapons and
other technologies of war is part of what makes
them human. The Fighting Aptitude includes
human weapons along with the stalking habits
of the tiger, the pack formation of the wolf, the
powerful shoulders and neck of the ram, and
the teeth of the crocodile.
socialize, empathy, bond, charisma, presence

The Aptitude of Relate is essential to the

human animal. Socializing and building
relationships and societies are substantial
elements of human evolution and present
day-to-day life. Relate represents a characters
creativity, intelligence, ingenuity, memory
ability to form bonds with other people and
animals, to feel a connection and capitalize
The Aptitude of Cunning represents the
on it. This bond could stem from charisma,
characters reliance on quick thinking,
physical appearance, authority, or a sense of
resourcefulness, and creative problem solving.

humor. Relate can be used both to flatter

a ruler and to indoctrinate an underling.
The ability to manipulate others is a key to
political power, while a capacity for love and
affection leads to peace of mind and emotional
fulfillment. Relate also includes feeling the vibe
or energy of a situation, knowing what manners
to display and what social expectations are
made by others.

willpower, resolve, change, grow, adapt
flexibility, speed, balance, agility, reflexes
The Aptitude Thrive is basic to all life. This
is the most primal and essential of all living
drives. Some call this the conatus, the force
that pushes animals to self-preservation and
reproduction. This Aptitude encompasses
the ability to adapt and change direction
when needed but also perseverance and the
wherewithal to commit resolutely to a course
and follow it through. Thrive is best illustrated
in the roots of the tree, growing ever longer
either around the rock or through it. Life will
find a way. Thrive also covers the abilities to
relax, endure, heal, and meditate.

Move represents a characters capacity

for rapid and even movement. Mobility is
necessary for animals to avoid predators, find
food and potential mates, mark out a territory,
and seek shelter. Covering ground is important,
but so is remaining flexible and well-balanced
without moving ones feet. The Move Aptitude
encompasses the characters ability to stay in
one place while dodging potential blows as
well as the ability to speedily retreat if danger
should prove overpowering. Whether speed
or balance is needed, the Aptitude for Move
is used. It comes into play when covering
ground quietly, taking less damage during a
fall, keeping the body upright in the water,
or protecting the face when moving at high
awareness, sensitivity, feel, finesse, artistry
The Aptitude of Touch encompasses all the
five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and
touch, but includes other connotations of the



word as well. To sense is to feel and recognize,

to perceive as either friend or foe, danger or
advantage. Touch covers a characters use of
all her senses, including preternatural abilities
long thought dead in the human mind. The
sensitivity of an organism to change in the
environment is also important: feeling the
wind change direction, noticing a drop in air
pressure, feeling the vibrations of advancing
horses. Touch also includes skills at drawing,
artistry, and handicrafts.
stealth, trickery, feign, hide
bulk, productivity, inertia, stubbornness
Guile is necessary for the survival of many
animals. The lioness stalks close to the antelope
without proclaiming her proximity; the angler
The Labor Aptitude represents the ability to
fish lures prey near her mouth with a flashing
modify the world around one. Elephants tear
light; insects of all kinds resemble other things,
down trees to create space; spiders build webs;
whether bird, stick, leaf, or bark. Even the male
herds of cattle clear the grasslands. Whether
lion grows a thick mane to deceive his rivals
intentional or accidental, physical or mental,
into thinking he is bigger than he actually is,
conscious or unconscious, Labor encompasses
saving his energy for more important conflicts.
all that would change the world into something
The Guile Aptitude covers all trickery and
different. This Aptitude reflects on the size of
dishonesty, from lying and espionage to moving
the animal involved along with how much space
without sound and launching an attack from
it takes up. Labor rolls usually include some
the dark. Guile is not merely social but also
physical object or environment that is being
physical in its manifestations.
handled or otherwise affected.

Calculating Your Traits


Each Trait corresponds to one Aptitude and

includes any Augments purchased by the player
in Epithets. Augments can change the Rank
of a Trait without affecting the underlying
Aptitude. This allows characters the bonuses
of a particular Trait without requiring the
investment needed to raise an Aptitude. Also,
though Aptitudes are capped at 7, enough
Augments can be purchased to raise Trait
Ranks up to 11, and enchanted objects can push
Traits up to 13.
The Rank of a Trait is calculated by adding
the corresponding Aptitude to any Augments.
Enchantments or magickal equipment the
character has can also impact the overall Rank
of a Trait. Because characters start a campaign
with no Augments or magickal objects, the
Rank of each Trait will start identical to the
corresponding Aptitude.
Building Augments into your Epithets and
finding magickal items that offer Trait
Modifiers allow you to improve a characters
performance without having to increase his or
her Aptitudes.
Fill in the Ranks and Traits for each Aptitude.
Leave the Augment and Modifier fields blank
for starting characters.
Tacks per Turn (TPT)
This determines how many Tacks a player can
articulate from the results of a single roll. See
223 and 238 in the following chapter for how to
make the most of your heros Tacks per Turn.
Damage per Die (DPD)
This is the amount of Fatigue dealt per die
when a hero uses a Primary Tack to Fatigue
an opponent with or without a weapon.
Load bonuses are often added to
this product. Check out Dealing
Damage on page 264 for more
information on using a characters
Damage per Die Trait.


Upkeep Discount
The Upkeep Discount allows your hero to
gather and command Followers more easily.
The discount reduces the number of Renown
you spend keeping Followers loyal and
committed. See Heraldry, 282.
Investment Renown Limit (Lim.)
Your Investment Page Limit allows your
hero to invest more Pages into Alignments.
Characters with a high Investment Limit
climb social ladders more quickly and expand
their influence more broadly than their peers.
Earning more Pages for playing to Alignments
allows a hero to purchase Epithets more
quickly. See Heraldry, 278.
Initiative Bonus (Ini.)
The Initiative Bonus is added to the 1d10
Initiative roll when deciding the order of
combat. Initiative not only determines the
order of the combat, but also allows those with
higher initiatives to establish Range on those
with lower rolls. For more information, see
Establish Ranges on page 243.
The characters Guard is re-rolled every time
the hero goes on guard and becomes ready
for combat. Also, Guard is rolled each time the
hero suffers a Wound. For more information,
see Guard and Defenses and Dealing
Damage, 260-265.

Ranks & Traits

The Ground Trait represents a characters
overall size, toughness, and ability to sustain
damage, the cornerstone of defense against
receiving Wounds. See how Ground works in
combat in Guard and Defenses on page 260.
Rolls Per Round (RPR)
The Rolls Per Round Trait indicates how many
rolls a character can make in a single round of
combat. These include offensive and defensive
rolls as well as any Checks or Saves the Scribe
requires. For more information, see Playing a
Round on page 242.

Secondary Trait

Each Hero has a Vest Capacity and a Total

Capacity. The Vest Capacity is equal to a
heros Ground and represents how much can
be worn as dead weight during combat or
physical exertion without discomfort. This
includes armor and combat items carried
ready at hand directly on the heros person
(arrows, throwing knives, Resins, etc.). If a
character enters combat or performs strenuous
labor carrying more Load than his or her Vest
permits, he or she suffers Exertion Fatigue once
per Round or at the Scribes discretion (see


TPT DPD Upkeep Lim.
Ini. Ground RPR




6 20+ 10

8 24+ 11



12 32+ 13
Weapons that are being wielded in combat
(i.e. not carried as dead weight) do not count
against a heros Vest during combat. They
would, however, count as a heros Vest if worn
on the back or hip during heavy labor. Think
of the heros Vest Capacity as the amount of
weight that can be worn comfortably when
working or fighting.
Bags that can be dropped or otherwise easily
set down need not be counted against a
characters Vest. Unless the sack or item is held
as baggage (i.e. dead weight) during combat or
labor, it would not count as part of the heros
Vest. It is smart for heroes to keep smaller bags
separate from ready at hand items needed
in combat. To keep track of how things are
carried, the character sheet provides separate
boxes within the space allotted for Inventory.
The Total Capacity, set at twice the heros
Ground, is the absolute maximum amount of
weight any hero can carry. All weapons, armor,
items, and equipment carried on his or her
person count against a heros Total Capacity.
Think of the Total Capacity as the amount of
weight that can be lugged around during normal
walking, idling about, or riding.
As a heros Labor increases, so will his or her
Ground, and thus his or her Capacities as well.


Step 4: Dice & Arts

Before selecting Arts, the players must arrange
their characters Domain Dice.

Domain Dice


The Mundane Domain is the realm of

everyday life, and most Checks and Saves will
require rolling Mundane Dice. Both physical
and mental actions take place in the Mundane
Loom dice represent the characters
knowledge and experience with the Great
Loom that guides all life. The Weft is the path
of all things, their comings and goings, their
pasts and futures all arranged and represented
in the fabric of reality. One who reads the Weft
can shape matter and time with the pull of a
thread or the snipping of a lifeline. Knowledge
of the Loom is both a science and an art. Those
versed in weaving within the Great Tapestry
that reflects and renders the material world see
the connections between the will and the body
more clearly than others.
Arts in the Arcane Domain are called
Arcana and mechanically differ from both the
Mundane and Loom Domains. To specialize
in the Arcane is to live in another world,
to focus the will on another way of living
that necessarily mitigates the individuals
competence in day-to-day activities. The aim is
to take one foot out of this world and place it
another, more stormy realm, where the power
lost in mundane life is regained five, ten, or
twenty fold. (see page 249 in the Grammar
for more about the mechanic of the Arcane


Cost in Stars

Heroes all start with 4 dice in each Domain.

Players spend 7 further Stars to purchase
additional Dice according to the chart at the
bottom of the page.
begin the campaign with:
4 Raw Arts
2 Talents (Mundane or Arcane)
4 Wounds (or an agreed, smaller amount)
3 Guard Dice
4 Each Domain Dice (7 Stars)
Create Unarmed Fighting Style
(it takes the Light Aspect)
Record Arts on the character sheet
with the connected Footings,
Domains, and Effects.

Each Art is a cultural artifact, a body of
knowledge passed on for generations that
makes available different Attacks and Talents.
In this way, heroes do not have or use Arts;
they simply bring the Arts into play by acting
in the relevant Footing and using the skills they
have gathered from those cultural traditions.
Arts are lifestyles and ways of being. Arts will
teach your hero skills and abilities, and attacks.
Think of these abilities or attacks as all the
things your hero can do with a Tack of dice.
Attacks include a variety of skills, natural
abilities, and know-how.
Each hero will learn the stages of an Art from
Raw, to Low, and then to High. These must be
purchased in order, with each stage increasing
in cost. Talents desired from an Art can be

Common Distributions

5-7 1 Mundane
9 8 8 7 7
8-9 2 Arcane 4 5 6 5 6
10-13 3 Loom 4 5 4 7 6


purchased in any order, heroes pursuing each

tradition as far as needed. Heroes can use
Attacks and Talents only when their Footing
matches that of the Art.
It is important to remember that most
Mundane actions do not require an Art to
perform at all. That is, the character does not
need Hacking Blade to swing a sword. Arts
represent what the character has focused
mental energy on, what the character has made
an effort to improve, and where his or her
tricks and special abilities lie. Characters who
do not want to master a particular weapon can
still carry one and wield it skillfully in combat.
No Art needed.
Arcana, on the other hand, must be gained
through apprenticeship, read on a scroll or
tablet, or otherwise learned before they may
be cast. Touching the Loom also requires Arts,
called Insights, which are learned through

The new character can choose Mundane

Talents that accompany an Art, or Arcane
Talents, which unlock a Family of Magick (324).
That is to say, before any Arcana can be chosen,
the basic Talent for the entire Family must be
selected. In the future, Arcana of a new Family
cannot be purchased in the same Epithet that
includes the Talent for that Family. Magickers
must plan ahead, purchasing Family Talents
in one Epithet and the desired Arcana in later


The young magicker had been spotted, a

trail of light following the fluid motions
of his hands as he ran through the dark
streets. There was no mistaking a fissure in
the Tapestry: The light refracting through
space, the vacuum of soundcommon signs
of the arcane arts. He ducked into an alley
behind the temple just as the pair of bruisers
rounded the last corner. They were cousins
of the brew-master Marrus had struck dead
a minute ago. He would collect the second
half of his pay under the East Hawk Bridge
and get out of Lokod by morning. A sound.
They had him. Four thick hands gripped his
upper-body and tossed it to the ground. Feet
booted with leather stomped his stomach
and chest. A stone blade pulled from beneath
a belt stabbed for his side, but by then
Marrus had regained his guard: Fire crackled
from his fingers again, blinding and burning
the men who stood around him. They
screamed in agony. Attracting more attention,
Marrus thought. Leaving them near death,
he sprinted toward the bridge in the most
indirect route he could think up.

experience without special instruction or

outside help.

Blood Magick cannot be learned unless the

character selects the Arcane Talent associated
with Blood Magick and a stage in the Mundane
Atavism Art. Without such an atavism, the hero
would not have Fell blood in his or her body to
fuel the magick.
Heroes do not gain the benefits of a new
Epithet at the time it is created. They must
wait until the Epithet is appropriated, i.e.
purchased with Renown, before gaining the
abilities within. For more on Epithets, see the
following section and 274.
Your characters Blood is a measure of his or
her magickal resistance and power. Blood acts
as a Defense against many Arcane spells and
as a buffer against Drain. All spells cost Blood,
and wise magickers will find better ways to
pay the price of wielding powerful energies
than spilling their own. For more information
on the two-fold use of Blood, see Guard and
Defenses (260) and Arcane Magick (249) in
A heros Blood is set at twice his or her Arcane
Dice. Whenever more Arcane Dice are
purchased, the Blood is automatically raised
alongside them.
Blood equals 2 X Arcane Dice. Armor
and Aura generally begin at 0 but can
be augemented with equipment and


Step 5: First Epithet


Each player chooses a starting Epithet

that covers the life of his or her
character up til now. Is the foreign
Hhan a refugee, visiting scholar, or
wealthy merchant? How is she known
in the social context of the scenario?
This Epithet sets up whatever
hook, mystery, or tragedy the player
hopes to weave into the characters
past. This is not the only time an
Epithet can re-texture a characters past,
but this step is a key place to solidify how
players see their heroes fitting in. Everyone
has some hook for the character, some talent or
secret that makes for an interesting hero. Now
is your chance to make that unique back story
This Epithet is unlocked but not completed.
Players will assign Augments, Aptitudes, Arts
(Raw, Low, and High), and Talents up to 50
Renown as prescribed in the Heraldry
(276). The hero must then save up 50 Renown
by playing to Alignments before purchasing/
appropriating the bonuses of the Epithet.
You can now make firm each heros roll in the
Scenario, deciding who, where, when, and why
the suggested meeting takes place. Is anyone
related? How do the characters know each
other? What brings each person to the event?
Work as a group to fill in how each character
ended up in the scenario, fleshing out back
stories on foreigners and explaining what
happened earlier that day, earlier that week, or
earlier that year.
Choose a Name for each character and
record it on the character sheet. Imagine the
appearance of your face.


Many starting players decide to make the

backstory Epithet reflect the characters
involvement in the Six-Fronts Wars. What
was your hero up to during the thirty years
of conflict that reshaped the borders of the
world and lessened just a handful of years

Step 6: Equipment
Characters begin the game with any weapons
or items suitable to their Milieus and
Professions. Scribes are encouraged to flesh
out the characters material goods according
to their social situations and the immediate
circumstance of the Scenario.

An items Load is not only its size and weight,
but also a measure of how awkward it would
be to carry. A swath of cloth a few yards wide
may be incredibly light, but it would still be
awkward and cumbersome to carry. Though
they may be both light and small, carrying a
priceless heirloom, ancient artifact, or glass
jar may be difficult to carry safely; and so such
objects would earn a high Load value.
The Load of a weapon is used as a damage
bonus on all Fatigue attacks.

Common Loads


Heavy purse, one day of food, 2 Resins

Pillow, extra clothes, helmet, 1 vial
Glass container, medium shield,
Sack of potatoes, delicate wooden
artifact, large shield, Soft Armor jacket
Delicate ornament, tent
Sack of melons, chest, average Hard
Camping supplies and tent
Carrying an average adult, good Armor

An Aspect is a set of Penalties based on the
ideal Range of a weapon or an object used as a

The ideal Range of each Aspect offers no

Penalties, while other Ranges will offer [-1] or
[-2] Penalties depending on the distance from
the opponent. An X in any Range means that
weapons of that Aspect cannot be wielded at
such a Range at all. Use the following chart
to determine the Aspects of all weapons and
objects wielded as weapons in the game:

Aspects & Ranges


All objects in Early Dark have a Load, and,

when used by a human as a weapon, an Aspect.
Load is the weight of the object and how
difficult it is to carry. Aspects represent the
utility of an object and how it is best used in
combat. Weapons of war designed specifically
to inflict damage on other humans or animals
like swords, bows, knives, and flails also have a
Balance, representing the weapons design and

weapon. There are four Aspects, representing

the ways different kinds of weapons are used in

Grapple Reach Melee Long




Ranged X








For a detailed description of each Range and

how they are qualitatively defined, see Ranges
in the Grammar on page 241.
Balance represents the quality and utility of a
well designed weapon. A high Balance reflects
careful craftsmanship, longevity, and ease of
maintenance. Natural objects do not have a
Balance. A weapons Balance can also be used to
assess its overall quality and how much it might
be worth in gems or coins.
The Balance of a weapon should not be thought
of as simply an inverse of its Load, although
light, finely wrought weapons will generally
have a higher Balance than heavy or clunky
armaments. Most attacks will use a weapons
Balance as a Strike bonus in combat.
Check out the Almanac for a list of weapons
and their basic properties, 362.


Chapter the Fourth

Grammar of Rules
Creating a hero is the first step of inhabiting the world of the Hara Sea. In Early Dark, each
player gets to role-play a hero who springs up from among a people. This organic hero is
not a detached wandered but an individual bound to a culture for better or worse. The glory
is grand indeed for the hero who wins a following, but the longevity of any legend depends
not just on the feats of the hero but on his or her relationship to those who come after.
The following chapter will include all the steps necessary to build a character in Early Dark,
though information on choosing Arts will be the bulk of Chapter 6 and improving your
character through experience makes up the content of Chapter 5.

Two Alagoths of the Benarekata and two Edish nomads traveling under the
totem of the Hawk awaken a Fiend amidst the ruins of an ancient city. For many
centuries, the ruins of Edrada were avoided as dangerous places of magick and
death. As the landscape quieted and the spirits fell back to sleep, humans began to
resettle the many scattered cities.


One Mechanic to Bind Them

The singular mechanic of Early Dark consists
of players rolling pools of ten-sided dice set by
a Domain and in a particular Footing, and
then building Tacks of various sizes from the
result. Every in-game roll follows this format,
from attacking and defending to shape-shifting
and studying.


The Domain sets the number of dice a player
rolls by fixing the nature of the characters
action as Mundane, Arcane, or Loom. Every
character and creature in the world of Early
Dark has a certain number of dice in each
Domain. More dice are gained as the hero
advances by earning Epithets. The distribution
of dice reflects the characters attachment to
and investment in the various aspects of the
Grand Tapestry.
Everyday activities reside in the Mundane
Domain. These include feats of strength,
dexterity, and mental figuring. Tangible actions
such as throwing, running, and hiding as well as
intangible actions such as thinking, planning,
and remembering occur as Mundane actions.
Characters sneaking in the dark, haggling over
prices, wielding a sword, fashioning a canoe,
or navigating a sailing vessel are all attempting
actions in the Mundane Domain. These events
can occur naturally within the established
pattern and limits of the Tapestry. Heroes with
high Mundane Dice may be witty or strong,
charming or crooked. Whatever their strengths,
they are grounded in the here and now with
both feet planted firmly in this world.


The Arcane Domain includes all actions that

draw power from the Fray, the tangled and
distorted underside of the Tapestry. Attempting
actions in the Arcane Domain requires
knowledge of ancient and nigh-forgotten arts
that disturb the natural order of this world.
Every human has the ability to feel the dark
presence of the Fray on the fringes of reality,
but only trained mages can wield the powers of
chaos at will. With each casting, the magicker
tears open a window into the Fray, grappling
with unkempt threads in order to distort and

alter our world. Every casting is dangerous,

and mages who fail to contain the chaos that
floods through fresh tears in the Tapestry are
at great risk. Characters who habitually act as
conduits for the chaos of the Fray will often
develop physical maladies. Characters can steal
memories from an enemy, unleash flame from
their fingertips, create sigils of power for other
magickers, alter their bodies into bestial shapes,
and even summon creatures from the Fray itself
with powers rooted in the Arcane Domain.
Heroes with high Arcane Dice live disturbed
lives, showing symptoms of schizophrenia,
absent-mindedness, or other mental unbalance.
They operate in our world but live detached
from natural laws and cultural norms.
When targeted by many forms of
Arcane magick, defenders will be
required to roll their Arcane Dice to
resist (see Direct Bouts, 251). Also,
using Arcana requires the player to
make a Wager, which reflects the
danger of channeling the Fray.
Actions that partake of and draw from the
universal pattern of the threads fall within the
Loom Domain. Reading and manipulating the
Loom is considered a magickal ability, though
the source of Loom magick is entirely different
from that of Arcane casting. Drawing from the
Loom is not considered unnatural, but instead
represents the sages understanding of her
very real, natural connections with all other
things. This does not mean that tapping into
the power of the threads is without danger, and
sages must be careful not to lose themselves
in the vast oneness of the Tapestry. Insights
provided by a true knowledge of the worlds
order and flow allow the steady-minded to
absorb qualities from the nature around them,
entangle opponents in their own threads, and
even change the topography of the very earth
upon which they stand all by understanding
the Loom. If your hero has high Loom Dice,
she is in tune with the natural progression of
time and the movement of space. She may

find herself growing indifferent to the hustle

and bustle of human emotion and planning as
her will bends to match the great flow of the

For example: Andrew declares that his magicker, Jist,

will dart over the city wall, stepping up on the crates
and wagons before clearing the stone enclosure with a
final hop. Jist has six Mundane dice, and the action
seems perfectly natural for this world. The group
agrees that the Footing for Jists maneuver would best
include the Move and Labor Aptitudes, which for Jist
are 4 and 3, respectively, giving a Limit of 7. So, we
say the Footing for Jists action is Move-Labor and
that Andrew is rolling 6 dice against a Limit of 7, or
6 into 7.
The Footing not only sets the quantitative
Limit of the action players will roll against;
it must reflect qualitatively the shape and
character of the action within the shared
narrative. Beyond merely setting the Limit for
a roll, Footings are also important strategic
elements in combat, making certain Arts and
Talents available on a turn and precluding
After determining your actions Domain and
Footing, roll the dice and form Tacks. A Tack
is a group of dice that add up to a sum less than
or equal to the Limit. Because of this, we say
that every Tack must fit the Limit. In Early

Oftentimeswhether Check, Save or Bout

only a single Tack is needed, and the roll will be
measured by the number of dice in its largest
possible Tack. This is called the Force of a
roll. Most rolls that do not involve combat or
a dangerous trap will be settled by determining
Forces, one Tack alone counting toward the
For example: Andrew rolls his six Mundane dice,
scoring 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 9. Because he is making a
simple Check, Andrew needs to form only a single
Tack. In most cases, when only a single Tack is needed,
the player tries to build the largest Tack possible. The
largest Tack Andrews roll can create is a Force of 3
because however he arranges the resulting dice, he
can fit no more than 3 of them into a Tack equal to or
less than 7 (2 + 2 + 3 7). Even though five of the dice
rolled have values equal to or less than 7, Tacks are
made by fitting the sum of as many dice as you can
into the Limit, not by counting how many are below
the Limit individually.


The Footing of an action relays which two
Aptitudes are coming into play. Every word,
thought, spell, and deed in Early Dark utilizes
two of the eight Aptitudes, no action stemming
from one Aptitude alone. Adding the two
Aptitudes of the Footing together gives the
player the target number, or Limit, for that
attempted action.

Dark, a Tack is the basic unit of meaning and

represents one effect that the character can
cause on his or her Turn. A single Tack/effect
may be tied to any number of movements or
actions in the narrative, whatever fits the mood
and pace of the scene.

Andrews Roll:

Tack 7
(Force of 3)

Tack 7
(Extra 1-Tack)

Tack 7
(Extra 1-Tack)

Tack > 7
(Doesnt Fit the Limit)


Or: Taunos thief, Heyu, runs through the turbulent

crowd gathered around the Wenhagi temple, evading
three sentries who witnessed the rogue escape their
masters estate just moments ago. The Scribe, Kelly,
calls for a Save: Your Alagoth stands out in the
mostly Edish crowd. Roll a Guile-Move Save at a
Difficulty of 3 to work through the crowd and escape
undetected. Heyu has a 4 Guile and a 6 Move, so
Tauno rolls his nine Mundane Dice against a Limit
of 10.


Taunos Roll:

Tack 10
(Force of 2)

Tack 10
(Extra 2-Tack)

Tack 10
(Extra 2-Tack)
Tack 10
(Extra 1-Tack)

Tack 10

(Extra 1-Tack)

Tack 10

(Doesnt Count; he only
has 5 Tacks Per Turn)
Heyu doesnt pass the Save.
Or: Kelly could initiate a Bout with Tauno instead
of setting a Difficulty: Hanif gazes over the crowd
from an adjacent balcony, calling for a Direct Bout in
Guile-Move. In Direct Bouts, both players roll in the
same Footing. They then each build the largest Tack
possible with the results, and compare Forces to see
who wins.


Now, if the Force of Taunos roll is higher than the

Force of Kellys roll for the Sentry, Heyu gets away. If
the two tie, then the result maintains the status quo.

In complex Saves and when your hero rolls

Bouts in combat, your turn will require you
to build multiple Tacks from a single roll. In
these cases, there are often many arrangements
of Tacks possible, and players must decide
precisely how they will arrange the result of a
roll depending on the circumstance.
For example: Ericks feisty mage, Vuul Hara, is being
attacked by a pair of ogres. The first Fell beast rolls
to attack the slight hero in Fight-Labor, giving it a
Limit of 11.

