Bloodhollow and Beyond - A Vigil of Vesh Campaign
Heteronomy of Virduk
Heteronomy of Virduk
Population: 750,000 (Halfling 52%, Human 32%, Half-orc 14%, Dwarf 2%)
Government: The Satrap, who is the highest ranking military officer assigned to defend the region, has ultimate regional authority and reports directly to King Virduk of Calastia.
Ruler: Lord Satrap Tomvolie Kres (human male)
Capital: Calas (21,000)
Major Cities: Three Moons (4,000), Zathshore (2,500)
Languages: Calastian, Shelzari
Religion: Hwyrdd, Enkili, Chardun
Currency: The Heteronomy uses Calastian currency, although recently a number of silver coins have been minted with Queen Geleeda’s likeness, and the Satrap encourages minting of the more commonly used copper coins that bear Hwyrdd’s acorn on one side and the Calastian dragon on the other: Silver queen ( 1 sp), copper dracorn (1 cp).
Resources: Wheat, dairy products, wine, beer, dried fish, meat, produce, leather goods, woodcrafts
Allies: Calastian Hegemony
Enemies: Burok Torn and Durrover
More than once before the Divine War, this district fell under the control of Zathiske. For centuries, however, all of Zathiske was part of the Ledean Empire in the form of the Zathiskite Province. For most of the area’s history, it was a relatively peaceful land, easily held by Zathiske or its conqueror. Halflings were no more common here than any other race, except for the dominant humans. Indeed, most of the Heteronomy’s population owes it roots to a region far north of the Heteronomy.
For ages, halflings have spread across the world like any of the other divine races; however, one of their greatest homelands was the Pryan Hills, east of the ancient Broadreach Forest. During the Divine War, these foothills of the Kelder Mountains were turned into a battleground for the gods and titans on a number of occasions. Gaurak tore across the range numerous times before his fall, and it is said that the gods defeated Mesos among the mighty hillocks. The halflings who lived in the Pryan Hills were forced to endure terrible times, and as the war turned bloodier than ever, ultimately they fled, traveling south and settling along the shores of Lake Zath and the Broadreach River. The potent spells unleashed by Mesos before his destruction continue to taint the hills, and it is unclear whether this dangerous magic or the rivulets torn by Gaurak‘s teeth caused them to be renamed the Haggard Hills. Whatever the truth, these hills have entered the legends of many halflings as their lost homeland.
Halflings prospered along the Broadreach River and the banks of Lake Zath and soon were the most numerous of races found in the region. Their dogged determination combined with a love of the comforts of life led them to turn the rolling plains into a cornucopia of pleasant farm villages. Village priests called the land Hwyrdd’s Promise, and indeed even the trees seemed to whisper that the god and his mother Denev had blessed the halflings. For years, however, raiding parties would spill from the Hornsaw Forest or turn south from the Haggard Hills through the Blood Steppes. Halfling warriors took up stone and arrow against their foes and prevailed time and time again. By 75 AV, the halfling reeve Orisk Featherwood had effectively gained the trust and support of villages across the region. Priests of Hwyrdd met and asked that the people confirm him as King of Hwyrdd’s Promise. His heroic status led to his acceptance not only by the halflings, but also by those human villages that lay to the north between Hwyrdd’s
Promise and the Hornsaw Forest.
During the Druid War, the Featherwood family proved the wisdom of those who chose them as leaders, as the king and his sons led numerous bands of archers and slingers that held back the Hornsaw titanspawn at great cost. Human militia from the northern regions of Hwyrdd’s Promise held the front line while halfling missile weapons demolished their foes. King Orisk settled divisive claims of favoritism by placing the human ranger Lady Swanil in command of the northern troops initially, and the entire kingdom’s military eventually. Halfling historians
continue to claim that this benevolent move was the beginning of the downfall of the Promise.
In 90 AV, King Virduk recalled his troops from the Druid War and began invading his neighbors, beginning with the Irontooth Pass. Over the course of the next 22 years, Calastian troops conquered all of its neighbors, and refugees poured into Hwyrdd’s Promise, particularly dwarves displaced by the growing hatred and racism they faced within the Hegemony, especially in Lageni. Tensions flared as newcomers unsettled the comfortable lifestyle of Hwyrdd’s Promise. An aging General Swanil fortified the eastern border against Calastian troops and prepared to resist Virduk‘s armies as Calastia made its first advances into the Promise.
