Varden (the "True Heir")
The royal Vardens presided over Parmathia for many generations after the War of the Gods. The rule of the Vardens lasted for many generations as father was succeeded by son. During Alazar II's reign, he waged many campaigns to expand his kingdom into the east. With the Dwarf Wars a mere remnant of his father's rule and his conquests in the east, Alazar II would join his father as one of the most revered sovereigns to rule Parmathia.
After his ambitions came to fruition, the king was suddenly struck ill by a mysterious and incurable disease - the dreaded Red Plague that had already claimed the lives of nearly one-quarter of his kingdom in a single decade. A cure was discovered by the priestesses of a separatist sect not fully recognized by the Church and, hindered by bureaucracy, the cure came too late for Alcazar II. His only heir, the young Alcazar III, ascended the throne upon his death. This outraged many of the squabbling dukes that had pledged an oath of fealty to the king in the times of war and whispers of a revolt echoed across the lands.
One of King Varden II's most honored knights, the arch-duke, Salatas L÷wen, shocked the kingdom when he denounced the "boy-king" as his ruler and staged a violent coup attempt during Alcazar III's coronation. This insurrection escalated into a long and drawn-out civil war that shattered Parmathia and bathed the lands in the blood of the vanquished.
It has been ten long years since Alcazar III's ascension to power and, if it weren't for the loyalty of several key nobles, the king would not have survived L÷wen's treachery. Alcazar, now in his early twenties and a weathered veteran of war, seeks to unify the remaining loyalists and drive the darkness of L÷wen's influence from his lands.
L÷wen (The Usurper)
Salatas L÷wen is the bastard son of a raped Kahjini sultana and the duke of L÷wengrube. Being half-Kahjini, Salatas was constantly reminded of his foreign ancestry and has spent a lifetime trying to reconcile his shameful birth.
As he reached adulthood, Salatas became a valuable knight and defender of Parmathia. His skill with the sword was matched by his keen insight into military strategies.
This brilliant tactician masterfully executed several important victories for the crusade in the eastern empire of Kahjin and had gained the title "The Lion of Parmathia" after deftly defeating multiple enemy generals with his bare hands when the tides of battle seemed stacked against him.
As a war trophy, L÷wen procured a vanquished general's sword; "Shamshir" or "The Lion's Tail." This article of weaponry would never leave the arch-duke's side and would even be present during social events with allies.
Many respected and feared the arch-duke for his brutality on the battlefield and his aggressive views on defending the kingdom from invaders.
As a reward for his valor, L÷wen's duchy was expanded to include the realms of several barons whom the arch-duke would later appoint as lieutenants in his great army. The army's main purpose was to protect the southern reaches of Parmathia from invaders and their services were called into action on more than a dozen occasions. L÷wen's zeal for safety within his dominion placed him at odds with several barons and some of his subjects fled north to free themselves from his aggressive protection.
Despite being considered a fanatical despot by many of the nobles, L÷wen's goals remained pure. His allegiance to King Varden II never wavered and the arch-duke was truly distraught when his king fell ill to the plague.
An unnatural change came over L÷wen the day Alcazar II died and Alcazar III announced his claim to the throne. A deep, twisting sickness filled the enraged arch-duke who felt betrayed for his unquestioned loyalty. L÷wen feared the inept boy-king would become a puppet for the nobles who disliked him to easily manipulate and be poisoned against him.
With Shamshir in hand and his allied barons at his side, L÷wen staged a massive battle within the royal throne room on the day of Alcazar III's coronation. Slaying many of the contemptible dukes that sought to control more of the kingdom through the impressionable child they had placed upon the throne, L÷wen and his men retreated after a former ally defended the boy from L÷wen's assault.
Regrouping in his duchy and amassing more soldiers over the course of several years, L÷wen's campaign to usurp control of Parmathia slowly gained momentum as more supporters were added to his armies. Those who defied his ambition have met a gruesome end by the very sword that once defended the kingdom and its people.
Elkhardt (Callum's Adopted Family)
The duchy of Elkhardt served the kingdom as its chief supplier of ore. The mines of that land delved deep into the mountains separating the duchy from the southern portions of Parmathia and produced some of the finest steel known throughout the world of Munidea.
Lord Hazen Elkhardt served his kingdom admirably during the crusade across the sea and returned home from the wars to discover the loss of his wife to the Red Plague. His youth was spent fighting for his kingdom and, in his advancing years, he found himself without an heir.
Hazen kept his religious practices a secret as they contrasted with the chief papacy of the kingdom. One of the sacrifices for his religion in his youth left him unable to reproduce and thus he spent several years traveling the kingdom to find a suitable heir. His search led him into the frozen reaches of the northlands. It was here he met and befriended the Duchess of Kardrak and later, the strange-eyed boy he would call son.
When Lord Elkhardt returned to his lands with an adopted heir, his subjects rejoiced and Hazen settled back into the politics he had forsaken during the crusade. The peace was short-lived.
During the coronation of King Alcazar Varden III, Lord Elkhardt and his adopted son became soldiers in a war that consumed the entire kingdom. Lord Elkhardt defended the boy-king and lost his leg in the process after battling with L÷wen. The noble act helped strengthen the bond between the royal family and the house of Elkhardt but also marked the duchy for death by the former comrade who saw the defiance as the ultimate betrayal.