Kelly rolls the ogres ten Mundane Dice:

^(4- Tack)



The remaining two dice cannot be used
because the ogre has only 4 Tacks per
Turn (see 242 for more on TPT).
Kelly could have arranged these Tacks
differently (see 238).
For more information on rolling in combat,
see 247. For an in-depth look at the strategy
involved in arranging Tacks, see 238. Checks,
Saves, and Bouts will be explained in more
detail in the following sections. These
categories, however, are purely heuristic.
During play, it will not often matter whether
any particular roll is a Check, a Save, or a Bout.
Most rolls outside combat will become strange
hybrids, with creative Scribes demanding
unique or creative rolls to progress the

Talking Tacks
Outside combat, in Checks and simple
Saves, the exact arrangement of the roll is
often less important than the single, largest
Tack. In complex Saves and Bouts, however,
multiple Tacks are needed. We organize
those Tacks into the following classes:

Secondary Tacks

Advantage (Tack of 1 Die)

There is a set list of five Advantages. Any
character can attempt an Advantage at will
so long as a proper contextual explanation
can be given. Throughout this book, when
players are arranging Tacks in combat, a 1Tack is always referred to as an Advantage.
For a listing of the five Advantages and how
to use them, see 234.
Talent (Tack of 2 Dice)
Talents are acquired by gaining Epithets and
learning the various Mundane Arts. Using a
Talent may or may not require a particular
context, but the player must always give a
qualitative description of how the Talent
takes place within the narrative to avoid a
Balk. Talents represent tricks, moves, or
maneuvers your hero relies on in conflict
and exhibit a wide range of effects and uses.

Pprimary Tacks

Primary Tacks have 3 or more dice and
are used to attack opponents in combat.
Heroes, commoners, and monsters alike
need no training to deal Fatigue with any
Tack of 3 dice or more that lands in a Bout.
There is no limit to the size a Tack can
reach, and powerful heroes could potentially
deal five, six, or more dice of Fatigue in a
single hit.


Tacks that include 1 or 2 dice are deemed

Secondary Tacks. In combat they are used to
deploy Advantages and Talents. They cannot
be used to Fatigue opponents directly as
Primary Tacks can, although some Talents
do involve one form of damage or another.

complete information on designing and

implementing Trials, see 346. Throughout
the examples in this book, we will refer to
2-Tacks as Talents unless an explicit Trial
is involved.

Attacks include all Strike rolls and any
special combat abilities (such as Quickdraw,
322) that heroes master by studying Arts.
The highest Tack in each Bout can be rolled
as a Strike whenever a hero has a weapon or
dangerous object (or when he or she studies
Martial Arts). As heroes learn Arts, they will
develop special, more deadly tactics and
learn new Attacks to deploy in battle.

Hit (Tack of 2 Dice)

When engaged in a Trial, players will be
attempting to score Hits within a series
of related Checks, Saves, or Bouts. They
can often build these 2-Tacks within roles
that serve another purpose entirely, such
as making an attack or a Save. For an
introduction to Trials, see 227; for more


A Check is the simplest deciding roll in Early
Dark. Checks occur when players are curious
about the concrete consequences of generally
routine actions, or when a player declares an
action with a dramatic or uncertain outcome.
When calling for a Check in response to a
players suggested action, the Scribe is in effect
saying, Sounds like a good idea. Lets see if it


Checks do not require multiple Tacks. The

number of dice in the largest possible Tack
determines the overall Force of the roll. The
Force is then used as a qualitative guide for
how successful an exploratory action is or, in
the case of pass or fail Checks, the Force is
compared to a Difficulty set by the Scribe to
determine if a risky action succeeds.

Checks Without Difficulties

How good does Hirtha look in her new feather dress?
How impressed is the local shaman with Zefrs
knowledge of charms and talismans? How does the
party get by using a tone of familiarity with the
powerful priest?
These are questions of a qualitative nature
that players and Scribes may be interested
in settling. There is no question whether the
action occurs or not, and the focus of the roll
is more on how well it succeeds or whether any
useful, material consequences arise. In such
cases, the Scribe does not set a rigid Difficulty,
but instead judges the effect of the action based
on the Force of the players roll.
Qualitative Guides
Turning a numerical answer into a qualitative
mood or feel is easy: A Force of 1 means Hirtha
looks nice enough in her dress; a Force of 2
means Zefr does a solid job impressing the
shaman; a Force of 3 means the party gets away
with casual banter and invites the priest to
respond in kind. In some instances, these rolls
are purely for fun. Players get curious and come
up with rolls to perform just to see what will


happen, or to see if their ideas can trigger some

unforeseen outcome.
Good players will be acting out what they think
their characters would be doing regardless of
the mechanical consequences. That is to say,
they will be role-playing(!). If the roll remains
purely qualitative, the best a Scribe can do is
give the result narrative value based on the
force of the roll: The results set the dynamic or
momentum of the following scene in the story.
Men start giving Hirtha sidelong glances and winks.
The shaman fumbles over his words, intimidated
by Zefrs wisdom. The priest is convinced by their
friendly demeanors that he has met the party members
In this case, the roll gives everyone an idea of
how smoothly their characters perform, how
successful in the broadest sense. The group
may go an hour without another roll. These
results can be major factors in influencing what
happens next, and in the end the point of a
role-playing game is to make an interesting,
enjoyable story that everyone has a hand in.
Concrete Effects
Checks can also be made into something more
substantial by building tangible rewards or
penalties into them. Early Dark encourages
every roll to have a concrete, practical effect
determined in advance. Let the roll set a mood
or feel for the narrative, sure, but why not
include a strategic consequence as well?
For each die in Hirthas largest Tack, she will attract
two opportunities to seduce favors from patrons of the
festival later on. The Force of Zefrs roll against the
shaman sets how far he can reduce the Difficulty of
later rolls against the shaman. For each die the party
members share against the priest, there will be five less
guards standing by should they cause trouble.
The Force of the roll offers some kind of
definitive result or effect, doing the real work
of the game. Adding concrete results to a roll
increases the drama just before the player lets
fly the dice and converts a roll that started

out just for fun or just to role-play into the

stuff of strategy. Gambling potential bonuses
or opportunities on a roll raises the stakes and
allows for clever characters to be tactical while
being creative. There is no need to value one
approachnarrative or mechanicalover
the other if both can be used to engage
players and develop the story.
For example: Brandons Edish lord, Kleitos, wants
to strike fear in the stomachs of his underlings and
rolls in Fight-Thrive just to see what happens. With
a Force of 5, Brandon is eager for a large effect. Kelly
decides that five of the serfs will now act as tattles
and fill the lord in on any less scrupulous workers.

Checks With Difficulties

Some Checks are less exploratory than the
above examples and take on a pass or fail
dynamic. These Checks begin to resemble
Saves, but Checks more often result from
player-initiated actions and less often handle
direct physical danger.

Difficulty Levels

One: Hard to Miss

Two: Easy
Three: Uncertain
Four: Risky
Five: Hard
Six: Heroic
Seven: Legendary

Or: Taunos rogue, Heyu, wants to fashion a rope

ladder from discarded bed linens to aid in his rescue of
the merchants niece. Kelly suggests a Cunning-Labor
Check at a Difficulty of 3. Tauno builds a Force of 4,
easily crafting a suitable ladder for the girl to use.


If Scribes called for a Check each time a

player took an action, very little would be
accomplished each session. Depending on
the pace of the scene or the potential drama
attached to a particular action, a Scribe may
forgo calling for a roll in one instance when a
similar situation on another night may have
demanded three or four separate rolls. This
variation is all for the benefit of the group
and the story, though a good Scribe will
nevertheless create a predictable world for
characters to inhabit, cultivating in the players
a sense of consistency. Such consistency is at
the root of an enjoyable story at one level, and
the foundation for player strategy on another.

Scoring a Force larger than the Difficulty

results in victory for the player.

For the sake of simplicity, ties also count as

success for the player.
For example: Kinnys Valhenjorn tracker, Ishwan,
wants to find the trail of a wounded giant retreating
from the previous nights battle through morning
snowfall. She says, I look for tracks in the fresh snow,
squinting my eyes as I scan the horizon for slight
contrasts of white on white, noticing where drifts or
swells are damaged.
Kinny declares a Footing appropriate for her
Tracking Art, Touch-Move. In response, Kelly sets the
Difficulty at 3. Kinny rolls Ishwans seven Mundane
Dice against a Limit of 7, resulting in a Force of 3. She
passes the Save, her Tack of 3 enough to counteract
the Difficulty of 3.
When heroes cannot build a Tack large enough
to tie or overcome the Difficulty, they fail the
For example: Jist is searching the cold battlefield for a
small amulet lost by one of his companions in a recent
clash of arms. Kelly sets the Difficulty for finding
the item at 4. Andrew rolls six Mundane Dice in a
Touch-Labor Footing (a Limit of 6) for Jist: 4, 4, 5, 8,
9, 9. He cannot build a Force larger than 1 and fails to
find the amulet.


Saves in Early Dark represent risk or
imminent danger that characters must roll to
avoid. When your rogue has to swing over a
spiked fence in the dark to avoid being a latenight snack for the palace guard dogs, you have
to make a Save. The drama of uncertainty, the
thrill of chance, the strategy of riskthese
are what make a role-playing game a game and
not an improvisational theater group, though
successful role-playing sessions are often similar
to improv.


Actions in Early Dark such as strolling across

the street, chatting with a vendor about the
newest imported carpets, or rolling over in bed
are uninteresting and ordinary. These actions
might be important to the story, but they are
free and require no roll to decide success or
failure; the outcome is easily established by the
players and Scribe role-playing the situation.
Crossing the street as a stampede of cattle
crashes through the small town is a little more
hazardous (Cunning-Touch at a Difficulty of
4). Rolling off the altar just as the sacrificial
blade drops from above introduces more
drama (Touch-Move at a Difficulty of 3).

Simple Saves
Saves that most closely resemble Checks
are called simple Saves. These have
Difficulties set by the Scribe, and are
settled by the Force of the players
roll. If the Force of the players roll
ties or outscores the Difficulty,
the character passes the Save.


For example: Zefr trips over a

hidden string in the entranceway
to an aged tower. Kelly says, An
arrow flies toward you, dust and
ash making a small cloud around
the slot that housed it. The trap snaps
with a Difficulty 2. John decides on
a Thrive-Move Footing for his defense:
Zefr, who was in the process of tripping
anyway, continues rolling downward,

ducking off to the side of the door. Johns roll has a

Force of 3, and Zefr avoids the arrow.
If the Force of the players roll is less than the
Difficulty, the character fails.
For Example: Bens character, Dhelest, is caught
in a rockslide. Kelly sets a Difficulty of 5 for the
brawny hero to escape unharmed. Ben says, I grit
my teeth and lean into the barrage of rocks, resisting
and fighting through them like so many enemies.
Fight-Labor, please. Kelly looks startled: You arent
dodging out of the way with Move? Ben shakes his
head: Im pushing through! Kelly figures Dhelest
is a rather large warrior and allows it. Bens roll,
however, results in a Force of 4, and Dhelest is hit
with a heavy bit of damage.
For rules on taking and dealing damage, see

Complex Saves
Saves that require the player to arrange
multiple Tacks are labeled complex, and begin
to look like Bouts. Complex Saves do not have
a singular Difficulty and demand a collection of
Tacks from player-characters. They, in effect,
have multiple simultaneous Difficulties. In
real life, there is rarely one thing happening at
a time. Furthermore, the problem or hurdle a
hero faces is rarely cut-and-dry. Because every
situation is a multi-layered event with many
forces at play, many possible outcomes, many
moving partsbecause life is complicated
this complexity is present in the system.

For example: Ishwan, Kinnys Vayok tracker, is taking

a boat across the Hara Sea. When her vessel is set
upon by pirates, Kelly demands a Fight-Relate Save:
Escort the aging pilot into his cabin at a Difficulty
of 3, Collect two fellow sailors as a single Minion
for the duration of the battle at a Difficulty of 3,
Protect any individual guest on deck at a Difficulty
of 2, intimidate the incoming pirates and reduce the
number who board by two at a Difficulty of 2. Kinny
makes the Fight-Relate roll and begins arranging her
Tacks, deciding on which actions she can take just
before the clash of swords.
Or: Another trap springs on the adventurers exploring
the ancient tower. Two iron wheels roll out of slots
high on the walls and fall down on the intrepid party
at the bottom of the winding staircase like two coins
in a cup. Kelly demands a Save with two Difficulties
of 3. The heroes may avoid one, both, or neither of the
spiked wheels.
Checks can also take complex forms. Each
individual task may or may not build on the
previous at the Scribes discretion.

A Trial in Early Dark is an ongoing task
or competition that requires multiple rolls
to completely overcome. In a Trial, players
attempt to score a set number of Hits
(unanswered Tacks of 2 dice) in a set number of
rolls or before suffering a set number of Hits
in return. Trials are good ways for the Scribe
to create extended or elaborate challenges for
player-characters, and usually take place within
a series of related rolls. Because Trials require
players to form multiple Tacks, they potentially
turn Checks and simple Saves into complex


In a complex Save, each Tack represents one

particular aspect of the Save, and characters
can pass or fail each aspect individually. Scribes
who use complex Saves well push players to
set priorities and assume responsibility for the
outcome of their roll. They also make a richer,
more dramatic story possible by offering more
than simple Yes or No responses to each
event or challenge.

For example: Johns bumbling magicker, Zefr, is

hoping to levitate a torn rope-bridge back into place,
giving his party members and him a chance to escape
the pack of elder wolves only moments away from
the cliff s edge. Because the chasm is wide Kelly begins
with a Difficulty Level of 2 in mind for the Check.
Taking into account the fact that six people have to
run across the bridge as it floats in place, Kelly makes
the Check more complex. If John gets a 2-Tack, the
bridge is in place but too fragile to support much
weight. A 3-Tack would let his party members escape.
Another 2-Tack would allow Zefr to secure his own

For example: Margarets Anu estate manager, Kechu,

wants to find a spy in her masters estate. Kelly says
that Margaret will have to score 5 Hits total over
three rolls to detect the corrupt servant.
The first two rolls take place during an event held on
the estate grounds in the Kuludo highlands: When
Kechu makes Cunning-Relate Checks to motivate
her staff (Difficulty of 1) and impress the guests
(Difficulty of 3), she must build small 2-Tacks on the
side to score Hits in the ongoing Trial. Maybe scoring
Hits in the Trial will become more important than
passing the otherwise routine Check of motivating
her staff. Could she afford a boring party if she got one
or two steps closer to identifying the spy in her midst?
The final roll comes when an intruder is spotted but
lost in the estate gardens. Kelly calls for a complex
Cunning-Guile Save: Catch the intruder at a
Difficulty of 2, and know the intruders intent at a
Difficulty of 1. Can Kechu afford losing the intruder



Fixed Footings are all about

targeting specific aspects of the
player-characters, whether those
are strengths or weaknesses. Scribes
know just how to make a challenge
interesting by deciding ahead of time
which Aptitudes will be tested. Saves
may target any Footing that fits
the narrative, and players will often
find themselves thrust outside their
familiar, stand by Footings by a wily

to finally ascertain the probable spy, maybe the

intruders contact on the inside? The better Margaret
rolled on the first two Saves, the easier it will be on
the final roll. Maybe Margaret valued throwing a
good party too highly and now cannot build the Tacks
necessary to protect her masters estate from within.
Trials can also occur in combat, taking place
within and alongside the various Bouts.
An entire section in Poetics is devoted
to coaching Scribes through designing and
implementing Trials (346).

Saves With Fixed Footings


There are two ways to find the Footing for

a Save. In some cases, the Scribe will set the
required Footing, creating a specific hurdle
or challenge crucial to the story. At other
times, the oncoming danger will be described
qualitatively, and players will have to respond
by coming up with their own Footings on the

For example: Kinnys character, Ishwan,

is traveling alongside the Red River
of Gundrada. Kelly says, The ground
beneath you begins to warp and buckle.
Loam and sod tear up from the earth in
large patches, hover momentarily, and fly
towards you. You have to keep an eye on
each clump of earth and dodge them all.
Roll Cunning-Move against a Difficulty of
3 to avoid all harm. Ishwans companions
will all roll the same Footing to defend as
well, the Save itself dictating the way it
needs to be overcom.

Saves Without Fixed Footings

When a Save comes up in the narrative
organically, the Scribe may not have a Footing
planned in advance. In these cases, the Scribe
explains what is happening around the heroes,
and players respond by creating suitable
reactions or defenses of their own. In all
instances the Scribe has final say as to whether
a declared action fits the declared Aptitudes,
but disagreements are inevitable. By developing
their own style and expectations, gaming
groups will settle on different common laws
for determining what kinds of actions fall into
which Aptitudes. Some groups will play strict,
and others loose, and Early Dark has been
designed for such flexibility.
For example: When the staircase carrying the party
to the top of the tower crumbles, Kelly demands
each player to make a Save or fall thirty feet in the
collecting rubble.

Tauno calls out quickly for his character: Heyu

figures the nearby chandelier will hold his weight and
makes a leap. The rope holding up the chandelier may
prove a better way up the tower than the brittle stairs
anyway. Im rolling Cunning-Move. Kelly nods.
John describes a reaction hoping to target ThriveMove again. Tauno and Andrew reply that so far
in their campaign Thrive-Move works best for
deliberate or continuing motion such as reducing
damage from falling, to maintain balance, and to
go with the flow of situations. For outright dodges,
Fight-Move has been the go-to Footing. John cannot
think of anything creative so he rolls Fight-Move.

Moving from Role to Roll means that the

way a player first describes his or her action
determines the Footing of the upcoming roll.
In other words, your role-playing determines
your roll. Players are all adding to one story, and
each turn of phrase counts. Once a descriptive
image of what is happening has been given, try
keeping the roll in line.
This reflects one of the primary goals of the
Early Dark mechanic: make any imaginable
action easily fit within the system. It also
reflects the flow and flavor of the game,
with players thinking and strategizing in the
qualitative realm before thinking of numbers
and math. Just do whatever you want and worry
about the numbers later!
Of course the novice player will work
backwards at first, choosing a mechanically
strong Footing and then thinking up a way to
implement it. That possibility is always there.
But as players become more experienced,
they will get to know their characters. They
will role-play responses that fit the characters
past successes, motives, and experiences. Built
into the Aptitudes of each hero is an implicit
personality or way of living.
For example: When Brandon was a new player,
he would look at Kleitos high Fight and Move
Aptitudes and try to create actions to make the most
of his mechanical strengths. After a few sessions

Role to Roll will also heighten the urgency

of dire situations, players watching their
tongues and being creative on their feet. Of
course, Scribes can decide to play as tough or as
lenient as they want with these suggestions for
generating drama.
For Example: The Scribe tells her players that the roof
of the withered tower upon which the party stands
begins to collapse underfoot.


Role to Roll

playing Early Dark with his friends, however, he

began to know Kleitos. Now, Brandon role-plays
Kleitos as an aggressive, agile fighter who likes to
confront people and compete. Brandon no longer
attempts to work backwards to target his high Fight
or Move; he now knows how to play his characters
personality and style consistently, which will in turn
naturally target the highest Aptitudes.

Tauno blurts, Heyu leaps toward the stone walls

of the tower! He then picks up his nine Mundane
dice and declares his roll for Cunning-Move. Wait
a minute, Kelly interrupts, A calm leaping and
hoping might be Thrive-Move; a desperate leaping
and hoping might be Fight-Move. I dont see Cunning
involved in Heyus action.
In the previous example, Tauno did a better job
playing to Heyus high Cunning by moving from
Role to Roll, describing how Heyu used Cunning in
leaping toward the chandelier. In this case, however,
he blurted out a quick response and did not adequately
play to the Footing he desired.
Consider this the Golden Rule of
Early Dark. Players can use Role to
Roll as a guideline for all rolls that
follow a characters declared action.
Built into the Aptitudes is an implied
style for your hero, a hint at what he
or she will do in certain situations and
what will work.


A Bout is any conflict involving two sides in
opposition, one against the other. Whereas
Checks and Saves pit the players against
Difficulties decided on by the Scribe, Bouts
require both sides of a situation to roll. This is
most often found in combat (combat being at
root a specialized series of Bouts), but outside
combat Bouts also make for interesting gaming
and allow the Scribe to bring more chance and
strategy into events.


Bouts work best when the players are

attempting actions that are opposed by
other characters in the game, rolling against
NPCs or creatures with stats of their own.
Outside combat, these could be arguments,
conversations, ruses, seductions, foot races, or
contests of any sort.
For example: Chris Gunning wants his character,
Taron, to convince a Neferatha magistrate that
the taxes being collected from a nearby village are
hindering their ability to plant sufficient seed. He rolls
a Bout in Relate-Touch against the Scribe who rolls
Relate-Guile for the magistrate. Highest Tack wins.

Double Blind
Early Dark implements a double blind system
for arranging Tacks during Bouts, which means
each player articulates his or her Tacks in secret
(behind a screen or folded hand) before both
reveal simultaneously. Players are forced to
judge what they know of their opponents style
and available Attacks and Talents to come up
with a winning hand.
Reducing & Settling Bouts
Figuring out how a complicated Bout boils
down to a dramatic and cinematic event takes
just a few simple steps. Reducing the roll
refers to how Tacks are cancelled out. Settling
the roll covers the creative process of turning
the leftover Tacks into productive, dramatic
actions in the narrative.
When rolls are reduced, all Tacks cancel out
one to one: 4-Tacks cancel out only other 4Tacks, 3-Tacks cancel out only other 3-tacks,
2-Tacks cancel out only other 2-Tacks, etc.

For example: Andrews wizard, Jist, is fighting a powerful Edish soldier outside the White Forest. Andrew
scores a 4-Tack and two Advantages. The soldiers defending roll has one 3-Tack, one Talent, and one
Advantage. Kelly reduces the Bout: Two Advantages cancel out, one of Jists and one of the soldiers; Jist
lands the 4-Tack and his second Advantage; The soldier lands a 3-Tack and a Talent on the wizard.

Andrews Roll, Seven into 8

Kellys Roll, Six into 7

< Both Land >


< Both Land >

< Cancel Out >

< Doesnt Fit the Limit

Or: After a good Roll for Opportunity Erick decides to launch an attack on two ogres with his character,
Vuul Hara. He rolled well, but intentionally spreads his dice out into multiple Tacks, aiming to land a very
important Talent. He forms five Talents from his roll. The ogre forms a 5-Tack and two Talents. Reducing the
Bout: The ogre scores a 5-Tack that deals a hefty sum of damage; Vuul lands three Talents, more than enough!

Ericks Roll, Ten into 9

Kellys Roll, Nine into 12

< Both Land >

< Lands

< Lands

< Cancel Out >

< Cancel Out >

Settling Bouts qualitatively can often be

tricky. Whose Talent lands first? How do I take into
account the massive damage of the blow while giving
the victim a chance to deploy his Advantage? Is it
okay if the player invents a nearby object to use as a
distraction? The best places to look for direction
are the mood of the scene and the immediate
needs of the narrative.
For example: Together, Kelly and Andrew settle the
previous roll. Andrew rolls a Strike with the 4-Tack,
enough to deal a Wound to the soldier. He says, My
sword slices up the inside of his leg, and-- Kelly
interrupts with 1d10 from the soldiers Talent, He
cries out and drops to one knee, suddenly lunging
upwards at you with a dagger, the tip glancing your
jaw. She also deals the nominal damage from the
3-Tack as though the soldier kicked, and Andrew
replies with his Advantage to take Range, I leer
at him and rub the fresh scratch on my chin before
kicking the same leg I cut and tossing him backwards.
The Melee Range Id already set takes priority.


Or: Kelly and Erick settle the Bout against the ogre.
Kelly narrates the massive Fatiguing blow landed by
the ogre with his 5-Tack, He reaches down to grab
you with both hands, twisting your body in his fists
and he raises you off the ground. After shaking you
furiously, he slams you to the ground. Erick winces,
but responds with cool confidence, I can take it. As
he beats his chest in victory over my humbled body,
I stab my dagger into his knee and pull it to the
ground. With my other hand, I drive another dagger
through his calf, pinning it to the ground as well. I
used my Talent, Pin, twice to land two [-2] Durable
Penalties, so hell be struggling for the next few rolls.
Erick cannot think of any way to use the third Talent,
which he did not expect to land, so he Balks. His pals
congratulate him on taking one for the team and
putting the ogre at [-4] for the next roll or two at
least. To fit the narrative and maintain consistency,
Vuul cant use his daggers again until the Penalties are
overcome by the ogre.


Penalties are simple modifiers that determine
a number of dice the player must discard before
making his or her roll. A Penalty represents a
conditional hindrance or physical obstacle in
the way of the character, something limiting or
obstructing the chosen action.


Penalties said to hinder a character remove

one die from his or her pool, and are written
as [-1] in shorthand. More severe Penalties
represent obstacles or effects that confine
a character and remove two dice from his
or her pool, a [-2] penalty. No single Penalty
can exceed [-2], though multiple Penalties
are cumulative and can stack up to any
Scribes offer Penalties when conditions
interfere with or restrain a characters
action. A simple way of deciding whenand
whichPenalties are appropriate is built
into the naming system. When the object or
condition hinders a characters chosen action,
[-1] is suitable. If a part of the characters body
generally needed for the action is actually
confined by the obstacle or circumstance, [-2] is
appropriate. Keep in mind that intangible or
psychological obstacles can be just as real to a
fighter on the battlefield.
Penalty or a Higher Difficulty?
Set the Difficulty based on the task itself,
and include Penalties that derive from
environmental, physical, or intangible
conditions that interfere with the task.
Penalties are also distinguished by how long
they last, with two categories of duration.
Momentary Penalties
Momentary Penalties affect the character
for only one roll. Once the character suffers the
Penalty to perform his or her action, he or she
is said to have overcome the obstacle.


For example: Howards character, Deklak, is fighting

a wood wolf. Early in the fight, the wolf loses a
critical Bout but manages to score an Advantage that
offers a [-1] Momentary Penalty (see 234 for all that
your hero can do with Advantages).
Kelly declares, The wolf feels the sting of your blade
piercing his shoulder. During the scuffle, he grips
the top of your boot in his mouth, offering a [-1]
Momentary Penalty for you on whatever your next
roll is. Once Howard discards the Penalty, which
could be in a Bout against a different enemy, he is said
to have broken free from the wolf s grip.