The sudden onset of the Blood Monsoon ended Calastian advances for nearly 14 years, and it was not until 126 AV that the banners of the Black Dragon were once again seen at the eastern front. Swanil had long since fallen prey to an exotic serpent slipped into her tent by traitors in league with Mormo’s titanspawn of the Hornsaw. For years the people of Hwyrdd’s Promise had convinced themselves that the money they poured into the eastern fortresses would keep them safe.
General Kres attacked the eastern line, waited for heavy reinforcements, and then besieged them with light troops. Held captive in their own fortresses, the halfling troops were deprived of their natural advantages, and the general led his main army to victory over the Promise’s relatively unprotected citizens. General Kres was named Satrap of the region and has kept it quietly under the control of King Virduk. Unfortunately, floods of destitute refugees, years of devastation by the Blood Monsoon, and the unfortunate loss of so much of their adult male population led to a terrible decline in the newly designated Heteronomy of Virduk. Young halflings grew up in a land of poverty not known since the end of the Divine War, with crime and gangs steadily gaining strength among the desperate population. A number of gangs have even found patriotism and turned against Calastian troops, whom they blame for the current state of affairs. The most famous of these rebels is the Blackfoot gang leader Orzu, said to be the most wanted man in the Hegemony.
Initiatives on the part of Queen Geleeda and the Satrap have kept the population relatively happy. As peace has settled over the land, even though it is a forced peace, trade and plenty have slowly returned to those craftsmen and merchants who support Calastia. Arms and weapons are supplied to militia who stand against invasions from the Hornsaw Forest, and most citizens could not care less whether their defenders bear the yellow acorn of Hwyrdd or the Black Dragon of Calastia.
Most of the Heteronomy is open plains dotted with the villages and farmland of its halfling citizens.
Lake Zath: This large freshwater lake teems with fish and provides water for numerous prosperous halfling villages along its northeastern banks. It is said that the wrecks of ancient battles between the Empire of Zathiske and the Empire of Elz litter the floor of the lake. The Broadreach River flows into the lake from the north and continues from the lake into the Blossoming Sea in the south.
Broadreach River: This mighty river owes its name to the northern forest that once bore the same name. While the tainted forests have lost their identities, the river has steadfastly continued on its road to the sea. In ancient days, this river and the broad lake that it feeds served as the natural border between the empires of Elz and Zathiske.
Flora and Fauna
Wheat, corn, pumpkins, fish, and cattle are the mainstays of the Heteronomy’s flora and fauna. Unfortunately, the citizens of this Calastian district have their lives invaded all too often by terrible creatures that pour forth from the Hornsaw Forest or come down from the southern reaches of the Blood Steppes.
Calastian and local troops are quick to repel such advances when possible. In recent years, particularly dangerous orc war bands have crossed the river from the west to raid the Heteronomy. Angry citizens have called for an end to this, and Virduk has answered by dispatching more troops to the area, although skeptics suggest his troops have come for some darker purpose.
The Heteronomy’s population consists mostly of halflings, but this majority has been slipping in recent years due to Calastian policies and the travails of war. At one time, halflings boasted at least three-quarters of the total population; however, dwarven refugees from the First Calastian Advance, combined with severe casualties against the Calastian troops, reduced that number. Larger units of human troops permanently stationed in the northern district of the region have further shifted that number. Worse yet, newer Calastian military policies seem determined to have the Heteronomy serve as home to the orc and half-orc companies they have been forming in apparent preparation for further expansion.
Though halfling officials have complained endlessly about this, the Satrap’s office asserts that such units are “necessary for the proper defense of the Heteronomy against determined invaders, particularly those orc raiders that terrorize the western borders and the Hornsaw titanspawn that invade the northern areas.” Certainly, orcish units are limited to newly built forts in those locales, but not everyone believes the Satrap’s claims.
Halflings engage in numerous games, many involving a level of dexterity most humans cannot hope to match. Simple contests include stone throwing at distant targets, with perhaps the favorite being “nohit,” in which each participant tries to get the closest to a prize without striking it or their competitors’ rocks. The winner gains the prize, while the loser is expected to provide the next prize. Needless to say, only those who are confident in their abilities join in this high stakes game, and most beginners settle for simple target practice contests.