Onora (the Heretics)
One of the northern most duchies, Onora stands as a symbol of frontier expansion. Originally inherited by the great general, Emerest Onora, as a token of gratitude by King Alcazar Varden I, the duchy is now ruled by his aged son, Elikor. The Onoras were well-known throughout Parmathia as master vintners and their rich wines are prized throughout the kingdom.
The house of Onora has pledged its undying loyalty to the True Heir despite rumors of Kahjini marriages and religious practices. After L÷wen's march on the neighboring Elkhardt a few months prior to our tale, Duke Onora has enacted the "Fyrd" that calls upon all able-bodied men to arms in service of their lord. Those too young, elderly or infirmed have been granted sanctuary within the walls of Castle Onora to weather the coming siege. Duke Onora's uncanny ability to predict L÷wen's movements may have been a result of his old friend and mentor, the Kahjini wizard, Thabian, who has sought refuge within the castle with his sons. It is believed that Thabian's presence, though beneficial to military strategies and medicinal research has been the subject of intense scrutiny from the Church of Eduin that has fully supported the arch-duke's mission to execute all Kahjini heathens.
The duchy's notoriety for being bewitched by the wizard and the unforgiving winters that blanket the land during the colder months have made this region somewhat isolated from the rest of Parmathia and Duke Onora seems quite content with this.
Despite the myths and rumors, many refugees have now begun entering the duchy to seek asylum from the murderous armies laying waste to their homelands in the south. It is here that Duke Elkhardt and his adopted son fled to after the sacking of their own castle. The once peaceful realm now braces for a war it cannot win.
Kardrak (Callum's Childhood Homeland)
Carved into the frozen frontiers of the north more than a century ago, Kardrak stands as the northern most duchy in the kingdom of Parmathia. Alcazar II's continued expeditions from Alcazar I's original campaigns have been slowed to a halt after the Dwarf Wars ended and a treaty was signed that prohibited any further northern expansion from the realms of man. The harsh climate and inhospitable terrain made it an easy choice to cease further exploration.
The duchy of Kardrak was established by one of King Varden I's young cousins, Albrecht Kardrak, who had led many of the expeditions into what is now known as Kardrak. Albrecht had developed small settlements throughout many of the abandoned fortifications of the dwarves and trade routes were established along the rivers and roads whittled out of the mountainous landscape.
As time passed, the duchy become known for its exports of fine furs and exotic crystals. Being situated so far from the rest of the kingdom, news and fashion made their way through Kardrak very slowly. Albrecht was succeeded by his only son, Kael after many glorious decades of formation and rule. Kael, like his father, was a strong and dedicated man that sought to find prosperity away from the petty politics of the pampered nobles to the south. Despite this distaste for political involvement, Kael Kardrak is a strong supporter of the True Heir and has pledged his unwavering loyalty to his king and country. Under Kael's rule, westward expansions within his duchy continued with the blessings of Alcazar II and the treaty with the dwarves was all but forgotten.
It took many years for news of L÷wen's insurrection to reach Kardrak and even longer for the legends of L÷wen's deeds. Kael, being a man that refuses to be intimidated, ordered his son, Armin, to investigate the quarreling nobles' paltry war with a small army of his finest soldiers. After nearly a year without word of his son, Duke Kardrak's forces dismiss the tardiness as a typical delay and focus their attention on the increasing threats of Dwarf activity. Entire outposts have been laid to waste under the might of the Dwarf armies and, as each new fortification is established, another is toppled. With such immediate threats at their gates, The War of the Crown seems almost trivial in comparison.
Kahjin (the Dark-Skinned Pagans Across the Sea)
Many millennia ago, after the great War of the Gods, it was believed the world was covered in a darkness of godlessness and barbarity. One kingdom shone through the darkness and was known as Parmathia or, in the old tongue, "The Shield Kingdom."
Parmathia was believed to be the righteous inheritors of the world of Munidea. As countless years passed, tales arose of other kingdoms outside the protective boundaries of Parmathia. A fleet of ships set out to explore these other lands and the few that returned told of a vast empire of dark skinned heathens that worshipped a false god.
Parmathia embarked on a great crusade to rid the world of these barbaric infidels. Decades of war took their toll on both factions and a treaty was eventually proposed to end the carnage.
During these wars, some Kahjini were taken as prisoners by Parmathian soldiers and some were made slaves for the kingdom. After the war's conclusion, an article of the treaty forbade Kahjini slavery and ordered all displaced subjects of the distant empire to return home. Some Kahjini returned while a few willingly stayed behind to help liberate their kinsmen.
One particular Kahjini woman fell in love with a Parmathian knight, Duke Onora, and bore him two children before dying in child birth. Her father and brothers remained in Parmathia after her death to assist their grieving brother-in-law and to keep the Kahjini traditions alive for the new generation.
As L÷wen marched upon Onora castle these Kahjini sought refuge in, the grieving duke pledged to help protect those within his realm with his very life.
Additional Material: The World & Areas of Interest