Once Andrew rolls the first evasion at a Penalty,

however, Jist is said to be up and on his feet again. It
is assumed that suffering the Penalty represented the
effort it took for Jist to get up off his back. Further
rolls to avoid the incoming arrows will not offer a
Durable Penalties
Durable Penalties represent lasting
conditions or limitations that require the
characters direct efforts to be overcome.
Durable Penalties last as long as the condition
causing them lasts, so a character cannot avoid
the Penalty without taking direct action against
the cause. Depending on the nature of the
Penalty, more or less effort might be needed to
overcome the obstacle. Advantages and certain
Talents can be deployed to overcome smaller
Durable Penalties set by opponents in combat.
More intense Penalties may require a Trial to
overcome. Certain Durable Penalties caused by
the environment or pervasive social conditions
may be impossible to overcome.
For example: As Vuul Hara attempts to translate
etchings in the trunk of a withered tree, his party
sets to laughing and singing in the camp. Instead
of changing the Difficulty of the Cunning-Touch
Check, Kelly decides to give a [-1] Durable Penalty to
account for the boisterous company. Even after Erick

Or: As Howard continues the bloody duel with the

wood wolf, his canine foe lands a Talent: Pin. The
wolf pins Deklak, offering a [-2] Durable Penalty.
Howard will discard two dice before each and every
roll until he secures an Advantage in another Bout
to overcome the penalty (see Overcome a Durable
Penalty on 235). This Advantage may or may not
need to land in a Bout against the wolf, depending on
the Scribes decision and the creativity of the player.
Or: Because there is a heavy rain falling, Kelly adds
a Durable Penalty of [-1] for all Checks involving
Move. Unless one of the party members can control
the weather, there is no way to overcome this Penalty
aside from getting indoors or being careful with
Footings! Maybe the character can use an Advantage
to get under an awning or tree, leaving his or her
opponent in the storm.


Or: Jist sneaks over the rooftops of Lokod. After

failing a Guile-Move Save, he falls to a lower roof
and lands on his back. As the guards shoot arrows in
Jists direction, Kelly gives him a [-2] Momentary
Penalty on his evasion roll for being prone (good
consequence for failing the Save).

rolls the Check once, the Penalty remains and will

impact future rolls until something is done about the

Range Penalties
Range Penalties in combat function similarly
to Durable Penalties and require an Advantage
to overcome (see Take Range on 237). Range
Penalties occur when a character uses a weapon
in less than perfect circumstances. All weapons
in Early Dark have an Aspect that represents
how the weapon is used and at which Range
it works best. If the character is in the ideal
Range of the weapon, there is no Penalty
suffered. In other Ranges, however, a particular
weapon may suffer a [-1] or [-2] Penalty. For
more on Aspects and the four Ranges, see 217.
For example: In combat, the fighter with the higher
Initiative takes priority and sets the Range of the
Bout. When Stephanie Takemotos Alagoth rider,
Kiwaki, is using a long spear in combat, a weapon
with a Heavy Aspect, she prefers Melee Range. If
she sets Range against an opponent wielding a short
blade, a weapon with the Short Aspect, her opponent
would suffer a [-1] Range Penalty for that Bout.
Should a character who takes Range on Kiwaki
set Grapple, Stephanie would suffer a [-2] Range
Penalty with the spear.Ranges in combat are dynamic
and ever-changing, so the Range represents not where
someone is in general during a battle but where they
are at the moment the Bout takes place.


Secondary Tacks
Secondary Tacks are the bedrock of tactics
and teamwork in Early Dark. Arranging the
dice into Tacks represents what actions your
character is attempting in response to the
current environment; oftentimes the situation
will demand more than one action. Deployed
by building additional Tacks of one or two
dice alongside Primary Tacks, Secondary Tacks
allow characters to use special skills or disrupt
opponents in a variety of ways.


Characters are always limited by their

Tacks per Turn Trait and cannot form
more than the allotted number of Tacks in
a single roll even outside of combat. See the
following sections for more on TPT.

Even the smallest Tacks can be used to tip the
scales of combat. Each of these represents
taking a momentary, circumstantial advantage
through quick thinking or swift maneuvering. If
a player deploys a single die that fits the Limit,
his or her Character may take an Advantage in
any of the following ways:
Five Ways to Use an Advantage
Disrupt Footing
Offer [-1] Momentary Penalty
Overcome a Durable Penalty
Simple Actions
Take Range


Advantages can be used in combat,

conversations, and competitions as long as the
player is creative enough to explain how the
Advantage takes effect. Physical confrontation,
for example, is not the only time a character
can disrupt an opponents Footing. Sometimes
a long-winded reply, a convoluted list of

instructions, or a discouraging word can have

the same effect.
All Advantages determine a concrete effect
in combat. Whatever narrative description
represents that effect is fair, so long as a fitting
description is possible and given. If the player
who rolled the Advantage cannot adequately
explain how the character produces such an
effect in the games context, the opportunity is
lost. In some cases, the context will simply not
allow heroes to take Range. In other situations,
heroes may not be able to think of a good way
to overcome a deadly Durable Penalty. So it
Disrupt Footing
Characters can undermine or sabotage a
particular opponents momentum by preventing
their enemy from using a particular Footing
of the winners choice. Disrupt Footing works
like a Momentary Penalty, taking effect on the
next roll only. Regardless of who the target rolls
against next, whether offensively or defensively,
the disruption prevents him or her from using
the Footing selected by the winner when this
Advantage landed.
For example: Deep in the jungles south of the
Nameless Desert, Bens character, Dhelest, is being
hunted by a Fey spirit. The wraith takes shape just
in front of him, stealing Initiative and Rolling for
Opportunity in a Fight-Guile Footing.
Ben responds in Fight-Labor, trusting his heavy
blade to protect him, but lands only an Advantage.
Alongside its winning Primary Tack, the wraith
lands a Talent, giving Dhelest a [-2] Durable Penalty
on his next roll. With his Advantage, Ben decides to
disrupt the Wraiths Footing so it cannot use FightGuile again (or the Talents associated with Trick
Blades) on the next roll.
Momentary Penalty
A character may use an Advantage to give a [-1]
Penalty to his or her opponent, making the
most of the situation to temporarily Hinder

the adversary. Because the Penalty takes effect

on the opponents next roll, this type of
Advantage often sets up another character to
more easily damage the foe.
For example: At the crossroad tavern, a drunk runs
at Stevens character with a knife. Steven defends in a
Fight-Move Footing. Both the Scribe and Steven form
Primary Tacks of 3 dice that cancel out, but Stevens
character, Shivjagant, also lands an Advantage.
Taking a step back, Shivjagant manages to kick a
nearby chair at the feet of the inebriated brawler,
giving the lout a [-1] Momentary Penalty on
whatever his next roll is.

They decide on the stakes: For each Hit you take,

Erick, a guardsman will arrive to respond to your
rivals indignation at catching you, says Kelly. For
each Hit you score, she continues, you have another
twenty minutes before he notices it missing.
Erick builds a single Hit and an Advantage alongside
it. Kelly reveals three Hits. Erick knows two guards
will be showing up any minute, and blurts, As he
grabs my wrist halfway into his cloak, I lash out with
my dagger and cut his belt open. Keeping his pants
up costs him a [-1] Momentary Penalty that will
hopefully help me out in the combat about to start.
Overcoming a Durable Penalty
The character may remove any Durable Penalty
that fits the nature of the Bout, regardless of
whether or not this Bout was rolled against the
opponent who originally offered the Penalty.
For example: When fighting a skilled martial artist
and his cronies, Taunos character Heyu falls victim to
a Hold Talent. Heyu suffers a [-1] Penalty even when
rolling against opponents who did not land the Talent.
Enough is enough. In a Bout against one of the
cronies, Tauno lands an Advantage, which he uses
to overcome the [-1] Durable Penalty caused by the
martial artists Hold.

Durable Penalties last as long as the conditions

causing them last, which means an Advantage
can only be used to overturn the Penalty if the
direct cause is close at hand. In every instance,
the Scribe decides whether or not a player can
use a single Advantage to remove broad,
intangible conditional Penalties set earlier in
the encounter.


Or: Vuul Hara is attempting to steal a small vial of

cursed blood from the pocket of an old Rival. Kelly
calls for a Save at first, but quickly decides this act of
thievery is important enough to demand a small Trial.

If a player is suffering from a [-2] Durable

Penalty, landing an Advantage will remove
the entire Penalty. If a player suffers from
two [-1] Durable Penalties, two Advantages
will be required to remove them completely.
Each Advantage can overcome a single
Penalty of either severity.

For example: Andrews character Jist is arguing with

a brewer in King City over shipping ales with a
foreign caravan. Everyone in the village suspects Jist
of defacing a statue near the Raining Well, and so the
Scribe has set a [-1] Durable Penalty for any Relate
rolls Andrew makes against the locals.
During the Bout with the brewer, Jist rolls at [-1]
and lands an Advantage. Andrew asks Kelly, Can
I use that Advantage to overcome the conditions in
town that have conspired against me? Kelly shakes
her head, It would take passing a specific Trial to
overcome the prevalent distrust that circulates among
the people. You could, however, give the brewer a [-1]
Momentary Penalty to help you out if you roll against
him later.
Andrew decides to settle the Bout by intimidating
the brewmaster with his superior knowledge of alelore, offering a [-1] Momentary Penalty on their next
Or: A powerful idol offers any characters in the
vicinity who are uninitiated into the local cult a [-1]
Durable Penalty on all rolls. Ben scores an Advantage
in a Bout against one of the deranged cultists. He
wants to use his Advantage to kick over the idol and
overcome the Penalty.


of 3 dice and forming two

Advantages. Kelly rolls for the
goblins, getting one Talent and
one Advantage. Two Advantages
cancel out, but Greg has one left.
He uses the Advantage for a Simple
Action: I kick over the cask of liquid,
lining the inside of the otherwise empty
wagon behind me with a thin coat of


Or: Shivjagant scores two Advantages

in a Bout against the same horde of
goblins. Steven asks, Can I use a Simple
Action to throw one of the creatures up
into the wagon? Kelly responds, Normally,
moving an enemy is significant enough to
require a short Trial. Steven nods, Okay, then I
use the first Advantage as a Simple Action, pulling
one of the nearby torches out of the ground. Ill use
the second to swing the flames in their direction.
Can fear of the flames offer them a [-1] Momentary
Penalty? Kelly agrees.
Simple Actions can also be used to put
something on the record, bringing an
otherwise narrative element into play
mechanically or officially.

Kelly decides that desecrating the placement of the

small idol would be enough to counteract its magickal
influence and allows Ben to remove the Penalty from
play. This effect helps out Dhelests companions as
well, his Advantage bordering on a Simple Action.
Simple Actions
Player-characters can also use Advantages to
accomplish small tasks in the middle of a Bout.
Simple actions such as using an item, covering
ground, untying a companion, overturning a
table, or giving a command are easy enough
outside a Bout, but during the chaos of combat
require an Advantage.
For example: Gregs character, Serseus, attacks a flock
of goblins with her quarterstaff, scoring an Attack


For example: Taunos character, Heyu, wants to keep

the enemies around him from breaking through a door
to his rear. Kelly had already setup a Trial for the
invaders, requiring 5 Hits to completely break down
the door. Tauno uses an Advantage to put his defensive
positioning on record. From now on, each time one of
the enemies attempts to spend a turn progressing the
Trial, he initiates a Bout with Heyu as well.
Or: Three heroes are invited to a sophisticated
dinner. The host initiates Bouts throughout the meal,
insulting their attire and tricking them into revealing
more about themselves than planned.
One of the smarter heroes scores an Advantage in
a Cunning-Guile Bout against the impassive host.
She announces to the Scribe, For the record, Im
keeping an eye on the servant girl who seems awfully
attentive for a slave. Kelly discloses after another
exchange that the girls lips move along with those of
the host, an unnatural bond between the two revealed.

For example: Seths character, Thulghad, is using a

heavy blade but has been stuck in Grapple Range
with a cave lion for a couple turns. While rolling at
a [-2] Range Penalty, he scores an Advantage and
takes considerable damage. Seth decides to use his
Advantage to take Range: The lion bites at my limb
and tosses me around, pushing me out into Melee
Range. From now on, the Range Thulghad set at the
beginning of the Round takes priority in all Bouts
between him and the lion.
Taking Range does not change the order
of Initiative established for the Round.
Instead, the Range already chosen by the
character who scores the Advantage takes
priority, becoming the Range used for
future Bouts between those two characters.
In all cases, there must be enough room
available for the character to move freely when
establishing certain Ranges. The Scribe will
decide in any situation if particular Ranges are
impossible or require conditions to change.
As alluded to above, different Advantages
such as Simple Actions and Taking Range can
be stacked to accomplish more complicated
feats in the middle of combat. If enemies were
loosing arrows at your character from across
a gorge, using Take Range alone would not be
enough. It may require scoring a Simple Action

or two (one to lower the bridge, and another

to cross it) to close the gap before a third
Advantage secures the new Range. These may
occur in a single Bout, or across a few Turns.

Talents function in the same way as Advantages,
though Talents require a Secondary Tack of two
dice and can be used only when the appropriate
Footing is in play. The Arts a character learns
from and refines will unlock Talents that must
be individually purchased in Epithets. The
description of each Talent will explain how to
use it in play.


Taking Range
Characters may use an Advantage to close in or
back off from an opponent, establishing a new
Range. This change in position can help get
your character out of an opponents ideal Range
or into an ideal Range of your own, depending
on the Aspects at play in the fight.
Taking Range does not represent merely
moving toward or away from an opponent.
Both you and your opponent will be constantly
moving in the swirl of combat already. Taking
Range means that you out-maneuver or corner
your opponent in a particular way to overcome
his or her defenses and secure a better field
position to fight from. Basic movement and
changes in position are better handled with
Simple Actions and do not guarantee the
establishment of a new Range.

Whereas Advantages can be used any time

the player can adequately include them in
the narrative, some Talents will work only
in specific contexts. If a player cannot offer
a suitable description of how a Talent or
Advantage takes place, he or she is said to
Balk. Calling a Balk can infuriate players,
but Scribes must hold everyone (including
themselves) accountable to the narrative. In
Early Dark, the narrative and mechanical will
always occur in tandem.
For example: Margarets Sabu, Kechu, is fighting two
bandits. One of the bandits is suffering from Kechus
Pin already. Margaret is rolling Fight-Move against
the other bandit now. She scores a Primary Tack of
3 dice and forms a Talent and an Advantage. The
bandits roll has a Primary Tack of 4 dice and forms
an Advantage. The two Advantages cancel out, and
the bandit will be rolling a Strike. Margaret says,
I want to Pin this bandit as well, Kelly looks at
Margaret cooly, Well, youve already got the other
guy against the wall. How do you intend to Pin this
one? Margaret hesitates. Ten seconds go by. Kelly
declares the opportunity a Balk.


One Turn, Many Options

Each turn in Early Dark has at least two layers
of strategy, two fundamental ways players can
outsmart their opponents and use creativity
to progress the game instead of high numbers.
These layers are small puzzles in themselves,
offering myriad options for the player on every



Before the Roll for Opportunity, the player

must declare a Footing. Choosing the Footing
for a turn sets the stage for what is to come,
determining which Arts are in play, what
defenses are available to opponents, and how
creative each player has to be to make the most
of his or her roll. Let us take each of these in
Bens character Dhelest faces a small army just outside
the Wolf Gate of Lokod. A powerful shaman blames
the local council for the destruction of his village
at the hands of Alagoth raiders, and he seeks justice
accompanied by a band of heavily armed warriors.
Addressing the closed gate, the shaman calls for
the head of at least one senator to be thrown from
the wall. Dhelest, a mercenary general for the city,
stands alone between the painted warband and the
oak portal. The shamans cadre charge, and soon it is
Dhelests turn to attack.


Before deciding on a Footing, Ben weighs

Dhelests strengths, considering both the
mechanical and the qualitative. Mechanically,
Ben likes his Fight-Labor Footing: It gives him
a Limit of 9, and his Hacking Blade Art offers a
good selection of Attacks and Talents. Thinking
qualitatively, however, Ben asks himself a few
questions: Does he really want to stand there
and fight a dozen warriors? Can he be a little
creative with Indirect Attacks and get this fight
over with more quickly, settling the issue with
a Trial that favors his strengths instead of runof-the-mill combat? He asks a few questions
of the Scribe to get a better image of the
surrounding area: Are there any cliffs? Is there
fire anywhere? Is there anything large he can
use indirectly as a weapon or net?

These narrative elements are readily converted

into strategic elements when the right ideas
surface in the right situations. The Scribe tells
Ben that a cart loaded with small wire coops fit
for transporting birds has driven off the road
nearby, the driver waiting for the skirmish at
the gate to resolve before attempting to enter
the city. Without trying to come up with a plan,
Ben recognizes that getting to and using the
crates would probably require Move or Guile or
both, Aptitudes Dhelest does not play to often.
In addition to considering his own strengths
and weaknesses, Ben has to imagine what
Footing the warriors might take in Defense.
After some guesses, Ben decides that he does
now know these enemies well enough to target
their weaknesses. He opts for his trusty FightLabor for the time being.

Arranging Tacks
Linig up his Roll for Opportunity, Ben declares
his Domain and Footing and shakes eight dice
in his fist. At this time, the Scribe declares the
Domain and Footing of the warriors defense
roll just as Ben declared Dhelests Domain and
Footing when attacking. Both combatants will
now know what they are up against.
Ben rolls: 0, 1, 3, 4, 4, 4, 8, 9. He keeps the
results secret from the Scribe, and behind his
cupped hand he arranges the dice into Tacks.
After the Scribe rolls, the players arrange their
Tacks in secret. Ben calculates which actions
he will attempt, factoring in what he imagines
his adversary will try in defense. Every roll is
limited by the heros Tacks Per Turn Trait. In
Dhelests case, this is 4. Depending on the
heros abilities and how the Scribe plays the
warrior, the following arrangements show a
selection of strong options for Dhelests attack:

expect a large 4-Tack coming his way with

counterattack written all over it. If this is
the case, both of these 3-Tacks would land,
dealing considerable damage. Dhelest would
take damage in return, but he might rely on his
high Guard to outlast the squad blow for blow.
Again, the Advantages are icing and may or may
not land.
The Technicians Attack
Four Talents: (0 + 9), (1 + 8), (3 + 4), (4 + 4)


If all Dhelest needs to do is land powerful

Talents, this arrangement would almost
guarantee that a couple of them take effect. If
the warrior Dodges the attack, Ben would not
have to worry about suffering counterattack
damage for keeping his Tacks small. If Dhelest
ever thinks up an Indirect Attack and starts a
Trial with the warriors, this technical approach
would be a great setup for taking an early lead.
The Big Talent
One 3-Tack, two Talents, and one Advantage: (1 + 3 +
4), (0 + 8), (4 + 4), (9)

The Aggressive Attack

One 4-Tack, one Talent, and two Advantages: (0 + 1 +
3 + 4), (4 + 4), (8), (9)
In this scenario, Ben hopes to land the 4-Tack
and deal significant damage to his opponent.
He does not expect the single Talent to land,
but he would welcome an opportunity to use
his Clearing Swipe on the other warriors if it
does. The two Advantages are just icing on
the cake, and Ben reckons he would use them
to offer Penalties. This would be a smart,
aggressive arrangement against unknown
enemies, playing to Dhelests strength as a
heavy hitter.
The Clever Feint
Two 3-Tacks and two Advantages: (0 + 4 + 4), (1 + 3 +
4), (8), (9)
If the Scribe declares a Counter and
rolls a similar number of dice, Ben might

This arrangement sets up a Clearing Swipe well,

one of Dhelests best weapons against a group
of weaker enemies. Ben could use one of the
Talents to deploy a Clearing Swipe, putting
the 3-Tack in place to damage multiple foes.
When fighting groups, spreading a 3-Tack over
multiple enemies also uses up more Rolls per
Round on the opponents side. The second
Talent gives him a better chance of landing the
Clearing Swipe, and, if both land, may be used
to deal additional damage to one of the targets.
The Advantage covers his back and might even
get him a little bonus in the next Bout.

On Defense
Arranging Tacks in defense is only a little
less strategic. Just building the largest Tack
is not always the smartest move when tying
an incoming Tack is enough to avoid damage.
Players need to keep in mind the abilities of
their enemies and whether or not a crippling
Penalty arising from a sneaky Talent is worse
than taking a few dice of Fatigue.


Combat Elements
What makes combat different from other
series of Bouts are the pressing nature of time
and the tactical importance of who is where.
Combat is a dynamic, complicated situation,
with many things happening at once and many
actors fighting over the same ground. Early
Dark handles this complexity by offering a
system of Rounds and Ranges that transposes
the chaos of real life-and-death combat into
a manageable, turn-based series of Rolls
for Opportunity. The following are short
introductions to these core elements of combat
in Early Dark.


Roll for Opportunity

When characters attack in combat, rolls are
said to be Rolls for Opportunity. Each roll
represents the character spying the field,
looking for openings, and checking for possible
attacks. This is because the hero is not fully
in control of what actions are available to him
or her; combat is about playing to advantages
and capitalizing on openings that you yourself
may not have made. The Footing or mode is
decided on to show how the hero will perceive
the environment. Players declare their intents
before a roll is made, determining whether or
not a Bout will be initiated and what Penalties
will take place on the roll. Exactly what
actions occur throughout the Bout, however,
is not decided until after the roll is made and
defended against. This makes the roll less an
attempt to hit and more a representation of
how the hero sees his or her immediate context
and what ideas spring to mind. Multiple hits
might take place, with combatants fatiguing
one another equally. Maybe the attacker never
even swings, but finds a way to move closer and
set up a future attack.
Players declare a Footing for the turn and then
roll to see what lies ahead. Once the dice are
cast, the player decides what actions his or her
character will attempt or whom the character
will attack within the confines of that Footing.


Combat is arranged as a series of Rounds,
which are themselves comprised of a series
of turns. A Round could represent one to
three minutes of combat, roughly the time it
takes for every contestant in a battle to move,
defend, and counter-move. Everything that
occurs within a single Round of combat can
be said to happen all at once, with the effects
of one turn spilling into the next, characters
dodging one blow as they swing to land another.
This is why Penalties that land four or five
turns ago can take effect when they do.
Once each character or group of characters
has taken a turn in the order prescribed by the
Initiative roll, those with leftover Rolls per
Round take additional turns, retracing the
order of Initiative until all Rolls per Round are
Characters will use up one Roll per Round
each time they roll, whether offensively or
defensively. When a character has no Rolls per
Round remaining, they can take no turns and
defend with Evades only.
When each combatants Rolls per Round
are spent, the Round is over. Effects lasting
through that Round are cancelled (such as
disrupted Footings, Durable Penalties, and
unused Momentary Penalties), and the Scribe
updates characters on any changes in the
overall battle conditions. The next Round
begins with players rolling Initiative again,
changing the order of turns each Round.

The four Ranges in Early Dark represent not
only distance but positioning and context
as well. The Range your character chooses
will decide roughly how far away from your
opponents you are, sure, but also how you are
situated in the skirmish, what interactions
are possible, and how much attention you are

paying to each person. In other words, Ranges

do not measure exact distance, but instead
describe how your character navigates the
shifting ground of battle. The four Ranges set
in combat do not represent statically where
each character is on the field, but dynamically
where Bouts will take place among the fighters.
Characters will be moving and dodging as the
narrative dictates, but the Ranges set at the
beginning of the Round fix where opportunities
will arise for exchanges between fighters to take

When a Round begins, each character chooses

a single Range. This represents the Range they
desire to be at when attacking enemies as well
as the Range an enemy must come into before
attacking that character. When two characters
interact, whichever character has the higher
Initiative that Round is the one whose Range
is used for the Bout: We say that his or her
Range has priority. This means that winning
Initiative is the key to setting at which Range
you attack and at which Range attacks coming
at you are settled.
These Ranges are for within skirmishes only,
and are not absolute or universal. Shooting
an arrow from more than twenty yards away
would dictate a Trial, not a Bout. If an attacker
is using a Ranged weapon outside of combat, is
surprising an unsuspecting foe, or is shooting
from a distance further than twenty yards, use
a Trial. From farther away, the attacker is not
really in a skirmish with the opponent (who
may or may not even know the attacker is
there) at all.

Reach represents opponents that are

within direct reach of each others weapons.
If you can swing around in a circle and
connect with another combatant, you are
said to be within Reach. Fighting in ranks is
a good example of Reach, although those in
the front lines can slip into Grapples easily.
Fighters with short blades are usually best
suited for Reach Range, where targets will
be only a yard or so away.


For example: The ogre bashing Vuul Hara sets Melee

Range each Round in combat. Although the beast
steps on Vuul and frequently picks up and slams the
fragile magicker onto the ground, each Bout in which
the ogres Range takes priority begins with the
fighters engaged at Melee Range. They may be closer
or further apart for a time, but each new initiative
or exchange, each deep breath or new idea, occurs at

The Four Ranges

Grapple represents attacks that happen
in a very close proximity, either in a
grapple or within arms reach. Grapplers
use their entire bodies in a Bout, keeping
close enough to enemies to use any part
of the body as a weapon. Opponents at
Grapple can land punches, elbows, knees,
and holds on each other. Most martial arts
weapons and knives are used in Grapple, a
Range that puts longer weapons at a severe

Melee represents combatants that are a

few steps from one another. A good image
of Melee fighting is a loose arrangement of
fighters who switch targets often, making
wide arcs with their blades as they step
through the battlefield. Heavy weapons
that require a solid swing and pole-arms
that rely on keeping an opponent distant
are best suited for Melee attacks. Fighters
established at Melee keep a little distance
between one another, anywhere from one to
four yards.
Long Range represents opponents who
are too far apart from each other to
engage in close combat, but close enough
for projectile attacks. Long Range can be
imagined as a distance of anywhere from
seven to twenty yards. Most Long Range
attacks force the defender to Dodge.


Playing a Round
Minor scuffles and physical contests are often
handled outside of combat, either in a series
of simple Bouts or an ad hoc Trial. Scribes can
use any of several options to setup conflicts in
engaging, dramatic ways. Times arise, however,
when true combat is unavoidable. Judgment
must be meted out. Revenge can be postponed
no longer. Rage shudders off decorum and must
be unleashed. One hero must remain standing
when all others fall. So it goes.