Calastian holidays are forced upon the populace, and of course they celebrate the four predominant holidays (Carnival of Flowers, Festival of the Sun, Feast of Wheat, and Grim Day), but halflings have two favored holidays of their own. The 25th of Enkilot and the 25th of Enker mark times when Denev and Enkili are both honored as the parents of Hwyrdd. The former festival is known as Hardrain, when all crops should already be planted and indoor parties celebrate the end of the planting season. The latter festival is called Kintime, when halflings visit their relatives and celebrate the year’s successful harvest.
Half-orcs, orcs and dwarves form sizable minorities in the Heteronomy. Most halflings despise the orcs, whom they see as officially sanctioned invaders, and consider the dwarves unwanted competition due to their significant skill at crafts and often ridiculous willingness to undercut
halfling craftsmen in price. Many halflings also blame humans for the fall of Hwyrdd’s Promise, whether feeling that Swanil’s strategy did not work or seeing Calastia as the evil empire others paint it to be. Magnificent campaigns of exaggerated charity and beneficence on the part of Queen Geleeda have turned many halflings into loyalists toward the Hegemony, but rebels such as Orzu continue to contest King Virduk‘s rule.
Crime and Punishment
Law in the Heteronomy is administered at the hands of the military and the Satrap. As such, petty crimes tend to be ignored, while greater crimes are punished by execution at the hand of the military. This had led to many young halflings pursuing a life of lesser crime, which inevitably turns darker when they join one of the gangs that terrorize certain districts of the Heteronomy. The Satrap is disturbed by the fact that a growing number of gangs turn to attacks against his troops and hopes that finding and killing the renegade Orzu will end this trend.
All faiths are practiced in the Heteronomy, but Enkili’s chaotic nature seems to suit the halflings’ nature. Lately, worship of the Jester has been growing in popularity, rivaling that of the halfling god Hwyrdd. This pleases King Virduk just fine, for although the followers of the Trickster are a constant source of trouble and mischief, they are rarely if ever organized enough to present anything like a threat. Enkili’s halfling priests serve as religious leaders, jesters, and master pranksters, and in many ways the will of the people is sapped through such chaotic and unfocused behavior. The faithful of the other gods, especially Tanil, Corean, and Hwyrdd, have tried to unite the people against the seemingly benevolent Calastians,but with the notable exception of Orzu, progress has been slow. The officially sanctioned Chardunite priesthood has a great interest in maintaining the status quo and tolerates Enkili’s worship since it helps keep the land under Calastia’s heel.
The majority of the Heteronomy’s “military” is composed of halfling and human militias, often armed with weapons provided by the Calastian Hegemony. Dwarven communities are small and tightly knit, often providing for their own security but not extending any offer of military service towards the district as a whole. Armed companies of Calastian troops are stationed permanently in the Heteronomy, and indeed their numbers seem to be increasing of late. Particularly of concern are the relatively newly formed orc companies that are already renowned for their uncontrolled ferocity.
This town owes its name to an ancient fort built here that bore the name of the Ledean Province in which it lay. In modern times, its name is all too ironic, given that the district and city have fallen to Calastia’s dominance.
Spryantu Hills: These wide, low hills remind halfling settlers of their lost homeland and currently are the neighborhoods most desired by wealthy halflings in the city. Their gentle slopes are home to those nobles descended from the Featherwood family and to the greatest temple of Hwyrdd found in Ghelspad.
Satrap’s Manse: This sprawling fortified mansion serves as living quarters for Satrap Tomvolie Kres.
Tuskag: The city of Calas has a number of ghettos, but this one is known for its orc and half-orc population, which actually predates the new military policies.
Blackhill: Another of the Calas ghettos, this one is renowned as the original home of the halfling rebel Orzu.
Three Moons: Humans who survived a terrible battle wherein Madriel, Belsameth, and their lost brother stood against the titans founded this town. Today it thrives on the banks of the Broadreach River, although at least half of its current population is half-orcs stationed here for unknown purposes.
Oakdale: This northern village has stood against titanspawn invasions for generations since the Divine War. The current high priestess of Hwyrdd calls it home, although she spends much of her time visiting the entirety of her people.
Zathshore: This marsh community lies on the shore of Lake Zath and is largely halfling in composition. It is monitored by a regiment of Calastian soldiers primarily due to the region's abundance of poisonous plants, particularly black lotus root. These plants grow naturally in this habitat, but strict laws are in place that spell death for any citizen who grows or harvests these toxins for illegal use or sale.