The following structure of combat has been
designed for quick, deadly encounters. Wade
through the following descriptions to become
familiar with the entire process before worrying
about the specifics of each option. Several of
the proceeding sections will discuss how to take
turns in more depth.

Order of Combat

Step 1: Set the Scene

Step 2: Initiative
Step 3: Establish Ranges
Step 4: Take Turns in Order
Step 5: Update Conditions and

Return to Step 2
Step 1: Set the Scene
Combat can start in myriad ways. The most
important responsibility of the Scribe when
combat begins is to sufficiently set the scene,
giving every player a solid description of the
partys environment and any relevant elements
in play. Nothing ruins an exciting battle faster
than players missing out on a crucial piece of
information that leaves them feeling cheated or
tricked later. There are fair surprises and unfair
surprises, and a good Scribe will avoid walking
the line between them, remaining firmly in the
fair camp.


Artistic description aside, Scribes must set the

scene with mechanics in mind: Who gets the
first swing? How many are on each side? Was anyone
caught unaware? Are there conditional Penalties

in play that will affect player decisions? Are these

multiple enemies or a single enemy with Minions?
Answering these questions is crucial.
For example: Three veteran heroes come upon a pair
of hostile Lesser Boars, each with one goblin Minion.
Kelly describes the heat of the day and the thorns in
the underbrush, how the Boars look up from rooting
in the briars, how the Goblins scurry out from under
the ample bellies of the swines. She explains that the
goblins are Minions of the Lesser beasts and that both
sides will roll Initiative as normal. No conditional
Penalties arise from the setting.
An encounter in Early Dark can be set up in
any number of ways. The Scribe has a great deal
of control over how enemies are mechanically
represented: Who is the leader? Are there Minions
or Familiars? Do these three Goblins act as a swarm?
Is the enemy caught off Guard in the attack?
See 346 for more on setting up encounters from
the Scribes perspective.
Step 2: Initiative
When combat or a new Round begins, each
player rolls Initiative. After adding any
appropriate bonuses, each player announces his
or her total Initiative score. The Scribe rolls
independently for each individual foe, unless
Followers such as Minions or Retainers are in
play. This means the order of Initiative can be
staggered between opposing parties. The Scribe
jots down on the record sheet the order in
which characters will take their turns, highest
to lowest.
For example: In the battle staged above, Margaret
rolls Initiative for Kechu and adds her Initiative
Trait bonus, scoring an 8. Greg scores 11 forSerseus.
Kelly has to roll twice, once for each Boar, resulting in
a 4 and a 9. She does not roll for the Minions, which
do not have their own slots in the Initiative order and
come into play only on their leaders turns.
Some combat begins by catching people
unawares. In most cases, surprising a group
of enemies gives Initiative to the party who
does the surprising. Everyone rolls Initiative

as normal to determine the order within each

party, but all members of the startled party are
placed below those in the other on the list. This
is the easiest way to begin a combat that starts
with one side unprepared or at a disadvantage.

Step 4: Take Turns

Each character takes a turn in the order
established by the Initiative rolls. In most
cases, players will begin a turn by declaring a
Footing and Rolling for Opportunity.

In extremely uneven combat, one party may

be caught off Guard and begin the combat
Grounded for a set number of Rounds. Cases
of ambush generally result from a player using
Tactics. The Scribe may allow ambushes to
occur in other situations, though a Trial and
some clever role-playing on the part of the
heroes would be required.

After each character takes a turn, return to

the top of the Initiative list and run through
the order again. Every time a character takes a
turn, the Scribe crosses out one Roll per Round
from the record sheet. Many defensive rolls and
Saves mandated by the Scribe will also expend
one Roll per Round each.

For example: Kelly announces that Boar 1 sets

Grapple Range for itself. Margaret sets Reach for
Kechu, who will be using a short Anu blade in the
fight. Predictably, Boar 2 also chooses Grapple.
Greg sets Long Range so Serseus has room to use her
Arcana. Kelly writes all the Ranges down next to the
names on the record sheet.
At this time, Scribes can write down the
number of Rolls per Round each character
has next to his or her name and take note
of any conditional Penalties offered by the


Boar 2 / Goblin
Boar 1 / Goblin



Step 3: Establish Ranges

After the order of turns is set, each player must
establish Range. Starting from the position
that lost Initiative, lowest to highest, playercharacters and the Scribe declare what Range
each actor is attempting. The Scribe then jots
these down next to each characters name in
the Initiative order. Because the character who
lost Initiative declares his or her Range first,
the winners get a chance to react, choosing
their own Ranges with the advantage of that
information. This represents the telegraph
or tell that characters give when losing

For example: Because he won Initiative, Serseus goes

first. Greg decides to blast Arcane Bolt at Boar 2.
Because Greg won Initiative, Serseus Range takes
priority against all other fighters at the moment.
Greg Wagers low to conserve energy and scores a
Primary Tack of 3 dice on offense. The Arcanum can
only Strike, and Greg does not roll high enough to
overcome the Guard of the MinionStrikes never
reduce an opponents Guard, but try to overcome the
remaining Guard to score a Wound. Boar 2 is forced
to Dodge, since it has no Long Range options. It lands
an Advantage while Dodging, and Kelly decides to
Take Range on Serseus. Now, the Boars Grapple will
take priority against Serseus in future Bouts. Kelly
crosses out one Roll per Round for each of these two
On its turn, now at Grapple, Boar 2 Wounds Serseus
and lands a Pin Talent that offers a [-2] Durable
Penalty on the magicker. Kelly also marks off another
two Rolls per Round on the record sheet.
See Figure 1 on next page.
On her first turn, Margaret rolls in Fight-Move,
which brings the Skill Blades Art into play. She
attacks Boar 1 so her Reach Range takes priority
whoever has the higher Initiative sets the Range for
the Bout. Boar 1 suffers a Primary Tack of 3 dice,
and Kechu rolls a high enough Strike to Wound the
Goblin. Because the Goblin has only one Wound as the
Boars Minion, this single Strike is enough to kill the
creature. The Boar will lose the extra Mundane Die
offered by the Goblin immediately. Kelly crosses out a
Roll per Round for each of these two.
See Figure 2 on next page.


Figure 1


Boar 2 / Goblin
Boar 1 / Goblin



Range to Boar 2, [-2]

Boar 2 / Goblin
Boar 1 / Goblin



Range to Boar 2, [-2]





Figure 2

A few turns pass, more Rolls per Round are spent,

and Boar 1 deals a Wound to Kechu before suffering a
Wound itself at the end of the Round.
Wounds and Fatigue are kept track of at the
top of the record sheet in the boxes provided.
These boxes allow Scribes to arrange the
enemies in an encounter, track damage, and
note any unique properties or weapons.
There is a copy of the record sheet located at
the back of this book and online.
Step 5: Update Conditions and
Return to Step 2
After all Rolls per Round are spent, the
Round is over. Durable Penalties and unused
Momentary Penalties are erased. Any ad hoc
Trials left incomplete are considered failures.
At this time, Scribes can update the players
on changes in the combat environment: the
roof caving in, reinforcements arriving, a storm
brewing above, the entire room slowly rising
into the air, etc.


For example: Kelly notes that Boar 1 lost its Minion

and will have one fewer Roll per Round now. The
Pin on Serseus is removed. Kelly also announces that
the hunting party pursuing the two women will
arrive at this spot in three Rounds.

Any summoned Followers arrive on the

Round following their summons. Also, when
Minions are killed in combat, the master
loses any extra dice immediately but retains
any added Rolls per Round until the next
Round starts.

How to Spend a Turn

Some Scribes may establish time limits

for player turns. A variety of sandy timekeeping devices exist, and players may
find themselves with sixty, ninety, or three
hundred seconds to Roll for Opportunity
and declare intent. You have been warned.

Direct Attack
Most turns in combat will be spent directly
attacking foes. Anytime the character uses
a weapon, wields a foreign object, kicks, or
barges into an enemy, he or she is making a
direct, Mundane attack. Attacks in Early Dark
can look like pretty much anything, but they
all share one quality: Every attack initiates a
Bout with one or more opponents. By now,
you know how to roll and settle Bouts, and
many of the examples earlier in the book have
illustrated attacks in combat.
Attacks begin with the player declaring an
intent, choosing a Footing, and Rolling for
Opportunity. Players do not have to choose
what each Tack will do until after the rolls, and
by that time it is too late to engage in a new
Check or start up a Trial from scratch.

Use Magick
Magickers and sages will often spend turns
using magick. Some Arcana and Insights
require rituals or a significant amount of time
to cast, making them impossible to use in
combat. The majority, however, were designed
to be cast in a flash.
Arcane magick demands that the player make
a Wager. The Wager represents the amount
of energy the caster is attempting to wield
from the Fray. It sets the total number of
dice allowed to land after the Bout reduces,
restricting the power of the roll to what was
predicted ahead of time. On the side, after
settling the Bout with the enemy, the player
who cast the magick must then roll Drain to
see how much Fatigue the casting cost (251).


Characters take their turns in the order set by

the Initiative list, but what those turns look
like will be different for every group of gamers.
Some tables will have lots of commotion and
table talk as players set up their moves and
call out strategies regardless of whose turn it
is. Other tables will crack down on chatter and
outlaw communications among players that are
not happening between characters in the story
(maybe it takes a Simple Action to exchange
ideas in the middle of combat). Whatever your
style, there are a handful of ways a player will
spend his or her characters turn in combat.
These broad definitions and the following
demonstrations are presented to give players
an idea of what they can do and how to do it,
nothing more. The following sections will offer
step-by-step demonstrations of the different
options below.

Loom magick draws on the nature of physical

reality itself. Sages cast spells based on the
Insights they gather from quiet observation
and meditation. The more myth, science, and
history the sage experiences, the better she
understands the intangible Threads that make
up time and space. Sages can increase the
number of Loom Dice they roll by learning
local lore in Saves and simple Trials (see 252).

Complex Action
Players are not forced to initiate a Bout with
an enemy on every turn. Making a Check to
interact with the environment or a Save to
progress an important Trial are often wise ways
to spend the turn. Checks and Saves in combat
play out exactly as they do outside of combat.
Complex actions can include progressing Trials
or attempting anything too elaborate for a
simple Advantage. The Scribe dictates whether
an action is too complicated to attempt during
combat and if any Penalties are appropriate.
For example: Vuul Hara is attempting to unlock the
crypt door, a chore that includes solving an intricate


system of small, mechanical puzzles that cover a tall

block of marble set in the wall. Ericks party is beset
by undead corpses on the crypt floor just yards away,
but Vuul spends his turns in combat focused on the
bronze-coated door. Although he must expend one or
two Rolls per Round in defense, Erick works through
a separate Trial on his own turns.


Move an Opponent
Smart players will find themselves in situations
where moving an enemy into the right place
is more productive than taking another swing.
In such cases, the Scribe creates an ad hoc Trial
appropriate to the size and gait of the enemy.
If heroes do not complete the Trial in a single
Round, they will have to start over again in a
subsequent Round. The Scribe can decide that
certain Trials aimed at moving an enemy can
take place only within Bouts of direct attacks,
thus bringing counterattacks back into the
picture. So it goes.
For example: Heyu wants to knock an assassin off
the roof of an Anu palace high in the mountains of
Kuludo Island. Though three other assassins fell quite
easily to Heyus blade earlier tonight, this fellow has
proven much more resourceful than his peers. Kelly
announces that Heyu will have to score six Hits before
the assassin scores five to win the Trial.
Keeping the numbers close makes sense because the
two are roughly the same size, and a goal of six Hits
would be equivalent to Heyu dealing considerable
damage. Kelly gives the assassin one fewer because of
the severity of the outcome. Tauno does not have to
declare that his 2-Tacks will be Hits instead of Talents
until after the Bout reduces.
Or: A party of heroes is attempting to back a frenzied
giant into a cave. If they get the giant within the
mouth of the cave, a heavy grate can be triggered to
slide down and imprison the Fell humanoid. Kelly
mentions that the sturdy footing of the giant would
make it more difficult to move, though having an
entire party harrying him might make directing him
a little easier.


She settles on a Trial of Bouts that requires the party

to score 10 Hits: If the group can score 10 Hits on him
in a single Round, then you can move him back into
the cave. You will have to explain your movements

and Footings carefully if you want your rolls to count,

though. Players may forgo damaging the giant to
score Hits in the Trial, but because Kelly required
Bouts, the giant can counterattack as normal.
For more on creating exciting Trials, see 346.
Recover Guard
A player may expend one Roll per Round to
recover 1d10 to their Guard. This can only
happen once per Round, but there is no limit to
how solid a fighters Guard can become when
slowly bolstered over many Rounds.

Indirect Attacks
Players can also use a Check in combat to
indirectly attack an enemy. Interacting with the
environment in clever ways can shake things up
and force your adversaries into difficult Saves.
Making a Check that forces someone else into
a Save is not quite the same thing as initiating
a Bout. Most importantly, the Force of your
Check is not necessarily the Difficulty of the
Save. This means the hero could roll a rather
simple Check but force the enemy to roll a very
difficult Save! Also, because you are not directly
engaging the enemy, counterattacks are not in

How to Attack
Most attacks will play out through a handful of
organized steps. The following demonstrates
what happens during concrete Mundane
attacks, step by step. This is probably the most
common action during combat.

Steps in a Mundane Attack

Step 1: Declare Intent
Step 2: Discard Penalties
Step 3: Roll for Opportunity
Step 4: Both Parties Form Tacks
Step 5: Reveal and Settle Rolls
Step 6: Roll Damage

For example: After tossing his opponent in the

previous Bout and setting Melee Range, Bens
character, Dhelest, steps toward the young assassin.
Ben declares, Im rolling Fight-Labor, and picks up
his eight Mundane Dice. My sword has a Heavy
Aspect, so Hacking Blade is in effect. Hearing that
Bens intent initiates a Bout, Kelly picks up seven
Mundane Dice in defense for the female assassin: The
assassin eyes the open window, and thinks of running.
Years of conditioning, however, take control of her
limbs, and she steps forward to intercept the weapon.
Because the Assassin knows Martial Arts, she will
defend the Fight-Labor attack with Fight-Move.

Using an Art

If an appropriate Footing is chosen and the

right context exists, Arts may be brought
into play. Each Art is tied to one Footing.
If a character suffers from a disrupted
Footing, for example, the Art attached to
that Footing is prevented from coming into
play. Each combat-specific Art will designate
what kind of weapon Aspect must be used.

For example: Dhelest won Initiative and set Melee

Range for the Round. He has no Penalties using
his large sword. The assassin is unarmed, using the
Unarmed Aspect, and suffers a [-2] Penalty in Melee.

Fighting Unarmed


Step 1: Declare Intent

The attacker must announce his or her Domain
and Footing. Direct attacks will initiate a
Bout with an opponent, inviting the adversary
to roll in response. If the defender is out of
Rolls per Round, then he or she can attempt
only an Evade.

Step 2: Discard Penalties

All Bouts take place at the Range that has
Priority, and one or both opponents in a Bout
may suffer Range Penalties. If either combatant
has Durable or Momentary Penalties, these are
factored in atop any Range Penalties in play.
Injuries can also add Penalties to a roll. Players
discard the allotted number of dice before

There are no unique penalties for unarmed

characters fighting armed opponents.
The Unarmed Aspect may offer Range
Penalties against certain weapons, however.
Additionally, unarmed combatants cannot
Strike their opponents unless they know
Martial Arts or pick up an object.
Step 3: Roll for Opportunity
The attacker makes a Roll for Opportunity,
eyeing the field and searching for openings. The
number of dice rolled is set by the Domain of
the Footing. After rolling, the player studies the
result and decides how to spend the turn.
For example: Ben tells the table, Dhelest raises the
two-handed sword above his head as he steps toward
the criminal. Feeling the worn handle in his fists, he
imagines the weight of the blade as the swords own
soul, willing itself downward, down toward her
neck. He rolls and begins scanning the result.
Kelly rolls only five dice, losing two from the Range
Penalty: The assassin fights back!
Step 4: Form Tacks
Players involved in the Bout form their Tacks in
secret, Scribes behind their screens and players
behind cupped hands and lowered heads.
The number of Tacks is always limited by the
characters Tacks per Turn Trait.


Step 5: Reveal and Settle Rolls

Both players reveal their Tacks. All Tacks of similar size cancel out on a one-to-one basis.
For example: Ben shows a 4-Tack, a 3-Tack, and an Advantage. Kelly reveals two Talents and a single
Advantage. The two Advantages cancel out. Ben declares, I hammer her with my sword handle using the
3-Tack, and then my blade down at her with the 4-Tack. Kelly deploys the assassins Arcane Will Talent to
use her Blood as Defense. Her other Talent deploys as a Joint Strike, which adds a side Strike attempt.

Bens Roll, Eight into 9

Kellys Roll, Five into 8


< Both Land >

< Both Land >

< Cancel Out >

Everyone creatively narrates the effects of the Tacks that landed. The order of the action is not
always essential, and creativity and flair are always welcome when settling rolls.
Step 6: Roll Damage
How damage is rolled depends on what Attacks
each character knows. The highest Primary
Tack left after rolls are Reduced can be used
as a Strike. Other Primary Tacks on either side
will deal Fatigue and are most often settled
before the Strike is said to take place. If one
player has two Primary Tacks that tie as the
highest, both can be deployed as Strikes.
Fatigue damage will lower the enemys Guard,
whereas Strikes will roll against the enemys
total Defense in hopes of dealing a Wound.
For example: Ben calculates the Fatigue from the
3-Tack. The Load of the sword counts as the DPD due
to his Hacking Blade, resulting in a Fatigue of 20 (5
per die + 5 from the usual Load bonus). Kelly reduces
the assassins Guard from 27 to 7.


Ben then rolls four dice to Strike his furtive foe. The
Arcane Will Talent allows her to add her Blood to
the Threshold. The assassin has a remaining Guard of
7, a Blood of 8, and a tattoo across her chest that offers
an Aura of 2: a total Defense Threshold of 17.

With four damage dice (26) and the Balance of his

heavy sword (2), Ben scores 28. This is enough to deal
two Wounds to the rogue because the 28 is more than
double the Threshold. Had the assassin not used her
Arcane Will Talent, her total Defense Threshold
would have been only 9, and Bens Strike would have
dealt 3 Wounds (9 x 3 < 28)!
Kelly rolls the Joint Strike as well, resulting in 14.
This is not enough to Wound Dhelest, who has a high
Guard remaining.

Mundane attacks ignore Blood unless a

specific Talent such as Arcane Will is in play.
Certain Arts can teach characters to ignore
their opponents Armor and Aura with
Mundane attacks as well.

How to Cast Arcane Magick

When using Arcana, the caster decides how
powerful the attack will be as he begins the
spell, how dangerous both for himself and his
target. Tearing at the fabric of the mundane
world, playing with powers and forces
unnaturala magicker fears not these things.
But wary he must be, for every softly spoken
magick spell and each sinister gesture pushes
the mage closer to the sting of a darker realm.

Steps in Casting Spells

Magickers in Early Dark decide ahead of time
the power of the spell they will cast, which is
called the Wager. This is the amount of energy
they aim to manifest and manipulate from
beyond the natural realm. The Wager sets the
total number of dice the caster can land in the
roll, and can be any number equal to or less
than the casters Arcane Dice. The Wager must
include all Primary and Secondary Tacks the
caster hopes to land after the Bout reduces.
Later in the turn, the caster will have to roll
a number of dice equal to the Wager to see
how much Drain the spell caused. Drain deals
Fatigue to the magicker, representing the toll
Arcane magicks take on the body. The mages
Blood buffers the effects of Drain (see below).
The magicker can form more Tacks than the
Wager allows, but he risks suffering Backlash
(see below).
Magick Items
To mitigate the dangers of high Wagers, casters
can rely on Source. Various kinds of objects
can function as Source, from weapons and
clothing to dried organs and living familiars.
Source reduces the number of dice required

For example: Andrews caster, Jist, is firing an

Arcane Bolt at a nearby party of Anu nunji. The
city burns around them, the heavy rain unable to
quench the flames. Andrew Wagers 8 dice, hoping
for a 4-Tack and some accompanying Talents to deal
Fatigue. When it comes time to roll Drain, however,
Andrew will roll only 3 dice because Jist carries a Fire
Stave that offers +2 Antagony Source, a belt made
from the hide of a Lesser Stag that offers +1 Antagony
Source, and a twisted ring that offers another +2
Antagony Source.


Step 1: Declare Spell and Make Wager

Step 2: Roll to Cast
Step 3: Target Rolls Defense
Step 4: Roll Drain
Step 5: Roll up Damage or Effect

to cover the Wager, each rank of Source

removing one die from the Drain roll that
accompanies the Wager.

This reliance on trinkets and charms can

become a fetish for magickers, who regularly
hoard Source items to protect themselves from
the tiring consequences of casting magick.
Stripping a mage of his staff and jewelry is often
an effective way of weakening his efficacy in
Scribes should note the importance of
Source for casters and keep in mind where
such items will come from. In the world
of the Hara Sea, many natural and humanmade objects would function quite easily as
Source, from lucky charms to historically
significant relics. In many cases, the
weirdness of an object alone might render
it useful as Source. Anything with a touch
of the Fray can work, and the world is
populated with the blood and vestiges of
the older frayed races.
Sigils are symbols, either written or spoken,
that act as Source. Instead of power coming
from the presence of an object, the sign itself
works as a conduit of Fray energy. Spoken Sigils
last for one Round of combat, whereas written
Sigils last as long as the sign stays recognizable.
For example: Later in the battle, now spreading across
the rooftops of Preexi Latl, the nunji have Jist and his
companions cornered against a rising tower. Early in


the Round, Jist casts Restore Object to fix a rotting

staircase that may act as an escape route later. During
the cast, Andrew builds 2 Talents and decides to use
the Sigil Talent attached to all Protagony Magick. He
chooses to speak a word of power that will give him
another +2 Antagony Source.
Wards are items that disrupt a rival casters
Source. The power of Wards is increased by the
fact that the enemy caster may not immediately
detect them. Each Ward can counteract Source
items tied to one specific Family of magick.


Wards work by proximity, thus their

presence will hinder any and all casting in the
corresponding Family of magick. This means
the bearer of the Ward and his or her allies are
affected also.
Wards only counteract Source and do not
actually raise a rival casters Wager, just as
Source does not technically lower the Wager.
Use the difference between the ranks to decide
how much Source is still available to the
original caster. If the rank of the Wards exceeds
the total Source and/or Wager, no extra dice of
Drain are forced on the original caster.
For example: After Jist and his fellow combatants
fight through the band of nunji, they stand face to
face with a Sabu mercenary in full armor. The Anu
warrior crackles with power, drawing a long, curved
sword from a polished scabbard at his back. Andrew
wins Initiative for the Round and decides to unleash
another Arcane Bolt; he Wagers 6. After the Bout,
Andrew picks up one die to roll Drain (his Wager
of 6 minus the 5 Antagony Source of his Fire Stave,
belt, and ring). Kelly stops him: The Sabu wears a
dark, blood-soaked amulet that acts as a Ward against
Protagony Magick. It has a rank of 3, which is enough
to counteract three dice of Source items. Andrew
must roll four Drain Dice to cover his Wager.
Some objects could act as Source for one
Family and Ward against another. Stacking
and collecting various magickal objects (some
partially canceling what others offer) will allow
magickers to most effectively wield the chaos
of the Fray.


Step 1: Declare Spell and

Make Wager

The beginning of the turn is spent choosing a
Footing and a spell to cast. The player sets a
Wager equal to or less than his Arcane Dice.
This limits the total number of dice that can be
present in his Tacks after the Bout reduces.
For example: Zefr has eleven Arcane Dice when
attacked by a group of stealthy warriors sent from
a nearby Edish camp (they will function as a single
enemy: one leader with three Minions). After losing
Initiative and getting caught in Grapple Range, John
begins his turn: Zefr grimaces as the band of painted
men encircle him... Hmm... Ill Wager 7 with my
Shock Wave to push them off.

Step 2: Roll to Cast

Casters roll their Arcane Dice in the
appropriate Footing for the spell and form
Tacks according to the nature of the Arcanum.
Multiple Tacks can be articulated as in a
Mundane Bout.
For example: After John sets the Wager at 7, he lets
loose his eleven Arcane Dice in a Move-Fight Footing:
I close my eyes for a moment as the unarmed savages
clutch and tug at meA crushing wind erupts from
my skin. John forms two 3-Tacks and an Advantage.
Casters can push their luck and build Tacks
that include more dice than the Wager allows.
The player would do this expecting some of
the Tacks to cancel out. If the caster ends the
Bout with too many dice in play, however,
he suffers Backlash from the Fray. When
Backlash occurs, Blood is not used to buffer the
Drain roll. This penalty is only the beginning,
however, and Source objects can often have
Backlash of their own.
Backlash from Source items can take many
forms, from the smallest Shock penalty to
forging a new Alignment that marks the hero
as indebted to a dark god of the Fray (see 360).

If more than one Source object is in play, all

of them can take effect, each offering its own
particular Backlash.
Spells that Backlash still hit the Target, making
them potential final gambits.

Step 3: Target Rolls Defense

The defender rolls against whatever Tacks the
caster arranges. There are two ways to defend
against Arcana, either Dodging or Resisting,
though magickers who find themselves the
target of offensive spells have the option of
Countering as well.

Step 4: Roll Drain

Mages can be truly powerful enemies, but this
power comes at a cost. The caster must now
roll a number of dice equal to the Wager and
add them up to determine the Fatigue cost of
wielding magick of the Fray.
A magickers Blood Defense is used as a buffer
against Drain. After rolling Drain, subtract
the characters Blood from the amount scored.
Some magickal items will offer bonuses to a
casters Blood Defense, which allows him to
buffer more Drain, thus making higher Wagers
less risky. The resulting Drain becomes Fatigue
on the caster. Any Drain left over after the
caster is Grounded immediately becomes

For example: The men around Zefr are struck by

the gust of wind churning up around the caster.
Kelly declares, The skeletons lean against the wind,
clawing their feet against the dirt and grabbing at
you to keep from being thrust backward, and rolls
a Mundane Dodge for the bone-painted men in a
Fight-Thrive Footing. Because the band of warriors
is functioning as one enemy, Kelly rolls once for the
entire unit: Seven Mundane Dice against a Limit of
6. Kelly forms three Advantages.

For example: Zefr wears a charmed bracelet that

offers +2 Kinesis Source and a matching choker that
awards another +2 to the same Family. These reduce
the Drain dice John rolls from a high seven to a less
risky three. John rolls the three dice against himself
(24) and reduces that amount by his total Blood (22),
leaving him to suffer 2 points of Fatigue.

Arcana that require a Resist, also called a
Direct Defense, will generally do something
other than damage, causing unique effects on or
within the target instead. Defenders roll their
Arcane Dice in the same Footing but do not
have to make Wagers. This double standard
between casters and defenders makes casting
such spells on other magickers an uphill battle.
Many Arcana that dictate a Resist defense will
resemble small Trials.

Reduce and Settle the roll as normal. When

forcing a Dodge, a spell functions in much the
same way as a Mundane Attack.

If the target of the spell is a magicker who
knows the same Arcanum (at the same level or
higher), the defender may decide to Counter.
This plays out much like a Mundane Bout,

If the spell requires a Direct Defense, the effect
is most often determined by the number of
Hits scored. A few Arcana will take effect only
if the highest Tack lands, however.


Dodges can take any Mundane Footing so long
as the role matches the roll. Defenders who
Dodge a spell can use Advantages as normal
(see 234).

though both parties must make Wagers and roll

Drain according to the rules of magick.

Step 5: Roll Damage or Effect

For example: John landed both 3-Tacks against the

skeleton-painted warriors. Shockwave deals Fatigue
damage only, which makes winning the highest Tack
less important. Because Zefr has Low Shockwave,
each die of his Primary Tacks does normal Fatigue,
which for Zefr is 3 DPD, dealing 18 Fatigue total.
Kelly uses the Advantages to offer [-1] Penalties.


How to Use Loom Magick

The Great Loom contains and binds us all in
a web of paths, courses, and interconnections.
Each star is the cross-section of a Thread
pointing directly at Earth. These are seen by
all, for the force of those Threads is felt by all.
Other Threads cannot be seen by the untrained
eye, but true sages see the ever-present Threads
running through all surfaces and spaces.


Sages roll Loom Attacks with a number of dice

equal to their own Loom Dice plus any bonuses
from their knowledge of local lore. Players can
keep track of known lore in the Source section
of their character sheets.

Steps For Using Loom

Step 1: Declare Intent

Step 2: Roll to Cast
Step 3: Defender Rolls
Step 4: Settle Damage or Effect
When two weavers are in combat, both
attacker and defender can use lore to increase
the number of dice they roll. Many forms of
Attack will initiate a Trial that will last the
remainder of the Round. Each Insight will
mention what kind of defense it requires.
Gaining Lore Bonuses
The sage reads the comings and goings of self,
season, and circumstance, tapping into the
Threads that sustain her world. Depending on
her knowledge of local lore and history, the
sage may gain additional Loom Dice for future
rolls. Mastery of the relevant lore comes from
roles made intentionally by the player for this
The lore mastered by a Loom sage is measured
in Epithets. If the sage knows one Epithet of
a particular location, target, animal, or region,
she receives one extra Loom Die on all rolls
dealing with that entity. Knowing additional or
overlapping Epithets can raise the total Loom
bonus any amount.


For example: Thulghad knows an Epithet for this

particular region of the forest. In days past, Seth
explains, the people called this place the Thinning
Wood. He also knows an Epithet for a particular
kind of tree growing in this area of the forest, the
Toad Bark. If Thulghad were to Provoke Nature
using a Toad Bark tree, he would receive two extra
Loom Dice because of the overlapping Epithets (one
from the forest and another from the specific tree).
Simple names and titles do not count as
Epithets. An Epithet is tied to a narrative,
more specifically, a myth. The Epithet carries
weight and manifests within the physical nature
of the entity. The flavor of the Epithet will be
palpable when interacting with the person,
object, or region.
For example: The Toad Bark is also called the Spotted
Oak, but the latter is a common use-name and does
not count as an Epithet. Were Thulghad to summon a
Fey spirit from the tree, its shape would be thin and
withered due to the Thinning Wood and toad-like
due to the Toad Bark. Because Fey have no natural
form in this world, they will manifest differently at
different times, all depending on the proximity and
nature of their Hearth and on how much knowledge
of them the weaver possesses.
Scribes can create unique Checks or Trials to
teach sages specific Epithets or information.
Arts such as Lore, Canvass, and Speechcraft can
all help weavers increase their knowledge of the
world around them.
For example: Thulghad came to the area knowing
his journey would push him deep into the woods. At
a small settlement, Seth decided to target an elder
and learn some of the local tales about the nearby
forest. Kelly set up a complex Check to give Seth some
options: Thulghad can learn a general Epithet about
a region of the forest at a Difficulty of 4, an Epithet
about a local spirit for a Difficulty of 3, and/or an
Epithet about a specific species of plant at a Difficulty
of 2.The more specific the information, the easier to

Step 1: Declare Intent

The first step to use a Loom Insight on your
turn is declaring the Footing and intent of your
action. All Insights initiate a Trial of some sort.
Some are rolled against a target in Bouts, and
others are set up by the Scribe on an ad hoc
basis, as a complex Check.

Or: Stephanie Takemotos hero, Kiwaki, is in the

middle of combat and seeks to unravel a particularly
strong Lesser Cave Lion. Kiwaki speaks, I find the
glowing thread attached to the Lion and begin to
draw it into my hands, twisting and knotting the
cord, tugging it out from within the beast. She knows
an Epithet of this particular Lion, He Who Greets
With Fire, giving him one extra Loom Die. Kiwaki
has initiated a Bout with the Lion, which will roll its
Loom Dice in Fight-Touch to Resist.
Look to the individual Insights for ways to
construct Trials and what factors might raise
or lower the difficulty of certain actions. Keep
in mind that every roll will represent a certain
amount of time, and even simple tasks become
challenging when in a hurry or under pressure.
Step 2: Roll to Cast
The sage rolls a number of dice equal to her
Loom Dice plus any lore bonuses. Penalties are
removed as normal, and Tacks are articulated
according to the nature of the Insight. Insights
that instigate an independent Trial (Osmosis,
Terraform, Fey Summon, Provoke Nature) will
require a set number of Hits determined by the
Scribe or the intended action, whereas Insights
rolled against a target (Entangle, Unravel, Thread
Stalk) will ask the weaver to score as many Hits
as possible in a proper Bout.

Or: Stephanie rolls nine Loom Dice against a Limit

of 10: (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8). Because the Lion is forced
to Resist, Kiwaki does not have to worry about
Counters and builds only Secondary Tacks of two dice
each: (1, 8) (1, 7) (2, 7) (3, 6).
Step 3: Defender Rolls
If a defender is rolling in a Bout with the sage,
he or she will always be attempting to Resist
the attack. This means the defenders Footing
and Domain must match those of the attacking


For example: Seths weaver, Thulghad, wants to

terraform a piece of earth, building a bridge of stone
across a dangerous gorge. He declares his TouchLabor Footing and adds two extra dice to his base
Loom Dice of 10: one for knowing the sole Epithet
of the river being crossed, The White Whisper, and
another for knowing an Epithet of the region this
particular canyon is in, The Red Earth of Ajenaz.
Kelly sets the required number of Hits for the Trial at
8 and gives Thulghad two turns to score all 8.

For example: Seth rolls twelve dice against a Limit

of 9: (0, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8). He can articulate 4
Hits: (0, 8) (3, 6) (4, 5) and (4, 5). Seth is on his way
to complete the Trial in the next roll.

For example: Kelly rolls for the Lesser Cave Lion,

four Loom Dice against a Limit of 11: (3, 5, 5, 9).
With this roll, it can score no more than a single Hit.
In certain cases, the Scribe may let a defending
sage roll a Counter in the same Footing as the
attack. In a duel, two weavers would make quite
the display of deadly, preternatural magicks.
Step 4: Settle Damage or Effect
The number of Hits scored by the weaver will
determine whether the action succeeds or
not. In the case of a Bout, each Hit will have
an effect set by the Insight level: Raw, Low or
For example: Seth declares to the table, I outstretch
my arms, fingers tickling the threads, taut and
swirling, all around us. I tap into their coursing,
feeling them align with my fingertips, becoming
extensions of myself, flowing through my arms and
body. Tugging upward and in with my all my might,
the rock at the cliff s edge begins to quake and stretch.
A small shard forms and grows over the expanse,
nearing the other side. In a few more minutes, I
will have a secure footbridge for crossing to the
other ledge. His Low Terraform allows him to
manipulate 10 tons of earth.
Or: Kiwaki secures 3 Hits of Unravel on the Lion,
dealing a hefty amount of Shock. Because she has
Low Unravel, each Hit deals 4 Shock. In effect, this
attack lowers the Lions Guard 12 points each Wound.


How to Make Indirect Attacks

Actions in combat such as cutting the rope that
anchors a chandelier, setting fire to a building,
or scaring a flock of seagulls into the enemys
face are indirect ways of attacking. At its root,
an indirect attack is one character using a
Check that forces another character to make
an immediate Save. In most cases, the defender
will make a Save as though beset by a trap or
natural disaster. It is important to note that
indirect attacks are not Bouts: One character
rolls a Check against a particular feature of the
environment, and another character is forced
to roll a Save against the same or a related
environmental feature.


For example: Heyu is caught in a hard place.

Unarmed and weary, his only recourse in a brawl
with three starving hunters is to use the environment
against them. On Heyus next turn, Tauno Rolls for
Opportunity in Cunning-Labor and decides to tackle
the pole supporting the weight of the large tent. Kelly
sets the Difficulty of the maneuver at 3, easily covered
by a Primary Tack in Taunos roll.
The hunters are caught under falling beams and
canvas, and Kelly creates a complex Save for them:
Avoid Fatigue damage from the poles at a Difficulty
of 2, avoid getting stuck under the tent (a [-2]
Durable Penalty) at a Difficulty of 2, and help one of
his friends escape the tent at a Difficulty of 3. Two of
the three avoid damage but remain under the cloth.

The third suffers 14 Fatigue (the sum of the tents

Hardness of 4 and Load of 10) but makes his way out
from under the canvas.
Think of Indirect Attacks as traps being
set and sprung in the same moment, or one
person springing a latent or environmental
trap on another. The Difficulties given to
the attacker include how hard the action
would be while maintaining Guard in combat.
It may be more difficult to flip over a heavy
table in the middle of a brawl than in an
empty room. It may also be more difficult
when the hero is avoiding swords and
thrown objects as part of maintaining his
The Difficulties given to the defenders
measure how hard it would be to pass
the Save completely unscathed and without
expending much energy. The Fatigue a
defender suffers can represent the energy it
takes to avoid the indirect attack as often as
it might represent being hit by it.
These can happen inside or outside combat.
Within combat, Range or other narrative-based
restrictions might come into play, depending
on the nature of the attempted Indirect Attack.
When inside combat, Scribes may have players
Roll for Opportunity before declaring the
Indirect Attack. Outside combat, Role to Roll
may guide the chosen actions.
For example: While stuck in Grapple with an Archaic
Ape, Ishwan might not be able to attempt a complex,
acrobatic Indirect Attack. If Jist is Pinned by an
enemy, cutting the rope on the other side of the room
might prove impossible. The Scribe decides.


The Difficulty of the enemys Save comes

from the nature of the environmental action,
not from the Force of the attackers roll. It
becomes a Save like any other, and the Scribe
sets the Difficulty accordingly. Also, because
no actual Bout takes place, Secondary Tacks
formed by either side do not directly engage

the other. Counters are likewise prohibited,

again, because no Bout is taking place. Clever
fighters, however, may be able to turn complex
Checks for them into very tricky, complicated
Saves for their opponents.
For example: After wriggling from his restraints,
Dereks Vayok, Runnaw, finds himself in combat
deep in the belly of a ship. Armed with nothing but a
red-hot branding iron, Derek declares a Guile-Labor
Footing and Rolls for Opportunity. Runnaw can
easily light the straw on fire, but it will be a hard
Save for those trying to escape the flames.

Step 1: Declare Intent and Decide Check

Step 2: Roll for Opportunity
Step 3: Decide Effect and Declare Save
Step 4: Defender Rolls Save
Step 5: Figure Damage or Effect
Step 1: Declare Intent and Decide
Most turns will begin with declaring intent and
deciding on a Footing for the attempted action.
Players and the Scribe can work out what the
Check will look like and what Difficulty it will
For example: Chads Edish warrior, Amos, is fighting
an entire room of guards and dazed cultists. In a lastditch effort to secure an advantageous position in the
room and cause a little mayhem, Chad plans to tip
over the large cauldron of boiling human limbs. Chad
declares, I squat behind the dark, iron cauldron and
heave with all my might, my groan echoing in the
chamber and filling the hearts of the cultists with
Kelly alerts Chad that knocking over the cauldron
would require a great deal of physical strength. The
Difficulty is set at 6. Amos has 10 Mundane Dice and
uses a Thrive-Labor Footing that takes a Limit of 11.
This could potentially become a long, boring
process for those not involved in the Bout.
Scribes who do not set time limits for player
turns may decide to limit the number of

Some Checks will take on Difficulties unknown

to the hero. As in any Check, the Scribe may
decide to withhold the exact Difficulty until
the action is officially undertaken.
Step 2: Roll for Opportunity
The player removes any Penalties from his or
her pool and rolls in the prescribed Footing.


Steps in an Indirect Attack

Checks a player can inquire about on a single

turn. In other words, if the player asks how
hard it would be to tip over the statue and
gets a frustrating response, he or she cannot
continue listing other ideas indefinitely. It may
take some in-game time for heroes themselves
to assess the Difficulty of an action, so a limit
on the players questioning seems appropriate.

For example: He fits six dice into a Tack, his Force

tying the Difficulty and passing the Check.
Step 3: Decide Effect and
Declare Save
After the Check has been officially passed, the
Scribe narrates the action. Some Checks will
have no formal Difficulty and require some
qualitative gauging on the part of the Scribe;
the Force of the roll is then used to inform
the Scribes description of the resulting Save.
On the other hand, Checks could have one or
a number of Difficulties to overcome before
initiating the Save. However things go down,
the hero directs all his or her energy toward
an element of the environment, and the Scribe
describes what happens as a result. Any Saves
that result from the Check are declared to the
joy of all.
For example: Kelly decides that the spilling gruel and
disembodied parts will force a Save from all those
in the path of the sludge, including two of the guards
and the whole group of cultists. It was a dramatic,
cinematic event, and Kelly wants to raise the stakes
for the defenders involved.
She makes it a Complex Save: Enemies who come
into contact with the gruesome concoction can avoid
suffering Fear at a Difficulty of 2; they can avoid
losing an additional RPR at a Difficulty of 3; and
they can avoid taking damage from the caustic
substance at a Difficulty of 3 as well.


Using the Force of the Check


In some cases, the Difficulty of the enemys

Save does match the Difficulty or Force
of the heros Check. If the result of a
particular Check follows directly from the
heros Force, using the same Difficulty for
the attackers Check and the defenders
Save makes sense because it avoids putting
the Scribe in a place to decide on the Save
arbitrarily. Also, the Provoke Nature Insight
will always set the Hits of the sages roll as
the targets Difficulty directly because the
sage is literally creating the environment
that becomes the dangerous trap. In this
case, the attacker is directly responsible for
the potency of any resulting Saves.
For example: Stephanie Takeomotos Alagoth,
Kiwaki, rolls Provoke Nature on an area of
grass around some feeding goblins: I tug the
individual Threads with both arms, shooting
hundreds of blades of grass at the disgusting
humanoids like a spray of quills from the earth.
Kiwaki rolls 4 Hits with her Loom Dice, and
the goblins are given a complex Save with four
separate Difficulties of 2 each. No Primary Tacks
or Advantages deploy, since Kiwaki is rolling
against the grass and not the goblins themselves.

Step 4: Defender Rolls Save

Defenders generally move from Role to
Roll coming up with adequate responses to
the environmental danger befalling them. In
some circumstances the Scribe will set a fixed
Footing. Remember that these kinds of attacks
are indirect, which means the two opponents
are not rolling against one another in a Bout.
Both attacker and defender are rolling against
the environment.
For example: Kelly rolls for each of the two guards
separately and for the group of cultists as a single


The first guard rolls in Fight-Move (He leaps back as

the green sludge spills down the marble stairs and into
the pack of startled devotees), suffering the damage
and Fear. The roll is not Reduced, taking the form of
any regular Save.

The second guard tries to scramble up the rooms

central pillar, rolling Thrive-Move. He ends up
avoiding the damage but suffers the Fear and the lost
The cultists roll as one in Touch-Move (Each member
of the group, still under the influence of the drug
theyve imbibed, has trouble even recognizing whats
happening). Lost in wanton stupor, the cultists avoid
the Fear and the lost RPR but suffer the damage.
Step 5: Figure Damage
Calculating the damage for Indirect Attacks
can be a little tricky, but just use common sense
to figure out where the damage is coming from.
How does the Scribe decide environmental
In most cases, the Scribe can use the
Hardness of the matter plus its Load as
the DPD. If the damage is harsh enough, the
Scribe can decide to first attempt a Strike. If
the Strike misses, the environment will deal
Fatigue of the same amount. Keep in mind
that Indirect Attacks may ignore Armor, Aura,
Blood, or Guard depending on the nature of
the attack.
For example: Kelly decides that the sludge will ignore
Armor and Aura. She sets the Hardness of the sludge
at 4 because of its caustic nature and bits of flesh.
Overall, the Load of the gruel is decided to be 4.
Attempting the Strike: Kelly calculates 8 damage
per die, for a total of 24, and checks it against the
Thresholds of the first guard (25) and the cultists (7).
The cultists take 3 Wounds, but the guard none.
Then the Fatigue: Kelly then subtracts that same
amount from the defenders Guard, a hefty hit of
Fatigue, and announces that he is Grounded. She
crosses out the 25 on his Defenses Row.
Natural Hardness Chart
1- Grass, Paper, Cloth
2- Leather, Still Water
3- Earth and Sod, Most Wood
4- Heavy wood, Rushing Water
5- Stone, Metals

Ellas pulled his oily hair taut behind him in one callused fist, and wound a fraying thread around it
to bind it. He then let his hand fall to the sword at his hip.
Nela sat on a rock outcropping. Below them, their fledgling city burned.
I never thought youd choose to be a soldier, she said.
He shrugged. Me neither.
A thief, maybe. A mercenary. She smirks. Or a pig-breeder.
Ellas isnt interested in jokes.
Theyre burning our home, he says.


Khazil dogs, she answers, an echo of another time.

I have to. I leave to find my totem tonight. I will join the others marching south within a
You dont have to do anything. Were not obligated to this place. Orlin can trip on a log and
drown face-down in a puddle of mud and sheep dung for all I care.
He spit. Those are still our people. You never did think the way you should.
I dont think thats true.
You always choose to stand alone. But for me, thats not a choice. Never was. I remember the days
before Orlin, before this city. Out in the fields.
She stood. Above, gray skies crept in at the margins, a gray that matched the color of the billowing
smoke below. Somewhere, thunder tumbled across the hills and valleys.
Fine, she said. I suppose this is goodbye, then. Go your way. Become a man. She said this last
word with no small spite. You wont be able to speak to mother anymore. Or to me. Not in the
way you used to. Not like a brother. Not like a son.
Goodbye, little sister.
Be well, big brother.
They did not embrace. It wasnt their way. He just put his hand on her arm, and hers on his.
Then he drew his blade, and walkednot rantoward the group of men at the forests edge.


How to Defend
There are a few different options for defenders
as well. Any time a character initiates a Bout
against your hero, you will be forced to defend.
Saves and Checks can use up RPR, but they are
handled outside combat under the now familiar
rules discussed earlier. You cannot roll a Check
or a Save to avoid harm if an attacker has
initiated a Bout already. Defending in combat
is the mirror image of attacking, with Tacks
cancelling out .

Ways to Defend


Most defenses involve coming face to face with
an adversary. In such encounters, either fighter
could gain the upper hand. If the defender
has an Aspect that allows him or her to roll
in the Range that takes priority, he or she is
considered to be Countering all incoming
attacks. In Counters, both parties in the
Bout can use the Attacks appropriate to their
Footings as well as Talents and Advantages that
fit the context. As the basic form of defense
in Early Dark, Counters blur the line between
attacker and defender.
For example: Clydes Edish necromancer, Amyntas
Num, is defending himself from the slashing blade of
a sand giant. The giant attacks with a 5-Tack and a
Talent, while Amyntas defends with a 4-Tack and
three Advantages. Each of the Tacks lands, all of them
taking effect according to the narratives offered by
Clyde and the Scribe.


If a defender is forced to move his or her body
aside to avoid the danger (or if he or she does
not have an Aspect that allows a Counter), he
or she is said to be Dodging. Dodges represent
using all the energy available to get out of the
way of harm.

Dodging can be attempted in any Range and

ignores all Range Penalties. Because the hero is
not attempting to strike the attacker in return,
there is no Aspect brought to bear. When a
character Dodges, Primary Tacks and Talents
are both forfeit. Advantages, however, can be
In a Dodge, the defender can avoid all damage
by winning the Bout. This means that the
defender can use the highest Primary Tack to
avoid the effects of all lesser Primary Tacks.
Because the hero is attempting to literally
leap out of the Bout, winning the highest Tack
permits the character to ignore all those lesser
Tacks that would normally deal Fatigue. Talents
and Advantages, however, must be cancelled
out one-to-one as in any other Bout.
For example: A gnarled ogre swings a broken wagon
at Brandons Edish scout, Kleitos. Brandon decides
to Dodge, and chooses a Fight-Move Footing. The
ogre scores two 3-Tacks and two Talents. Brandon
arranges his roll into one 4-Tack, one Talent, and one
By winning the Bout, Brandons 4-Tack prohibits
either of the ogres 3-Tacks from dealing any kind of
damage, Fatigue or Strike. One of the ogres Talents
still lands, and Kleitos can use his Advantage.
Brandon deals no damage even though he won.
Note that the Dodge is the only time
Tacks do not cancel out one to one
directly. This is the rare power of
giving up your chance at a Counter.
In a Resist, the target rolls in the same Domain
and Footing as the attacker to represent an
active or passive resistance to the attackers
actions. Resists are also frequently used to
decide whether characters can detect or
uncover covert schemes. These generally occur
as Bouts outside combat but come up as a
defensive strategy in combat because of Arcana.

As trite as it may sound, it often takes one to

know one. In other words, resisting the wiles
of a charismatic confidence man is easier if
the target is a little cunning and wily as well.
To spot the signs of trickery, a target would
need to be familiar with such forms of trickery.
As it happens, honest people are easier to
lie to because they do not live in a world of
lies themselves. Many Bouts outside combat
that involve Relate or Guile, for example,
will mandate a Resist defense for this reason.
Resists do not include a counterattack because
resisting a persons influence is not the same as
influencing him or her in return, but they may
deploy Secondary Tacks if context allows.

Resists are also made concrete in detection

rolls. If a player wants to pick up on the
intentions or schemes of another, Resists allow
for this. Scribes can call for detection rolls at
any time, or expect careful players to make
detection rolls of their own initiative.
For example: Dereks Vayok, Runnaw, is sneaking up
on a group of camping Anu of House Tiku. He rolls
Guile-Move to sneak, and Kelly rolls Guile-Move for
the party to detect him.
Or: Clydes magicker, Amyntas Num, is rolling
a Cunning-Touch Check to listen in on a nearby
conversation. The chatters would roll Cunning-Touch
to become aware of the eavesdropper.
Resists in combat may take up one RPR,
though Resists can often be rolled passively or
when no RPR remain at the Scribes discretion.
A player who has expended all his or her Rolls
per Round can roll defensively, but all Tacks are
used only to cancel out those of the attacker.

Evading characters can roll a number of

dice equal to their Guard Dice. Humans
generally have 3 Guard Dice, though heroes
and many animals will have more.
Characters without remaining RPR may or
may not be allowed to roll Saves during combat
at the Scribes discretion. Following, Indirect
Attacks may or may not be immediately
effective against such targets.


For example: Andrews character, Jist, is using

Speechcraft to gain access to the city guards
exclusive armory. He rolls six Mundane Dice in a
Footing of Cunning-Guile. The poor doorman is not
trying to trick Jist in return, and his defense is at root
an attempt to become aware of what the attacker
is doing. Those are great conditions for a Direct
Defense, and Kelly rolls in a Guile-Cunning Footing
for the guard.

The defender can take no actions and is

considered harried or off balance. Characters
cannot Evade in an attempt to conserve RPR
for later attacks. If RPR remain, any attempted
defense will fit into one of the above categories
and expend one RPR.

For example: Benjamins Glokur Vayok, Kantuush,

stands injured and weary among a pride of ferocious
Lesser mountain lions in the Wilds. He has been
fighting the beasts for hours, and his legs are covered
in his own blood just as his arms are covered in the
blood of the cats. With no RPR remaining, Benjamin
rolls 3 dice in any fitting Footing to defend against the
six rolls coming his way before the end of the Round.
He can only cancel out Tacks; he can do no damage;
and he can deploy no Secondary Tacks.

Hardcore Variant #1:

No Evasion
If the group wants a combat experience
that gives stronger parties more time to
overpower and quickly finish off weaker
enemies, the Scribe may decide to outlaw
any Evade defenses. In this case, when a
character runs out of RPR, he or she is a
sitting duck, who can suffer any number
of hits at the hands of opponents. Each
fighter in the battle gets only his or her
allotted RPR, and every roll is precious.
This works best if the group does not
mind a few repetitious turns at the end of
a Round where the characters with higher
RPR get to roll multiple attacks at once on
slower foes.


Guard and Defenses

Early Dark allows heroes to wear down and
injure their adversaries in a variety of ways.
The vitality system imagined here is less a
reservoir of hit points than a measure of
the characters overall capability to avoid and
endure damage. Many factors go into keeping
a warrior alive and aware, including as much
speed and willpower as physical strength. As
the Aptitudes represent the broad drives of a
hero, so too the vitality system in Early Dark
represents a broad range of ability that keeps a
character on her feet and pushing forward.


The vitality box on the character sheet can be

seen as three rows of simple math. On top, the
Recovery Row calculates how a player sets a
new Guard after becoming alert or suffering a
Wound. It is a matter of simple addition. Each
player rolls his or her Guard Dice (generally
3d10) and adds the bonus appropriate to the
characters Guard Trait. The current Shock
level is then subtracted from this sum. The
result is written in the next row in the large
space provided for the heros current Guard.
The Defense Row on the character sheet
shows each player how to come up with his or
her overall defense to any incoming Strikes.
Each Strike will dictate which Defenses are
appropriate, and the player simply adds along
the row to arrive at the fitting Threshold. For
example: Most Mundane Strikes will ignore
Blood; and certain Attacks can ignore Armor,
Aura, or both.
The Injury Row records how many Wounds
the hero currently suffers from and the
Recovery Row

Add to set Guard

Defense Row

Add to find Threshold

Injury Row


Add to find Penalties

Penalties that result from being injured. To

determine the heros overall Penalty due to
injury, players simply add along the row. Injury
Penalties can take effect on Saves and Checks
outside combat. Within combat, Range and
condition Penalties are added atop these.
The thrust of the vitality system is this: Fatigue
an opponent to wear down her Guard. After
reducing her to her Ground or getting close
to it, Strike to deal Wounds. If she has high
Defenses, offer Penalties to land blows and
inflict Shock to weaken later Guards.
A heros vitality is measured in the quality
of the characters Guard. A good Guard
represents not only being tough and resilient
to damage, but also being a hard target to hit
in the first place. A heros footwork, sturdiness,
and overall stamina are all part of her Guard.
As are her desire, resolve, and willpower.
Surprising an opponent may result in the
attacker ignoring his or her targets Guard in a
Your Guard is set by rolling your Guard Dice
and adding the result to the Guard Trait tied
to your Thrive Aptitude. Heroes recover
their Guard each time they become aware
of danger or suffer a Wound. In most cases,
Guard is re-rolled completely whenever the
character goes on Guard. Note that this
means a hero re-rolling Guard in the afternoon
may have a lower Guard than he or she had in
the morning without suffering damage. Each
time the character goes off Guard a new roll

Forcing a New Guard

Sometimes big events in combat can

give heroes a chance to re-roll Guard
automatically. If the floor falls in, a wall
topples over, or a horse-cart crashes through
the roomall of these instances may result
in the characters being discombobulated or
disoriented enough to drop Guard. In these
instances, all characters would have to reroll their Guards once they regain awareness
of their surroundings.

is required to regain an alert stance. Shock

reduces the amount of Guard recovered when
re-rolling for any reason.
Fatigue suffered in combat or from strenuous
labor (or by discovering traps the hard way)
will reduce a heros Guard. When a characters
Guard is lowered by taking Fatigue, it
becomes easier for opponents to move in for a
more vital attack.
For example: Andrews character, Jist, has a Guard of
32. In forced combat with a pack of hungry dogs, he
loses a sloppy Bout, suffering 4 dice of Fatigue. Kelly
adds up 3 DPD plus the dogs Natural Weapon Load
bonus of 6, resulting in: 18. Andrew crosses out the
32 in the Guard box of his Defense Row and writes
14 next to it.
You will not need to keep track of the initial
Guard you roll up when recovering. When
suffering Fatigue, simply erase or cross out the
current amount and lower it by the amount
of damage sustained. Support will always have
you add to your current Guard or re-roll it
completely, so remembering what you started
out at is not important.


A heros Ground represents his or her most
basic physical size and resistance to damage,
regardless of energy or will. The heros Guard
can never drop below his or her Ground.
Recorded in the Defense Row on the character
sheet, Ground has its own Trait, connected to
the Labor Aptitude. No attack will ever ignore
Ground when Striking.
For example: After losing another Bout to the pack of
canine killers, Jist suffers more Fatigue. Kelly lands a
3-Tack and rolls damage: 11. Andrew crosses out the
13 in his Guard box and looks at Jists Ground of
7. He writes 7 not 2 because his Guard can never
drop below his Ground. Also, Andrew announces,
Im Grounded. Further Fatigue will have no effect
on Jist, though Strikes will roll against Jists Defenses
as normal. Once Jist rests or takes a Wound, his
Guard will be re-rolled and he will be able to suffer
Fatigue again.
A character is Grounded when his or her
Guard is reduced all the way to the Ground.
He or she must announce that the hero is
Grounded but does not have to reveal
the exact number. The hero is now immune
to Fatigue, being already worn down. The
character may be visibly slowed or simply
caught in a bad position, open to attacks.
Whenever a character re-rolls Guard, the
sum of the 3d10 roll is reduced by any Shock
he or she is afflicted by. Shock is durable,
representing both physical and mental
aggravation and influencing every recovery roll


until it is healed. The best way to heal Shock

is to find a good resting place, although those
versed in field medicines can help alleviate
Shock as well. Shock is recorded in the
Recovery Row of the character sheet.
Shock can even reduce a new Guard to a
number lower than the Trait set by the Thrive
Aptitude if the roll was low enough.


Some forms of Shock will linger on even after

the character rests. Festering wounds, ailments,
and poison will all stick around until dispelled
or healed. The individual items, Arts, Arcana,
and Insights that cause lingering Shock will
offer instructions on how it can be healed.

The three Defenses are what protect a
hero from receiving Wounds in combat.
All appropriate Defenses are added to the
remaining Guard of the hero along the Defense
Row for each incoming Strike to come up with
the total Threshold for that Bout.
The Armor rating is determined by the Load
and quality of a characters Armor and his or
her skill in Armoring. Soft Armor is made of
leather, cloth, or other natural fibers and offers
1 point of protection for every 2 points of Load.
Hard Armor, made with metal, offers 1 point of
protection for every point of Load. A target in
good Armor can be difficult to Wound.
For example: Jist has a remaining Guard of 7 and 2
points of Soft Armor, making his Defense Threshold
9. The dogs will roll Strikes against a Threshold of
9. To represent their metal armaments and ferocity,
however, Kelly gave the dogs Gore, a Talent that
ignores Armor. If the dogs land Gore while Striking,
they would ignore Jists Armor and roll against a
Defense Threshold of 7.


Aura represents any of a variety of factors that
make a target harder to hit. Flying enemies, for
example, will have an Aura that represents the

difficulty of striking enemies circling above.

Fearsome creatures may have an Aura that
represents the terror they cause in their foes.
Large enemies or enemies on mounts may
have an Aura that represents the risk of being
trampled when moving in for a Strike. Spikes
on a chariot, for example, would increase the
vehicles Aura, making it harder for a hero to
hit safely. Painting a gruesome face on a chariot
could also increase its Aura, preying on the
hearts of its attackers. Auras may be intangible
or psychological, but they are all experienced
bodily, i.e. they are physical, not spiritual
Scribes can also set an Aura penalty when
players aim at certain parts or objects on an
enemy. Striking an amulet worn by a wizard
outside his clothes, for example, might
(through commonsense) ignore the Armor of
the wizard but take an Aura of 20 decided on
by the Scribe. Successful Strikes would hit the
item, then, not the wizard.
Blood acts as a magickers natural buffer
against the Drain that comes from casting
spells. Whenever the magicker rolls Drain,
he subtracts his Blood from the roll before
deducting the difference from his Guard. Drain
that reduces a caster to his Ground will begin
to cause Shock.
For example: Later in the fight with the attack dogs,
Jist has a Guard of 9. Using Flash Fire to attack the
canines, he Wagers 4. He then rolls four dice of Drain
against himself (22) and subtracts his Blood (16) from
the result: 6. The Drain lowers Jists Guard by 2,
Grounding him at 7, and deals 4 Shock. The powerful
flames dealt massive damage, but at a cost.
Wizards can often overextend themselves,
and most powerful magicks will be
dangerous options unless the wizard has an
impressive collection of Source materials
or Sigils. This reliance on material objects
helps offset the power of magick characters
and makes for good narrative: His staff. I
told you to take the wizards staff!

Mundane attacks ignore Blood the vast

majority of the time. Only if a character uses a
specific Arcanum or Talent can Blood protect
him from Mundane attacks.

Fatigue lowers a characters Guard, but only
Strikes can deal real injuries to a character.
Heroes in Early Dark begin a campaign with
the ability to sustain four Wounds before being

If a Strike exceeds the defense Threshold set by

adding along the Defense Row, the character
suffers a Wound. Keep track of Wounds by
crossing out boxes along the Injury Row of the
character sheet from left to right. When a hero
has marked off all the allowed Wounds, he or
she drops out of the fight.
A non-hero character who has dropped out is
generally considered dead. In other words, they
are no longer part of the narrative; the myth
does not mention them again. Minions that are
scattered by suffering a Wound are most likely
dead, but the Scribe may make them literally
scatter, fleeing out into the woods where a
future battle or Trial awaits (see 347).
If the party survives the encounter, the player
who fell incapacitated will need to be rescued
and brought to a safe place. For each full days
rest the character takes the player rolls on the
following chart:

0-2: Awaken with 1 Wound healed.

3-6: No change. Roll tomorrow.
7-8: 1 Permanent Shock. Roll tomorrow.
9: Dead
Physicians and alchemists can add to an injured
heros Dead or Dropped Out roll. Powerful
enemies and some magick weapons may
subtract from the roll. In either case, falling
incapacitated in combat does not necessarily
mean death for the hero, but it is a very
dangerous condition to experience.
Penalties from Injury
After two Wounds are sustained by a hero,
he or she will suffer a conditional Penalty
that represents the weakening effect of being
injured. The stronger a hero becomes, the more
Wounds he or she can take. Injury Penalties
will increase with every two Wounds suffered.
The Injury Row keeps track of how many
Penalties the hero is suffering from.


Wounds are narrative devices in Early Dark.

The Scribe can decide arbitrarily how many
Wounds any enemy has. The toughness of the
adversary is recorded in his or her Aptitudes,
Dice, and Arts. Wounds are simply a measure of
how important to the narrative the character or
monster is. How many major wounds can the beast
take? How many arrows stick from the heros chest
before he falls to his knees dead? How many blows
that would kill a lesser fellow can the cult leader take
before expiring? Wounds are major injuries, the
things that come back to haunt a hero in old
age. Each should be described with violence
and grit as important parts of the narrative.

Dead or Dropped Out

Eryn tucked the stolen idol into the

satchel tied tightly to her lower back.
It was heavy, but the weight sat at a
manageable height; she would not be
slowed down. Suddenly, a crash. The
ceiling of the cellar collapsed on her,
shattering the many casks of wine and
turning the small chamber into a pile of
rubble. Eryn felt the hooked spears of
the guards lifting her up by the armpits.
She landed atop the rubble and rubbed
the dust and ash from her eyes. She had
not caused the explosion, and these guards
seemed as confused as her: Another intruder
was in the temple. Just her luck. Darting
from a nearby hallway a rival prowler
took the chance to escape. He offered a
small tip of his head toward Eryn as he
saw her being shackled and beaten by
the sentries.


Dealing Damage
Early Dark handles all physical damage with a
system of Fatigue and Striking. Strikes are used
to deal Wounds by overcoming the defenders
total Defenses. Fatigue attacks come from
Primary Tacks that aim to wear enemies down,
lowering their Guards.


The highest Primary Tack in each Bout is rolled

as a Strike after all other Tacks have settled.
Other Primary Tacks that land deal Fatigue
before the Strike is attempted. If the Strike fails,
the dice are used to calculate Fatigue as normal.
If one combatant has two Primary Tacks that
tie as the highest, both can be rolled as Strikes.
The target, however, will have the opportunity
to re-roll Guard between the Strikes.
Alternatively, one of the winning Tacks can be
used to Fatigue before the other is rolled as a
Fighters may wish to forgo a Strike on one
turn in hopes of dealing multiple Wounds on
another. This is allowed, and the Primary Tack
reserved for the Strike will simply be deployed
to deal Fatigue as any other.
Ranged Attacks roll Strikes for every
Primary Tack that lands, but misses do not
deal consolation Fatigue.

Attacking With a Weapon

Attacking directly with a weapon or fist is the
most common form of attack. The Load and
Balance of the weapon will come into play.
After reducing the Bout, the highest Primary
Tack is reserved for the Strike while others
can be used to mark Fatigue. Strikes deal the
Wounds needed to put down enemies, but
these often work only after the opponent is
For example: Amos rolls a Guard of 21 when a
hungry ogre waylays him along the road to Lokod.


Amos dismounts to fight the Fell brute and loses

Initiative. Early in the encounter, the ogre swings at
him with a cudgel and lands a 3-Tack and a 4-Tack.
The Ogre Fatigues with the lesser
Primary Tack...
Fatigue reduces a characters Guard, making
him or her easier to Strike and Wound later. If a
character is already Grounded, he or she cannot
suffer any further Fatigue. Such attacks are
wasted on Grounded foes.
Kelly calculates the damage as the ogres DPD (4)
times the number of dice in the Primary Tack (3 X 4 =
12) and adds the Load of the cudgel (5): a total of 17.
Chad crosses out the 21 in his Guard box. Amos has
a 9 Ground, which means the ogre dealt 12 Fatigue
only. The other 5 points of Fatigue are wasted, and
for now Amos takes no Wounds. Chad does not need
to write a new Guard in place because the Ground
is already written and visible. He announces, I am
The Ogre rolls to Strike with the
highest Primary Tack...
When Striking, the player picks up the highest
Primary Tack that landed and re-rolls the dice.
These are added together with any appropriate
Balance bonuses, and the total is measured
against the targets defense Threshold for the
Strike. A Defense Threshold is calculated
ad hoc for every attack, equal to the sum of the
Guard and all appropriate Defenses (Blood,
Aura, and/or Armor). Some attacks will ignore
one or more of these Defenses. Mundane
attacks ignore Blood, for example.
If the total of the Strike roll is equal to or
higher than the characters Defense Threshold,
a Wound is done. If the Strike roll multiplies
the remaining Threshold, multiple Wounds can
be dealt with a single Tack.
Kelly rolls 1d10 per die, picking up the entire 4-Tack
and re-rolling it (23), and adds the Balance of the
cudgel (1): a total of 24. Amos has 9 Guard left and
an Armor Defense of 2. The ogres Strike of 24 beats
the total defense Threshold of 11, doubling it, and so
the attack deals two Wounds. Had Amos two more

points of Armor or the Ogre rolled slightly less, the

Strike would have dealt only one Wound. As it is,
Chad marks the Wounds on his Injury Row and
makes a Guard Recovery roll to determine Amos new
Consolation Fatigue
If a Strike rolled is less than the Threshold,
the character misses his or her opportunity
to Wound the opponent. After a failed Strike,
however, the Tack is used to deal Fatigue as

Some characters will be very good at dealing

Fatigue and others very poor at it.
Creative parties will find
ways to plan attacks that
efficiently wear down
larger foes before the
skilled Strikers
attempt Wounds.

This is one of the oldest house rules in the

Anthropos Games headquarters. We
tried to build a game in which all Primary
Tacks that remained after the Bout reduced
could be used to Strike the opponent...
But the testers, almost unanimously, did
not like the idea of winning a Bout and
still suffering damage in return. Again
and again we heard players take issue, and
so we listened. In response, we adjusted
the standard rules of Early Dark so that
only the highest Primary Tack can Strike,
relegating other Primary Tacks that land in
a Bout to Fatigue only.


For example: Zefr is fighting the bullish sentry of a

Neferatha brothel and lands a 3-Tack with his kukri.
John rolls the Strike with 3d10 (18) and adds the
swords Balance (4): a total of 22. The Threshold of
the sentry is his Guard (28) plus his Soft Armor (4):
a total of 32. Zefrs Strike is not powerful enough
to Wound the large foe. Bummed, he nevertheless
calculates the resulting Fatigue of the swing, adding
his DPD for each die (2 X 3 = 6) and the kukris Load
(2), for a total of 8 Fatigue. Kelly crosses out the 28
Guard of the sentry and replaces it with 20.

Hardcore Variant #2:

All Primary Tacks Strike

This rule variant, however, returns the

game to all its no-such-thing-as-a-cleanwin splendor. Each and every Primary
Tack that lands can be rolled as a Strike,
and if the Strike misses, Fatigue is dealt
as consolation. In this case, the Fatigue
represents the effort it took the defender to
parry or dodge the incoming blow.
When settling Bouts, always move from
the smallest Tacks to the larger Tacks. This
means that a 3-Tack would roll Strike and
take effect before a 4-Tack. The result? A
well-timed 3-Tack might kill your opponent
before he or she rolls that big 5-Tack at you.
For example: When Benjamins Vayok, Kantuush,
enters a deadly grapple with a Fiend of the Fray,
he rolls in Fight-Labor to tear the monster apart.
The Dark One rolls a 4-Tack and a 3-Tack.
Benjamin rolls a 5-Tack and some Secondaries.
Kelly rolls two Strikes from the Dark One,
dealing massive Wounds, before Kantuush Strikes.
In the narrative, Advantages can still
be added at the end: A good kick to the
stomach is nice way to end a Bout that
can offer a [-1] Momentary Penalty; after
the slash deals a Wound, the toss across
the room to Take Range is a nice finishing
touch; etc.


Healing, Rest & Recovery

Because each heros Guard represents not a
pool of hit points but an ability to avoid and
resist damage, there is no way a hero can heal
his or her Guard. Whenever a player uses an
item (such as Resins) or a Talent to increase
a heros Guard, he or she is bolstering or
supporting, not healing the character. This
small semantic difference frames the way Early
Dark represents the physical body and reflects
the way characters interact in combat.

Recovering Guard

An alchemist may not know of a potion that

magickally erases cuts and bruises on your
body, but he may be able to concoct a substance
that will help you see your surroundings more
clearly, giving you a brief glimpse of where
danger lies and where it intends to strike. These
items will increase your heros Guard without
making any of the pain in his or her bones
The potency of a Resin comes from whatever
drug in contains, raising the heros awareness
and making him or her more alert. Most of
these cause a minimal amount of Shock to
the characters system, and some can be habit
forming. Talents that support a companions
Guard most often represent physical maneuvers
or tactics that give the target an opportunity to
regain his or her feet or shake off a headache.
Sometimes the opportunity to take one slow
breath is all that is needed to boost your Guard
and get you back into the fight.

Recovering From Shock


Shock represents some condition or another

that keeps heroes from performing at their
best. To recover from any amount of Shock, the
hero needs one full days rest (see below). This
is the best way to heal Shock and is available to
all characters (including animals and monsters).
Drugs and magicks can also help a hero recover
from Shock, though other side effects may

Lingering Shock is any Shock that cannot be

healed by rest alone. Each item and magickal
Art that causes lingering Shock will delineate
how the hero can recover from it.
For example: Benjamins Glokur, Kantuush, slays the
pack of Lesser mountain lions, but the teeth of the
Fray-tainted felines caused Lingering Shock. The 13
Shock Kantuush now suffers from cannot be healed
by rest alone. The Scribe says that untained lion blood
is needed to heal the Shock. Once Kantuush finds a
Resin or Vial made with the Rare ingredient of Lion
Blood, he is set.

Healing Wounds
Heroes can heal one Wound per day through
each of the following means. Faster healing
can be very strenuous on the body and often
triggers drastic results:
Recovering from Shock and healing a single
Wound both take a full days rest in Early
Dark. A full days rest refers to an entire day
and night with no meaningful activity from
the hero. This means no leisurely trips to the
smith, no conversations over strategy, and no
studying in the library. Whenever the players
want to spend a day resting, just skip ahead to
the future. No other actions on behalf of the
heroes are allowed. No rolls are permitted. If
the scenario can afford a 24-hour pause, then
by all means let them have it. Any sleep that
results in Shock does not count as rest.
Resting heroes can receive medicinal or
magickal healing as normal since accepting aid
requires no rolls. However, any characters who
roll to heal a companion spend the day taking
care of the wounded, not healing themselves.
For example: Heyu, Jist, and Zefr are bruised and
sore after two encounters with Gryn Thul, an ogre
of Spillwoods. Zefr has mediocre healing abilities as
a magicker, but if he rolls to heal one or both of his
companions, he cannot heal his Wound or recover
from Shock with the full days rest himself. The

Medical Arts
Physicians and alchemists can help heroes
heal one Wound per day, though costs could
be high. Certain medical abilities can increase
this number so long as the needed materials
and environment can be assured. Check out
the Medics Art on page 310 and Alchemy on page
For example: Clydes hero, Amyntas Num, feels the
sting of Gelek Yudors tainted sword-edge in a crucial
battle near Emluk. His physician Familiar rolls eight
Mundane Dice in a Fight-Thrive Footing to heal
Amyntas. Because Amyntas is suffering from two
Wounds, the Difficulty is set at 4. The healing saps
one RPR from Amyntas and his physician each.
Rolling a 4-Tack, the Familiar narrowly passes
the Check. He uses 8 doses of Common Ingredients
to make the roll because he was not able to build a
Talent on the side to deploy Efficiency. This is all


party decides that everyone should heal up. Kelly says,

Okay. Zip. Next day. No role-playing takes place,
and each character heals one Wound and erases all
Shock. If anything traumatic were to occur in that
24-hour period, Kelly would have interrupted the
down time and let the heroes respond at the risk of
forfeiting their rest.

the healing Amyntas can accept this day. Mundane

medical treatment causes no Shock.
Or: Dereks Vayok, Runnaw, seeks an alchemist from
whom to purchase two Recovery Resins. Together,
they take up 1 Load. In combat, Runnaw can use a
Resin with an Advantage, giving him 1d10 Guard.
A Health Resin he also purchaes will heal a single
Wound and deal Shock according to the solvent used
in its creation, in this case Black Oil.
Magick Arts
Heroes can enjoy magickal healing once per
day, whether in combat or out. The healing
of extra Wounds is possible with High Heal,
though straining the body in such a way results
in Lingering Shock of one kind of another.
For example: Stephanie Takemotos character, Kiwaki,
seeks healing from a wizard. Outside combat, the
magicker rolls Cunning-Relate at a Difficulty of
4. Easily enough, Kiwaki heals the single Wound,
though this is her second of the day. She suffers an
amount of Lingering Shock equal to the spells Wager.
The Scribe sets a method of healing that fits the
nature of the Wound and the Source of the casting:
Kiwaki must receive a blessing from someone using
the Chant Art before healing the Shock with rest.


Labor & Traveling

Traveling the world of Early Dark is a risky
undertaking. Away from areas densely
populated by humans, dangers lurk both
unchecked and unknown. To make things
worse, the tiring effects of covering ground
often combine with the weakening effects of
sleeping on the road. Spending nights outdoors
is rarely a routine Matter in a world where
nightfall comes early and morning fog lingers


Many heavily traveled roads cut through

regions where, not ten yards from the
trail, wilderness unseen by human eyes for
centuries lingers. Not all who wander are lost
to predators fierce and myriad, but no wise
traveler diverts from the road lightly. Maps are
often crude and mistaken. They aid in traveling
from one place to another by representing
common journeys and landmarks geometrically.
The shapes drawn on such maps rarely follow
anything close to the lay of the land, and a map
can rarely be used for anything other than the
particular voyage it was made to depict.

Strenuous Labor
Heroes can often come upon tasks unrelated
to combat. Feats of strength or dexterity, trials
of endurance, battles of witsthese could all
be actions that drain a heros energy. The cost
of performing such labors is rarely a bleeding
Wound, but tiring the body could be equally
dangerous should trouble arise when the hero
craves rest.
Exertion Damage: An amount of Shock the
hero suffers from strenuous activity, equal to his
or her Labor Aptitude. Most activity that tires
the hero will deal an amount of Shock equal
to his or her Labor. When pushed to the edge,
however, players could suffer as much as their
Labor Aptitude plus any amount of Load they
are carrying. This, of course, is at the Scribes


Scribes may use Exertion as part of any

laborious or significantly arduous Check. This

is also good for tasks that take less than an

entire day, such as climbs, short sprints, and
other physical contests. Adding elements of
Exertion to an otherwise simple Check or Save
is a common way to build something more
complex or costly.
For example: Chris Gunnings Edish swordsman,
Taron, wants to scale the high tower in Dunbri in
hopes of reaching the lords emprisoned half-brother.
The Scribe calls for Exertion Damage as Taron
reaches the top, even though he passed the Trial.
Exertion damage can also be used as a
punishment for failing Saves without holding
back the narrative. This can be used to add
risk to Saves that will nevertheless result in
passing the assigned task.
For example: Brandons caster, Kleitos, has to leap
from one high tower to the next, chasing down Taron.
The Difficulty of the leap is set at 4, but Brandon rolls
only a Force of 3. To keep the narrative moving, the
Scribe demands Exertion damage for Kleitos to grab a
window part-way down the tower.

Characters cover ground on foot according
to their Move Aptitude. Over level grassland,
characters can cover a number of leagues up
their Move Aptitude in a single day without
exerting themselves. This means a hero with
a Move of 3 could march three leagues (about
9 miles) in a day without suffering the next
morning. Any time a character covers a number
of leagues more than his or her Move Aptitude
in one day (up to twice that amount), the
character takes Exertion as described above.
This represents the sore muscles and worn out
lungs a days worth of work invites.
For example: A character with a Move of 3 and
a Labor of 6 would suffer no Shock whenever he
covers three leagues or less in a single day. The same
character, covering six leagues (about 18 miles) in a
single day, would suffer 6 points of Shock plus a point
for each Load he was carrying.

Or: A party of five adventurers marches over the

Summer Field, crossing into Lower Edrada from
the foothills of the Cataract Mountains. The partys
fastest hero has a Move of 6; three members have a
Move of 3; and the slowest hero has a Move of 2. They
are stalking the Meris Horde, a clutter of Goblins
that has been terrorizing the countryside of Meris for
two generations. The fewer nights the party spends
outdoors, the better, and so the group decides to march
at a rate of 4 leagues per day (limited by the slowest
character). The first hero suffers no Shock from the
brisk hike; the other four members all suffer Exertion
according to their respective Labor Aptitudes because
they are pushed beyond their normal levels.

Sticking to roads can dramatically increase
travel time. Roads, although human
constructions, are the standard for travel rates
in Early Dark. See page 271 for the dangers
associated with traveling along a road.
Traveling over wilderness is more dangerous
and slower going. Scribes can use the following
chart to limit the speed with which parties
cover certain terrain.

Travel Ratio
Rolling Hills:
Sharp Hills:
Crags, Forest:
Dense Forest, Marsh:
For example: A party that must travel 2 leagues
through a marsh would determine Exertion as though
covering 8 leagues in the day.

As a basic guideline, allow the animal to move

up to twice its Move Aptitude in leagues per
day without any Exertion. Pushing the animal
harder would be at the discretion of the Scribe.


Shock is generally healed after a full days rest

(not just a nights sleep). The Scribe, however, is
the final arbiter of how quickly heroes recover
from Shock. Multiple days of marching, for
example, may compound Shock exponentially.

Mounts and vehicles can cut down on travel
times, but riding steeds and piloting vehicles
will still take a toll on the heros (and the
transporters) energy levels. Scribes can
determine when heroes must roll Exertion
damage because of a day spent in the saddle
or at the helm. Use the Move Aptitude
of the mount or vehicle to determine the
maximum distance one can travel in a day just
as you would with a human. The speed of the
transportation is another matter entirely, with
averages determined by the particular mount.

Camping & Sleeping

Whenever the party sleeps away from the
normal comforts of beds and shelter, they
suffer Shock penalties similar to Exertion.
The Scouting Art can reduce or eliminate this
penalty. In most cases, sleeping on the street,
in a hallway, out of doors, or while in transit
will result in a small penalty that heals after one
days rest.
Rough climates affect even those groups
blessed with a scout. Unless the scout has
a certain Mastery to combat the particular
extreme climate, the party suffers the entire
penalty below. These are, in other words, all or
nothing penalties.
Torture or forced labor can increase these
penalties, and most dungeons are specifically
designed to offer the greatest possible penalties
to Guard Recovery rolls. Though these
penalties will come into play any time the
character sleeps outside normal conditions,
each gaming group may define those boundaries

Shock Penalties for Camping

Outdoors, Street
Extreme Climate, Siege
Torture, Forced Labor



Monsters & Encounters

The world of the Hara Sea hosts a wide
range of animals, beasts, and monsters. Most
monsters are Fell creatures of some kind,
ogres of one strain or another who exist
not as members of a natural species but as
the twisted byproducts of Blood Magick.
Powerful mundane animals, however, can be
equally as dangerous; inhabiting the lands
that surrounding the Hara Sea are all kinds of
megafauna, large, prehistoric animals long dead
in our own time.


And, deadliest of all to your heroes are rival

humans. Every hero acts toward the interests of
one tribe or people and against the interests of
others. We are a species familiar with turmoil,
though the rare hero may bring rival factions
and peoples together, acting against the voices
of oppression and war, finding a way to forge
new alliances and birth new cultures.
The Scribe can decide how the location of the
party would factor into the charts below. For
example, if the party is camping just outside
a small village, would they roll on the Town,
Village table or the Charted Wilderness
table? In most cases, the Scribe is the best one
to make the decision. It may be useful to keep
in mind that cities would provide a larger radius
of settled land than a village. Cities may have
a circle of Charted Wilderness fifty leagues
across, whereas a remote town may have a
radius only a single league across.
Use these for random encounters, as a
deterrent for groups who naively visit the
seedy underbellies of certain environments,
or as bases for building more significant
encounters. When groups travel through
especially dangerous areas or scurry about at
night, Scribes may decide to add a 1, 2, or 3 to
the number rolled ahead of time. For more on
building complete encounters, see the various
sections of Poetics (345 and onward).
Use the following charts to determine the
frequency of encountering random hostiles in
the world of Early Dark:


This category covers the regular
probabilities of encountering thieves and
other enemies in cities. Urban environments
are densely populated, and old cities
generally build more up than over, stacking
new structures atop old structures more
often than next to them. Many cities
develop vertical layers of activity: the
rooftops for thieves; the canopies for the
wealthy, terraced houses; lower levels for
servants and commoners; hollows, corners,
and alleyways for less desirables; and
undersprawls or catacombs for the darkest
and most monstrous of the residents.
0-2- Nothing
3- Single Thief
4- Swarm of Young Animals
5- Gang of Thugs
6- Pack of Adult Animals
7- Official Guards or Sentries Attack
8- Adult Beast Escapes its Keeper
9- Greater Beast from Beneath Awakens

Town, Village
Towns and small villages would have
different dangers than a city. These dangers
represent the kinds of hostile situations
a party could find itself in when staying
in a rural or lightly settled area. These
encounters could occur within the town
itself or just outside the camp in nearby
0-3- Nothing
4- Magicker with Minions
5- Warrior with Magickal Familiars
6- Group of Bandits
7- Pack of Young Animals
8- Pack of Adult Animals
9- Greater Animal

Uncharted Wilderness
Uncharted wilderness represents those
places that may not have seen a human
visitor for a generation or more. Some
regions, even in the areas that surround
the Hara Sea, may not have heard the
step of human feet in centuries. These
places are particularly dangerous because
the environment is likely hostile to
the disturbance and almost certainly

0- Desperate Bandit
1- Desperate Adult Animal
2- Dishonest Merchant
3- Honest Merchant
4- Patrolling Guards for the Local
5- Bandit Lord with Minions
6- Bandit Lord with Magickal Familiars
7- Greater Animal with Minions
8- Adult Fell Beast with Magickal Familiars
9- Caught between Rival Adult Fell Beasts

0-1- Nothing
2- Adult Animal
3- Pack of Adult Animals
4- Greater Animal
5- Adult Fell Beast
6- Pack of Greater Animals
7- Pack of Adult Fell Beasts
8- Greater Fell Beast
9- Greater Fell Beast with Magickal

Charted Wilderness
Charted wilderness represents those areas
frequently traveled by humans without a
strong permanent settlement. Large fields,
marshes, rivers, and forests could all be
considered Charted Wilderness. The party
will be sleeping outside, but could expect
to come across a traveler or two on the
journey. These would be the pathways of
scouts and merchants, even if no road has
been constructed.

This table can be used when rolling for
random encounters inside the ruins of the
Empire. Whether below the catacombs of
Ugurlu or in an overgrown temple found
deep in the forest, ruins are extremely
foreboding places, the tombs and burrows
of creatures long feared and long avoided.

0-2- Nothing
3- Desperate, Hostile Human
4- Hostile Band of Humans
5- Pack of Adult Animals
6- Adult Fell Beast
7- Greater Animal
8- Pack of Adult Fell Beasts
9- Pack of Greater Animals


Roads bring special dangers with them.
Thieves are common, as are the less
predictable raiders and animal predators.
Use this table when the party travels along
a stretch of landscape dominated by the
presence of the road. A strip almost a mile
wide would straddle the road, creating this
particular atmosphere of danger. Beyond
that, the Scribe can decide if the region is
Charted or Uncharted as below.

0- Single Tomb Raider

1- Pack of Young Fell Beasts
2- Group of Tomb Raiders
3- Adult Fell Beast
4- Adult Fell Beast with Minions
5- Adult Fell Beast with Magickal Familiar
6- Pack of Adult Fell Beasts
7- Greater Fell Beast
8- Caught Between Rival Greater Fell
9- Elder Fell Beast


Chapter the Fifth

Heraldry of Names
People change over time, and so do heroes. In the following chapter you will learn about
the two-fold system for improving and upgrading your hero in Early Dark. This system
incorporates Pages (awards for accomplishing heroic deeds and completing quests) and
Renown (your heros popularity and fame among the people). Pages are used to unlock upgrades, which are then bought with Renown points. This chapter also covers Followers and
how to attract helpers. Without the occasional aide, heroes could not last as long on the
forefront of conflict.
All of experience in Early Dark focuses on the Epithet, a new title or moniker your hero
earns by being great.

The Hikjin Vayok of Wagshigaad settle around the fire for a song. The visiting
Weshbjorg bard begins with a game for the children, who nestle a newly weaned
wolf cub. The summer months are chilly, but enough sun hits the island to grow
short grains for flat bread and beer. The rest of the Vayok diet consists of meat
from the hunts.


Experience & Epithets


Early Dark accounts for learning and

experience with a system of Renown, Pages,
and Epithets. Because the game takes
place in the realm of myth and story, heroes
increase their powers and abilities by inspiring
narratives their forebears will tell and by
gaining new names and titles for which they
will be remembered. Cultures all over the world
use epithets or alternative titles to represent
key heroic figures in their mythic texts, and no
true hero goes through life with only one name.
An Epithet is a name that a character gets for
accomplishing or proving him or herself, thus
gaining renown. The people one encounters
in myth and story are remembered for the
feats they accomplish; it is what they do that
decides what we call them and how they are
remembered. Keeper of the Flame, Slayer
of Madu, and She Who Set the Riverit
is these kinds of Epithets that etch places for
these people in the pages of history. In Early
Dark, Epithets are the only way to refine and
acquire new Arts, increase Aptitudes, learn new
Talents, gain additional Wounds, and increase
Domain Dice.
As characters come into contact and interact
with more influential and popular artifacts,
places, and people, Pages will be written
about the superhuman deeds displayed. New
Epithets will be created to remember the
heroes of these tales. Characters must then
spend the Renown earned during play to
appropriate those new Epithets, attaching
them to their heroes, spreading the word that it
was indeed they who accomplished these feats.
In this way the Epithet system functions in
much the same way as leveling-up does in other
games, but aspires to do so in a more organic
and narrative way.

Creating Epithets: Pages


Pages measure a particular storys fame and

growing audience, estimating how many scrolls
and parchments will eventually hold the various
versions of one tale or another. Acts of heroism

large and small can build marvelous stories

that eventually fill thousands of Pages. New
Epithets are created for a hero only when a
suitable heap of Pages is gained all at once. To
construct a new Epithet one hero or another
hopes to gain, these Page thresholds must be
met by a single quest, tale, or narrative. This
means that in order to increase in power and
ability, heroes must continually reach new
heights of influence and exposure, generating
bigger myths and more worthy legends.
The following chart shows the Page
requirements for each new Epithet the hero
will build. Notice that the Back Story Epithet
has no Page requirement because heroes
begin the game with this Epithet unlocked
already. Keep in mind that the rewards
associated with every new Epithet transfer to
the character only after 50 Renown is spent to
appropriate that new title or name. That is to
say unlocking an Epithet and appropriating
that Epithet are two different moments of
development. The first moment happens just
after the quest is completed when the player
decides what new bonuses to claim, while the
second moment happens later when the player
spends 50 Renown to actually gain the bonuses

Epithet Page Requirements

Back Story Epithet
Second Epithet
Third Epithet
Fourth Epithet
Fifth Epithet
Sixth Epithet
Seventh Epithet
Eighth 2500
Ninth 3000
Tenth 3500
The chart opposite is an aid for Scribes.
Arranged along four axes, this chart sets up

Axis Page Amounts

People Peasant
Artifacts Heirloom
Places Village
Enemies Guard

Local Fetish
Adult Beast

Named Blade
Lesser Beast

how to assign a Page estimate to particular

scenes or actions in the campaign. Any
given scene may include one axis or all four,
depending on the significant elements of the
scene or story being told. Not only must players
work hard to raise themselves to new heights
with each Epithet, Scribes have to come up
with bigger and broader narratives to give
heroes a chance to gain more fame, renown,
and fortune.

For example: Heyu, Zefr, Serseus, and Amos save the

merchants daughter (Person 50) from the clutches of a
monstrous arcane spirit (Enemy 200) underneath the
city of Ugurlu (Place 500) while wielding the Blade
of Reanimation (Artifact 1000).
Kelly asks herself: Will this be written in the
daughters biography? Probably so, she thinks. 50
Pages so far. Will this be told in the tales of that
particular spirit? Of course, at the very end of each
telling. 250. Will this be remembered in the records of
Ugurlu? Probably not, since the scope of the scene did
not influence a large part of the city. Still only 250 so
far. Will the Blade of Reanimation be remembered
as the blade that slew the beast? Again, probably not,
since the sword has already done much grander deeds
with much grander heroes. So, the overall scene offers
250 Pages.

Kings & Queens
Empire Relic
Imperial Court
Lesser Dragon

That is enough for players with only two Epithets

to create a third based on the tale. If players already
have three or more Epithets, then something a little
more epic needs to be undertaken to earn them later
names and titles.
As soon as the heroes complete the narrative
that births a new Epithet, they should set
about fleshing out the new Epithet as they did
during character creation, fitting 50 Renown
worth of rewards and bonuses into each (see
below). Although the party will unlock Epithets
together (since they engage in the same
adventures) they do not need to choose similar
Epithets at all. The best Epithets will somehow
reflect both the conflicts that generated them
and the unique personalities of the heroes


After each scenario, quest, or event, the Scribe

measures the partys influence along each axis
on the Page chart above. The question she
asks herself for each axis is simple: Will this
particular scene be written in the history of this
object? In the biography of this person? In the
records of this city or region? In the tales and
fables of this beast? The highest applicable level
along each axis is then awarded to the players.

Magick Blade
Greater Beast

For example: In the above scenario, the 250 Pages

estimated are enough to unlock Jists third Epithet.
Andrew chooses Tender of the Darkest Flames for
Jist. This reflects the consuming ball of fire Jist used to
extinguish the wicked spirits life as well as the dark
cult that the merchant belonged to, The Darkest Sons,
the reason his daughter was in the hands of an ancient
evil in the first place.
Specific characters, objects, or places can take
individual Page values along their respective
axis. These might come up in a quest of the
Scribes design or in supplemental materials
released by Anthropos Games.
For example: The city of Chethahan may be a Place
worth 200 Pages (the standard value for a city),
whereas Lokod could be worth 350 (somewhere
between Chethahan and Ugurlu). A city designed by
the Scribe might be worth 700 Pages (a mythic city
with a million inhabitants all lost to history).


Filling Out an Epithet

Epithets are the new names, titles, and
monikers of your heroes. They represent
plateaus of experience, levels that reflect
processes of slow growth and noticeable
breakthroughs. Characters advance by earning
new names as their fame spreads across
the world. Every Epithet is filled with a
combination of Arts, Talents, Augments, and
Aptitudes. Each is appropriated as a whole with
50 Renown. No remainders are allowed, and no
Epithet can be expanded or contracted to fit a
particular progression or need.


Arts must be purchased at each level, in

three different Epithets. The Raw Art
can be included in an early Epithet for 10
Renown. The Low Art must be purchased in
a later Epithet for 20 Renown. Finally, the
High Art can be fit into a later Epithet at
30 Renown. Also, two of the same Augment
cannot be placed in a single Epithet.
Raw Art, Augment
Low Art, Talent
High Art, Aptitude

10 Renown
20 Renown
30 Renown

For example: Jists newest Epithet, Tender of the

Darkest Flames, offers him a small set of rewards and
new abilities. He upgrades his Flash Fire from Low
to High for 30 Renown, adds a +1 Augment to his
Ground Trait, and picks up Raw Martial Arts so he
can start using his Arcane Dice in unarmed combat.
He receives none of these rewards, however, until
he spends 50 Renown purchasing the entire package
at once. After Andrew purchases the bundle, he will
decide what to do with the two Stars.

Stars: Dice & Wounds

Each Epithet, once purchased, also makes
available two Stars for the hero. Stars are used
to increase a heros Dice and Wounds. Since
some Stars will be saved for later and not spent
right away, Stars that are spent need to be
marked as such. Whenever a Star is spent, the
player should fill in the white shape next to the
Epithet. Purchase upgrades according to the
following chart:


Cost in Stars

5-6 1
10-13 3

When heroes acquire new Epithets, either

during character creation or after a particularly
worthy scene or narrative, they do not gain the
uard ie 4
rewards right away. The Epithet is unlocked,
but each must then be appropriated
ound 2
individually with Renown. This represents
the time it takes to make
the new title familiar as part
of the heros personal tale.
Wolf tongue
As soon as the Epithet is
created, players may begin
Low Flash Fire, Summoning Talent, Raw Restore Object
referring to themselves by the
alternate name or title. Once
it is purchased, commoners
He Who Smokes the Caves
and kings alike will be able to
recognize the character by his
Raw Summon Fiend, +1 DPD & TPT Aug., Disarm
or her Epithet alone.



Jists First Three


Keeper of the Darkest Flames

High Flash Fire, +1 Ground Aug., Raw Martial Arts


Option: Establishing a Pace

A point of Renown is the basic unit of experience in Early Dark. At the beginning of each
campaign, the group may decide on a fixed amount of Renown that will be available during
each session of play. This is a simple way to decide how much role-playing is required to play
to Alignments (see the next section) and how closely the characters need to follow their social
roles. This also adds an element of competition among the players.
Considerations on how much Renown should be awarded each session might include how often
the group hopes to meet, how fast players want their characters to advance, and how long the
campaign will last. In-game factors could include what kind of myth the group has decided to
tell and who the main characters are, the style of play the group hopes to embody, and what
kinds of heroes the setting or conflict requires (fresh faces, or seasoned veterans).
This works by each player bringing along a certain amount of Renown to each session. The
total pot of Renown is then up for grabs, with players competing to gain as much as they can
from the pot. This number can be any amount but works best somewhere between 10 and 20
per player. An average player might take four or five sessions to purchase an Epithet, whereas
a skilled player with rich Alignments may take only three. All Renown taxes paid during the
session, go back into the nights pot, the points continually circulating.
For example: Kelly and the players chat as characters are created, deciding that each gaming session will
be worth 10 Renown per player. Some characters will earn more or less than 10 Renown each meeting,
depending on how the session goes. With five players in a campaign that hopes to meet once a week, the Scribe
is handing out an Epithet worth (50 Renown) per night!


Alignments & Renown

Alignments are the only way to gain Renown
in Early Dark. They are the basis of character
development and growth. Rather than your
hero being tied to a set of abstract principles
or beliefs, he or she is aligned with a particular
group, faction, or relationship. It is through
these Alignments to real people that your hero
gains values and motives to act. Each character
is enmeshed in a complicated, organic network
of people and places; ideas and principles are
secondary, derived from one groups interests
and goals. This network of relationships
to others takes shape out of the various
Alignments your character takes.


Alignments and Followers are earned through

role-playing and do not need to be purchased
in Epithets. Maintaining such relationships,
however, requires time and energy: Alignments
require an Investment, and Followers demand

At the beginning of the campaign, each hero
will have a small number of Alignments (set
by the particular Milieu selected) all with an
Investment of 1 Renown. When characters
fulfill their Alignments, they gain Renown and
influence. When they disappoint or violate
their Alignments, they lose Renown.
Wagering on and playing to Alignments
are the only ways heroes earn Renown in
Early Dark.


Gaining Renown
Each relationship, whether to a Membership,
Profession, Quest, Patronage, Rivalry, or
Romance demands an Investment from the
hero. Each time the hero plays to one of his
or her Alignments, the character receives an
amount of Renown equal to the Investment.
A simple common law might be used to
determine when a character has successfully
played to one of his or her Alignments: He

or she rolls at least one Check, one Save, and

one Bout; and the player engages in a little roleplaying. If the character fails one or more of
the rolls but continues with the process, he or
she should still get the Renown. This will offer
an incentive for trying heroic deeds that push
characters beyond certain victory.
For example: Heyu has a Membership in a local
thieves guild in Lokod with an Investment of 3.
Each time Heyu undertakes a dangerous heist, he
has a chance to earn 3 Renown. Early in the night,
Tauno makes a Burgling Check at a Difficulty of 4
to case a prominent merchants estate. Heyu slips in
and retrieves some small pieces of art to fence while
scanning for larger vaults or heavily guarded areas. A
few days later in game, Heyu rolls a Bout against one
of the merchants servants in hopes of gaining extra
information but fails. Two hours of role-playing and
some skirmishes with city guards later, Heyu makes a
Clamber Save slipping into the merchants backyard.
Kelly gives Tauno 3 Renown even though the heist is
still underway.
Or: Chris Gunning gave his Edish swordmaster,
Taron, a high Investment in the Neferatha Imperial
Cult, 4. He works as a mercenary and middle-rank
member. Taron gains 4 Renown for playing to this
Alignment when he alerts a spy for the cult in Dunbri
that a large shipment of gold is being sent to a rival
cult in Anishad. He raids the shipment for his cult.
Losing Renown
Whenever a hero falls out of line, ignores, or
plays against one of his or her Alignments,
the character is taxed an amount of
Renown equal to his or her Investment.
Furthermore, whenever a hero pushes on an
Alignment, stressing or putting pressure on
the relationship, he or she is also taxed the
Invested number of Renown.
For example: Although the two are friends, Jist has
a Rivalry with Serseus. Andrew has fueled this
personal vendetta with an Investment of 2. After Jist
and Serseus successfully slaughter Englos, the centuryold troll of Spillwoods, Serseus is deified in the eyes of
the locals while Jist is pushed aside. Andrew decides
not to pursue the Rivalry with an open duel and

suffers a tax of 2 Renown against his Alignment. He

bides his time, however, and plans more than one
scheme at Serseuss expense to earn him that Renown
Or: Kiwaki, Stephanie Takemotos Alagoth runaway,
loses 3 Renown when she pushes on her Patronage
to the Fey spirit of Eter Rock. Kiwaki petitions the
spirit to supply a mount from among the wild horses
of the Bowls, asking a favor and paying a tax.

Note that the access and power granted by

Alignments are often more useful than coin
money. When your hero needs something
rare or costly, it is most readily gained by
playing to or pushing on the relevant
Alignment. A small settlement will be
unlikely to sell a magick object used by its
elders or an especially fine spear shared by
its hunters. What good is money outside the
city that coined it? The economy of a dark
age is based more on authority and tradition
than on any amount of shiny metal.
Wagering Renown
Another popular way to gain or lose Renown in
Early Dark is through individual wagers with
the Scribe. The player decides on a task or
action that falls within the boundaries of one
Alignment or another and stakes the Invested
amount of Renown on the outcome. This lets
the players decide how important an action is
for each Alignment and whether or not there
would be consequences in the life of the hero
regarding its success or failure.

Or: While at the ancient estate home of House

Heron in the Kuludo Highlands, Dereks Khazil hero
overhears a conversation among sabu about the poor
craftsmanship of their new blades. Derek offers Kelly
a wager: Can I wager along two Alignments at the
same time? If I can make a sword to impress these
guys, I want to count that toward my Profession as a
swordsmith (Investment of 2) and my Membership
in the Hashuka Clan (Investment of 3), since I would
potentially gain favor for my clan over whichever
clan currently forges blades for these sabu. Kelly
agrees, the wager being worth 5 Renown. Derek needs
to score some great Craft rolls and do a little selfmarketing to win over the Sabu critics.


Or: Howards character Deklak has a Profession as a

smith with an Investment of 1. When Deklak needs a
rare piece of equipment for his next adventure, Kelly
lets Howard know that a smith would have to draw
on personal favors and convince many townsfolk of
the quests necessity to cover the cost to the village.
Howard pays a 1 Renown tax, pushing on his
reputation as a smith, and receives the equipment
from a reluctant elder. As soon as Deklak plays to
his smithing, by crafting or repairing a weapon for
example, he can earn back that Renown in the eyes of
the town.

For example: Johns awkward magicker, Zefr, has a

Membership in his Crown Caste with an Investment
of 3. He is a respected Crown with quite a few
underlings that work at his temple of residence in
Tiantip, the Tree City. Traveling over the foothills
of Lower Edrada, John is attacked by a caravan of
Alagoth merchants with an accompanying druid,
hated enemies of the Neferatha Crowns. John offers,
Ill wager 2 Renown I can kill that Loom-monkey
druid in two Rounds Kelly responds, I wasnt
planning on making him all that combative, but I can
offer him a few Augments and let you try that out.
John nods.

Or: Kleitos Romance with the Edish Lady Keliwael

(Investment of 2) keeps him around the environs of
Lokod. When news is spread that her family is taking
a trip across the Sea to Gundrada, Brandon offers
Kelly a wager: Can I get 2 Renown for signing up
as a bodyguard on the trip? Kelly responds, Well,
to make it a wager, there would need to be some
risk. How about you attempt to become captain of
the guard for the journey? Youll have to outsmart
or out-sword the current captain. Brandon agrees.
Kelly makes the try out process a few Bouts with the
competing mercenary and a Save or two that allow
Kleitos companions to follow. This begins to resemble
playing to the Alignment anyway.
Depending on the spirit of the group,
wagering could become the primary way
Renown is distributed during play.


Scribes can also offer Renown wagers

throughout the course of a campaign, tugging
on the strings of a heros social relationships
and affinities. Ignoring the requests of those
connected to your Alignment often results in a
tax on that relationship.
For example: When Kantuushs party finds itself
knee-deep in snow, fourteen leagues into the Vaankur
wilderness, Kelly rolls up an Adult Fell Beast on the
Random Encounter Table (271). She decides to hit the
party with a Giant. She declares that all the Khazil
heroes can gain Renown equal to the Investment
in their Clan Membership by killing the giant in
three Rounds, winning fame and protecting nearby
settlements. The majority of the party votes to sneak
around the brute, giving the Khazil heroes no chance
to attempt the challenge. The wager is not taken, so
neither a reward nor a tax occurs.


Or: Vuul Hara, Ericks ambidextrous cutpurse-mage,

has an Investment of 5 in his Patronage with the
dark Fray beast, Alishwari Anushi. When the nighimmobile beast speaks through the wind to the young
magicker, Vuul hears: I require a fresh body, my
servant. Find me a new shape that I might assimilate
and fill with my lifeblood. Can I trust you to complete
this task, little pet? Erick has plans for the 5 Renown
this new assignment could earn him. Although in the
middle of another quest with his party, he asks the
players, Hey, can we keep an eye out for an adequate
sacrifice? I will cover any costs we incur following
the tangent. The players agree, and Erick accepts the
Conflicting Alignments
It is possible that a hero could develop
Alignments that will, at times, conflict with one
another. The more Alignments in play, the more
often conflict will arise. In these instances, the
player has to decide which Alignment takes


For example: Robs Sabu officer, Mefun Doja of House

Tiku, has an Alignment to his Sabu Caste and to his
Doja Family. When his cousin is convicted of war
crimes in Edrada and Mefun is sent to capture him,
Rob must choose between his conflicting Alignments.
Mefun helps his cousin, earning the 2 Renown from
his Family Membership but losing the 4 from his
Membership to the Sabu Caste.

Changing an Investment
Each session, players can raise or lower the
Investment of one Alignment by 1 Renown
through role-playing. The Investment rank
of any one Alignment is always limited by the
heros Investment Limit Trait, which is
attached to the Guile Aptitude.
Increasing your characters Investment in
a particular Alignment represents not only
the heros growing attachment to that group
or pursuit. Investments also measure how
much the group relies on and values the hero.
Promotions in the group hierarchy come
alongside higher Investments, which offer the
hero more resources and more social power. To
gain these promotions, heroes would need to
be engaged with the Alignment and role-play a
suitable path to the higher position.
For example: On the hunt for his runaway cousin
in Upper Edrada, Mefun begins to questions his
allegiance to the Sabu. All the wars, the petty honor
disputes... After choosing to aid his cousin against the
wishes of his commanding Tiku offier, Rob lowers
Mefuns Sabu Caste Alignment by 1.
Forging New Alignments
Heros can take on a new Alignment with the
prescribed tax of 1 Renown. This could take a
great degree of in-game role-playing, however.
An Alignment represents the connections and
shared paradigm of a group of people, and these
are rarely forged lightly. The collective would
have to accept the hero as one of them, and the
hero would have to be both consciously and
unconsciously shaped by the new Alignment.
For example: Runnaw, Dereks Hashuka Vayok, finds
himself wandering the wastelands of Gundrada,
hunting a legendary Red Stag. He comes across a
village and has the opportunity of becoming their
patron. It sounds interesting, so Derek agrees. Now,
Runnaw feels obliged to protect the people while he
resides in the area, and hell be gaining Renown. Also,
they will be fulfilling their end and supporting him.
Losing an Alignment
Turning your back on a network that has given
you a worldview, a system of values, and a way
of life can be traumatizing. If a hero does lower

an Alignment to zero, functionally erasing

it, the Scribe may decide to offer a stigma or
lasting effect. An especially secret or intimate
group may not let one of its flock leave easily,
and the grueling trials of initiation rites are
surpassed only by the trials of cutting ties with
the faction. Ending a Romance, for example,
may result in a Rivalry. Leaving a Membership
may give the hero a Quest to get free from the

Renown & Followers

For example: Taron, Chris Gunnings Edish bearing

the Hawk and the Cougar, relinquishes his ties to
his Profession. Taron rarely works as a sculptor any
longer, and Chris does not want to put effort into
raising Tarons Craft and Artistry Arts. When Taron
finally reduces the Investment to zero, he and the
Scribe role-play a falling out with Tarons latest client.
No longer does the Edish swordmaster hold onto his
roots as a citizen, a lawful life. He no longer views
the world as a finely-tuned work of art. Instead, the
world seems cold; the frivolties of day-to-day life
among the citizens of Dunbri are forgotten. The lost
Alignment is a total change in worldview.

For example: Clyde pays a tax for his animal Minion

at the beginning of the nights session of Early Dark.
If the Minion is lost in combat and new Minions are
hired to pick up the slack, Amyntas Num would be
charged a Renown tax for appropriating the new
Followers as well (even though he had paid just a
moment ago for the animal that died quickly).

Yes, these methods for winning and losing

Renown are both qualitative and broad.
At the same time, these methods are
unavoidably social and self-regulating.
The group itself will decide how to define
playing to and pushing on Alignments.
Wagers are decided publicly, drawing input
from the Scribe and every player assembled.
The debates and discussions that emerge
from handling Alignments and settling
wagers will define what kind of game is
being played and how everyone wants to
play it. Reward bravado and humor if you
like. Reward subtlety and role-playing
prowess if that is what the game is about for
you. It should be up to you, the players, how
difficult it is to advance your heroes and
how careful everyone must be building and
sharing the world of the narrative. Common
laws, guidelines, and rhythms will inevitably
develop within a group that govern how
Renown is dispensed.

With a high Upkeep Discount Trait, players

can reduce the tax of all Followers to zero. The
Trait works on all Followers as a group, not on
each individual Follower. Higher Discounts can
make more powerful Followers available to the
hero, a good use of the Relate Aptitude.


Outrageously Qualitative

Followers require Upkeep, which takes the

form of a tax paid in Renown by the hero each
session such Followers are in play. Upkeep could
be envisioned as a kind of mini-Alignment. This
tax represents the hero sharing his or her fame
with Followers and balances out the benefits of
having extra hands in combat.

Gaining Followers
All new Followers are gained through roleplaying, and many in-game factors would
decide how hard or easy it is to gain a Follower.
Some Minions come quite easily to the hero,
requiring the player to pay the Upkeep tax and
little else. Others would demand coin payment
or certain actions from your hero.
For example: Kiwaki, Stephanie Takemotos Alagoth
weaver, has been traveling with a group of druids
for many months. She has become friends with many
among the Circle, and asks to convert one of them
into a Retainer. Stephanie pays 2 Renown, one for
each Attack she wants: Thread Stalk and Unravel.
She can deploy the druid as a Minion, Retainer, or
Familiar depending on the situation each session.
Advancing Followers
When a player values a particular Follower
highly, he or she can set the Follower up
for advancement. This is as easy as giving
an Alignment to the Follower and letting
it participate in the daily competition for


Followers come in three forms: Minions,
Retainers, and Familiars. Minions represent
battle-ready followers that provide important
support during combat. Retainers cover
sidekicks, helpers, and creatures who have a
few important strengths but are otherwise
dependent on the hero. Familiars have a
lasting bond with the hero, often require an
independent character sheet, and take their
own turns in combat.


These rules are for Mundane Followers.

Arcane Followers, such as Elementals and
Fiends, may function differently than the


Without Animal Kinship or appropriate

Arcana, heroes take only human Followers.
All Rolls per Round are set at the beginning
of a Round. Should Followers die during a
Round, Die bonuses and special abilities
are immediately forfeit by the leader, but
RPR changes will not take effect until the
beginning of the next Round.
Each individual human counts as one
Follower. Swarms are allowed only with the
Lead Art.
Each Follower has an Upkeep, a Renown tax
that is charged each session the Followers are
in play. Players can decide each days session
whether or not any Followers present in the
party are in play for that gaming session and
available to offer bonuses.
For example: Amyntas Num has a hired Minion,
Gubar, but Clyde does not believe he will need the
extra boost Gubar provides in combat this session.
Although Gubar takes actions in the narrative and
maintains his presence in the story, he does not offer
the +1 RPR and +1 Die because Clyde decided not to
make him mechanically functional this session.


Some Followers can offer benefits to out-ofcombat rolling as well. If the hero has paid the
Renown tax, sharing his or her fame with the
Follower, then that Follower can function in
whatever capacity fits the narrative.
For example: Jist has a Minion hireling he keeps
around to offer himself a Mundane Die boost and a
little protection in combat. Outside combat, when Jist
spends an afternoon searching a small dell in the Red
Plains for some herbs, Kelly allows Andrew to roll
an extra Mundane Die on the Cunning-Touch roll
because of the hirelings presence. He has an extra set
of eyes, so it makes sense you would get the bonus, says
Or: Kinnys character, Ishwan, has a Retainer she
uses for making Loom attacks in combat. Outside
combatso long as Kinny counts the ability as part
of the Retainers Upkeep cost for that sessionKinny
can use the sage Follower to make Thread Stalking
Checks as well.
Some Followers will function as little more
than pack animals or torch-bearers. If that is
the case, they still have a mechanical effect (a
Capacity) and must be paid for with Upkeep.
Perhaps the players can work out a deal to
decide who will pay for the hireling who carries
everyones coins around in a heavy, locked chest
each day.

Minions come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and
numbers, but all Minions primary purpose is to
increase the heros potency in combat. When
protecting a village, laying siege to a fortress, or
leading others through the dense forest, heroes
will naturally attract groups of less experienced
fighters who will follow their lead. Minions are
usually kept for only a battle or two, and rarely
follow the hero off on a journey.
For Minions, the Upkeep equals the number of
Guard Dice rolled and added to the Guard Trait
when the Minion goes on Guard.

+1 RPR, +1 Die (most often Mundane), +1
Wound set by Minion
Minions are followers who act as extensions of
the leaders own body. Each minion has no stats
of its own but instead modifies the stats of the
leader. A powerful Minion may add 1 Die to two
or three Domains. This means, however, that
Minions do not require Aptitudes or Traits or
other Abilities. They are basically body shields.
When the Wound that represents the Minion
is struck, the Minion is dead. Die bonuses
are lost immediately, but the Roll per Round
modifier is not corrected until the beginning of
the next Round.

When the wolf suffers the Wound, Kantuush loses the

+1 Mundane Die but the RPR stays until the next
Round begins. Benjamin then rolls on the Dead or
Dropped Out Chart to see if the wolf is still alive
and able to be healed.
Or: Chris Gunnings character, Taron, finds himself
face to face with an Alagoth druid in the White
Forest. Winning Initiative, Kelly rolls to Summon
Elemental Minion on the druids first turn, rolling
two 3-Tacks and drawing two Minions (See 339 for
details). The Minions appear at the beginning of the
next round, when Kelly adds 2 to the druids RPR
and Mundane dice.
Following, when a hero tries to attack his or
her target, he or she must fight through the
Minions first. Scribes should qualitatively
handle how Minions play out in fights. They
mostly represent the thugs that must be dealt
with before attacks on the leader can be made.
Minions make it easy to avoid Balking on
an Advantage, becoming obvious causes for
Momentary Penalties and Disrupted Footings
for example.

A Swarm is any group of individual bodies

that functions as a single Wound in combat.
They often function as Minions of more
powerful adversaries, but they can also
stack to become powerful adversaries
in their own right. Mechanically, a Swarm
always functions as a single unit.
Some animals naturally exist as Swarms in
combat because they offer little danger to
humans in small numbers (e.g. rats, bats,
insects). The stats listed in the Almanac
for such creatures will note a Swarm
Rank, the number of physical bodies
needed to make up one viable Wound in
combat. All of the Aptitudes and Attacks
listed represent not the stats of one
individual creature, but how powerful a
Swarm of 1 Wound would be. If heroes
encounter a smaller number of such
creatures, not enough to make up a Swarm
and thus form even a single Wound, a
small Trial would be the best way to handle
destroying the foes.


For example: Benjamins powerful Vayok, Kantuush,

gathers a Lesser tundra wolf Minion. It costs
Benjamin 5 Renown each session because the wolf
has five Guard Dice. The wolf offers Kantuush a
formidable extra Wound in combat, another Mundane
Die, and +1 RPR each Round the canine is in play.


For example: Whereas one powerful hero might

have six Wounds in combat, it takes a cluster
of six rats to form an enemy with just a single
Wound. The stats listed in the Almanac
represent the capabilities of a group of six rats. If
a hero successfully Strikes the single Wound, all
six rats would be considered neutralized. A nest
of rats with three or four Wounds would function
as a single enemy with multiple Minions. One
Swarm stands in as the leader (see thief example
on next page), and each additional Swarm offers
another Die, Wound, and RPR. Alternatively, the
Scribe could create a more substantial enemy, such
as a Lesser Rat, to function as the leader of the
nest. In that case, each Swarm of six mundane rats
would be a single Minion of the more powerful
Fell rodent.
See Arranging Followers on page 353 for
more information on constructing enemies.


2 Wounds). The battle would take too long, and Kelly

has big plans for the players later that night. Instead,
Kelly creates two units of enemies. Each unit has three
thieves (one leader and two Minions). The resulting
combat takes place against these two units (each with
5 RPR and 4 Wounds) as opposed to six individual
thieves (a total of 18 RPR and 12 Wounds). The
trade-off for making the flock of thieves grouped as
two, more manageable units, however, is that each of
those units begins with 2 more Mundane Dice than
any of the thieves would have had individually.
See page 353 in Poetics for more detailed
information on arranging Followers strategically
in combat.



Retainers are important for any hero wanting

to cover his or her weaknesses. Retainers will
have a few Aptitudes or Arts stronger than
those of the hero. Players can then choose to
make any attack or defense roll from the stats
of the hero or those of the Retainer.

Turning a Group into a Single

Enemy with Minions
Many groups of enemies that seem
homogeneous will function best as a single
leader with a handful of Minions.
If you want to create an encounter with
multiple similar enemies, you can avoid long
Initiative lists by letting one enemy act as the
leader and forming the others into Minions.
There will always be one individual who
functions as the center around which the others
will gather. If all their stats are the same, then it
does not matter which individual is picked.


For example: The party comes across a group of six

thieves living in the foothills around Guna Sea. The
Scribe does not want to make a battle that includes six
thieves on the Initiative List (each with 3 RPR and

Set by the number of Attacks available to
the leader. Retainers will not have complete
freedom to use all their stats and attacks at any
time; when determining Upkeep for the gaming
session, the player decides which aspects of
the Follower are available and counts out the
number of Attacks wanted. Different sessions,
the player may spend more or less Upkeep on
the Retainer, choosing to include only those
Attacks that he or she deems necessary.
Use Retainers Aptitudes, Attacks, and
Talents; +1 RPR; +1 Wound set by Retainer
Retainers are Followers who have their
own stats, at least partially. Unlike Minions,
which simply add a buffering wall around
leaders, Retainers offer their own abilities and
skills. Securing a Retainer with a different
distribution of Dice as well as complementary
Aptitudes comes in very handy.

For example: If a hero with a low Labor wants to

move a heavy log, his Retainer can make the roll
instead. This works on turns in combat and also
some checks. The Retainer is basically a servant with
stats to offer. Wizards can summon allies and use the
summoned creatures attacks instead of their own.
The Retainer uses up the leaders turn, however, so
only one roll can be made.
Scribes decide whether or not the Retainer can
roll defense for the leader. In many cases, this
is totally fine and adds to the usefulness of the
Retainer. Retainers may only have a few stats,
or can be completely fleshed out.
The Retainer is like a body double, an ally that
can take a turn in place of the hero. In effect,
Retainers function as special abilities or
special attacks at the command of the leader,
tools ready at hand.

Familiars are the highest form of Follower and

function as true companions.
Familiars require an Upkeep equal to the
number of RPR they offer in combat. This
amount cannot exceed the Familiars own RPR
limit set by the Trait.

Familiars require full Aptitudes and Traits, Arts,

Dice, and equipment. They take up a slot in
the Initiative order and function as any other
individual hero. The player takes his or her
heros turn as normal as well as the Familiars
turn. Because Familiars have limited RPR,
they are often targeted by enemies early in
the Round. The smart player will find ways of
protecting a Familiar in combat.
Many Followers will require coin or other
payment that is not covered in the Upkeep
cost. Upkeep, the tax in Renown paid per
gaming session for use of a Follower, can
never be subsidized by other methods, as
the Upkeep represents not the resources a
Follower demands but the space they take
up in the myths written about your hero.
If a Follower demands pay, no amount of
Upkeep can get the hero out of paying the



Full Character in combat, RPR limited by
Upkeep, 1 Wound of its own

Killing Followers
All Followers have a single Wound only in
combat. Enemy Followers that suffer a Wound
are said to scatter from the leader, moving
out of play but not necessarily dying. If the
hero wants to pursue and destroy the Follower,
he or she would have to engage the Follower
in a combat in which the Follower is now
considered an independent enemy (this could
be a later combat, or a simple Trial tacked on at
the end of the current battle).
When heroes Followers are struck down,
however, they must roll on the Dead or
Dropped Out table after the conflict, 263. Some
Followers require Upkeep only when they roll
on this chart (see the Lead Art, 306).


The pain tore through him.

It was bad.
But it wasnt enough to drop him.
Kalisatha reached back and grabbed her by the shoulders and flipped her forward, throwing her
into a burning tree. She twisted her body in time to take the hit as well as she could, but even still
it jarred her shoulder out of his socket. Worse, the fire across her arm left her with a flashing burn,
a blistering patch that felt like the bites of a thousand angry fire ants.
She tried to stand, and just managed toonly to be met by a chest-cracking fist of air that
punched the air right from her lungs.
Kalisatha stomped toward her. He grabbed her once more by the throat. He lifted her high. The
breath had already gone from her lungs, and now he was closing off her throat, ensuring that life
could not easily return to her. This would be over fast.
You say I killed your brother? he asked through gritted teeth.
Weakly, she nodded.


Ive killed many. What was his name?

She tried to speak. It came out only as a breathless gurgle, naught but a whimper.
He growled and loosened his grip. Not to let her go. Just to let her speak. He had to know.
Ell she tried, then again: Ellas.
He grunted. No. I do not know Ellas.
Liar. Even choking she gave that word a bitter potency.
He shrugged. He felt the blood on his leg, and down the center of his back.
She thrashed her body in his grip, but it was a futile effort. She was like a kitten writhing in the
mouth of a bear.
I do not lie, he said. I speak truth. Truth few rarely want to hear. Even after all this, I might
spare you if you can help me, though I doubt you can. Tell me this. Do you know someone named
Her brow furrowed. A glint of recognitionthough incompleteflashed in her eyes.
He let her speak.
Nela said, Ikazamir was the one who told me about you executing my brother.
In that moment, it started to come together for him, then. A picture formed swiftly. This girls


brother was that Edish brute hed sentenced to death. Wasnt there a complication; did it matter?
What mattered was that Ikazamir had seen an opportunity, hadnt he? He saw his chance to set
this girlclearly a gifted combatant, and surely a more than competent assassinon his trail,
knowing that one day their paths would converge. And when that happened, the result would be
one of two:
Either she would kill him, or he would kill her.
And in each scenario, Ikazamir won.
In the first, he would no longer live in a world where Kalisatha was left to hunt him and expose
him for the fraud and the clumsy weaver of the Loom that he was.
In the second, hed no longer be a target of the assassin girl, and she would no longer be a thorn
in his side, and whatever the situation was with the brother, Ellas, it would all be swept under a
braided Neferatha mat.
So perfect, it almost made him appreciate Ikazamir. He liked to think that maybe the bastard
learned this from him, but that wasnt true, he knew. Ikazamir was always a scorpion, his barb
ever-venomous and forever-sharp.


But what Ikazamir never figured on was the revelation of truth.

A third option. The unexpected path.
Neither dead. Both working together to hunt the same man. He could pay her. To work for him.
To share the burden.
Kill the same man.
It had a nice ring to it.
Kalisatha smiled and tasted smoke as the forest burned.
We are the victims of deception, he said to the girl he held by the throathe dared not drop
her, not yet, not lest she reveal a hidden dagger and slit his throat as she landed. Ikazamir is the
perpetrator. He lied to you. And he flees from me. Together, we can
She reached down to her thigha smaller knife lay concealed there, too small for most battles, but
this close, with his neck only inches from hers
A sound from above. A terrible wrenchinga cracking like a gods bones broken.
He looked up.
So did the girl.
A fiery branchmassive, heavy, knobbed and knotted in twists of ironwoodfell hard and fast
and there was a whorl of smoke and a blur of light


Chapter the Sixth

Manual of Artistry
The following pages cover all of the Arts, Arcana, and Insights of Early Dark. Arts are mundane skills that heroes can use to accomplish unique objects in the world of Early Dark. If
you want your hero to be sneaky try Stealth or Suggestion. Bold characters can learn the Arts
of Lead, Presence, and Speechcraft. Each Footing is connected to a single Art so try matching
up your heros strengths to the skills that will make the most of them. Talents and Masteries
can be bought that correspond to various Arts after the Arts themselves are purchased.
Arcana encompass the abilities of wielding the Fray. There are two Arcana for each Footing
because one Aptitude will be the primary root of the Arcanum. For instance, Fight-Cunning
matches one Arcanum (Arcane Bolt), while Cunning-Fight matches another (Healing). Insights are Arts attached to the Loom Dice. To use magick, the hero must first purchase the
Talent that unlocks the Family; this is the reverse of how Mundane Talents work.

The Duadha of the White Forest became among the Alagoth the Druids. Their
magicks sustain the peoples of Lower Edrada and emanate from a faithful study
of the Loom and its many patterns. Male and female Druids explore both sides of
the Great Tapestry, some circles even venturing into the husbandry of Fell beasts.


Mundane Arts
Arts are cultural forms, traditions of
knowledge passed on through generations.
Different cultures will have diffferent arts and
technologies, but the following list represents
those skills found in all of the societies
surrounding the Hara Sea to a greater or lesser
degree. In some ways, these are sciences as
well, clouds of knowledge that help humans
solve problems or accomplish work more easily.
We use the term art because each listing
includes a broad assortment of styles, methods,
and skills. Archers in Lower Edrada, for
example, would use shorter bows than those in
Upper Edrada. The former would regularly fire
from horses in small skirmishes, while the latter
would use bows more often for hunting on foot
or in largescale warfare.
Each Art listing contains the necessary
information to help Scribes and players make
the most of each tradition.





Each Art is given a qualitative description so
players can get an idea what kind of practices
and knowledge go into the skill. Some Arts
will have specific meanings in Early Dark that
might not be obvious at first.
These include the practical, mechanical uses of
an Art: How the skills learned from the Art will
function in the game, what rolls are necessary,
what parameters contrain use, and how to
determine success.
Attacks & Abilities
Each Art contains an Attack or a set of
Abilities: Raw, Low, and High. These must
be learned in order, and each escalating level
includes the bonuses of the previous levels.
When refining your heros Arts, you must
include each new stage in separate Epithets.














For example: Raw Archery adds the Balance of

the arrow to the Attacks Strike roll. Low Archery
ignores Armor and also adds the Balance of the arrow
to Attacks.
These can be used whenever a 2-Tack lands
in a Bout (so long as the context fits). Talents
can either stand alone or augment other Tacks.
Talents that add to or improve a Primary Tack
will work only when that Primary Tack also
lands in the Bout.
These are extra effects that can be learned or
added to the Arts basic functionality. Masteries
expand the parameters of an Art or offer new
skill-sets entirely. Masteries are purchased the
same way Talents are, but they do not require a
separate Tack to deploy; they take effect every
time the Art is rolled in the prescribed context.
Most Masteries offer a slight bonus (+1 to the
Force of a roll) when a particular context exists.




















Another system used to show increased

abilities in multiple Arts represents wealth.
A purse includes however much wealth an
individual can hold on his or her person. It may
also include a particular object or item that is
carried with the same level of secrecy and care
as a money-purse might be. A household worth
of wealth includes all the items one might keep
physically in a single place. Again, this might
not represent literally an entire household of
goods. A single object, kept in a safe and hidden
in a cellar, might reflect a household of wealth;
it is protected by an entire household and
represents more wealth than one would carry
on his or her person, regardless of actual size or
weight. The largest scale of wealth is a network.
Networks of wealth include the investments,
properties, and shared items connected to
a person. A family fortune, for example,
would most often be regarded as a network as
far as theives are concerned. This can often
represent intangible wealth. Keep in mind that
much economic power comes from the social
institutions of rank and title; and these cannot
be stolen outright (they can, however, be grifted
or impersonated).



The effects of some Arts are based on broad
categories or levels that increase as the Art
is refined. Two of those systems are used to
explain multiple Arts. One of these scales
represents different mental states. An idea,
for example, represents one fact or piece of
information that could be transmitted easily in
a short phrase or as a yes or no answer. A
motive represents a broader mental state than
an idea. Motives are drives, goals, or intentions.
The highest level of mental state is a habitus,
which represents an entire outlook, disposition,
set of motives, mode of being, or paradigm.
Each Alignment, for example, comes with a
habitus, or way of being in the world.



Alchemy (Cunning-Thrive)
measure, mix, add, boil, drink, identify

Alchemy is an art that relies on mixing natural elements to discover the essence of life. The art
thrives on the plains of Edrada and across the frozen expanse of Vaankur; however, since the power
used stems from outside of the practitioner, some of the more urbane cultures look down on it
as a low art only practiced by primitive charlatans with no true power of their own. Alchemists in
cities such as Ugurlu and Lokod are relegated to the back alleys and less reputable areas. Despite
this, their services are often sought in secret by those of higher caste or class. In the comical Anu
epic The House of Moa, the patriarch of House Moa, Lord Enaho Quena, is made to look foolish by
unwittingly employing a Khazil alchemist as a chef. In the hopes of saving face, Quena orders the
man killed on learning the truth, losing the immense benefits he receives from his cooking.

Alchemists may make the following Resins without requiring a Mastery: Recovery, Curse, and
Caustic. Further concoctions will require unique recipes found in the narrative or a Mastery.
Masteries gained by the alchemist improve automatically alongside the Art itself. See page 362 in
the Almanac for more on using Resins and other products of alchemy.
Ingredients both rare and common are required before any rolls can be made. The number of dice
rolled for any common ingredient determines how much of it is used. For example, one dose of Red
Herb is used up for each die rolled in the preparation of a Recovery Resin. Only one dose of any
rare ingredient is needed per Resin or concoction. Vials are more potent but harder to carry safely.




Resins require 3 Hits to produce, Vials 4 Hits.

Alchemists can make rolls to locate and harvest their own ingredients. They can use rare
ingredients in Resins/Vials if recipe is known or found.
The alchemist can make the following new Resins: Heal, Combustion, and Frenzy.

Healers Hands
Arcane Elements

Recovery and Heal Resins made with water deal no Shock.

Heal Resins made by the alchemist can count as Arcane healing instead of
Mundane healing. This must be decided during the production of the
Resin, and the rare ingredient must be Fell in nature.

Spawn Homunculus
Shape Change

Resins are made with only 2 Hits, and Vials with only 3.
Low: Minion. High: Familiar.
Raw: Implant Idea. Low: Implant Motive. High: Implant Habitus.
Raw: Can borrow 3 Aptitudes from new shape.
Low: Can borrow 4 Aptitudes from shape.
High: Can borrow 6 Aptitudes from shape.

Solvent Effect
Water (Common)
Oil (Common)
Black Oil (Common)
Fell Saliva (Rare)
Fell Blood (Rare)

+5 Shock on all Resins

+4 Shock on all Resins
+3 Shock on all Resins
+2 Shock, Body Resins gain +1 to Effect
+4 Shock, Body Resins gain +2 to Effect


Type Ingredients Effect




1d10 Guard Recovery

Acts as object of 1 Load, 3 Hardness
[-1] Durable Penalty**
Heals 1 Wound
Acts as an object of 3 Load, 5
+1 DPD

Known poison
Unknown poison

2C, 1R

3 Lingering Shock

2C, 1R (the poison)

2C, 3R
2C, 2R
2C, 1R
2C, 2R
1C, 3R

Counters one poison

Counters most poisons
+1 Ground Modifier*
+1 TPT Modifier*
+1 Force on all Relate Rolls*
+1 Force on all Touch Rolls*

6C, 4R
3C, 3R
2C, 4R

See Art
See Art
See Art

Shape Shift