Monday, 17 December 2012

The Barbarian Border

Another chapter from House of the Lion, unfinished and unedited.

LEMINKAINEN

Cast in the sanguine hue of its dying red star, the color spectrum is heavily distorted on Leminkainen, the dominance of the red portion of the visible spectrum most colors from the green to blue portion appear darker, or as black. Though reds appear richer and yellows more orange.
From space, Leminkainen then appears to be an anomaly amongst the worlds of the Phoenix Empire. It’s great oceans appear black, its land masses appear reddish brown or with dark almost purple-ish areas of vegetation. The cloud cover is cast pink or orange. Despite its strange appearance Leminkainen is a lush and verdant world, though it owes much of its survival to the extensive bioengeering conducted during the last days of the Second Republic. By all rights Leminkainen should be a desert world, but somehow it continues to bloom. A planet of stark contrasts, Leminkainen is both a border world at the far end of Hawkwood space and yet hosts many jumproutes.

Planetary Traits

Star: Suryan (giant red star)
System: Nax (0.75AU), Leminkainen (1.99AU; Staltos, Cox, Momerath), Shylkor (3.3AU), Tantalus (21.65AU), Ivald (31.44AU), Asteroid Belt (45.01-51.23AU), Mord (48.31AU), Bilgo (95.12AU), Jumpgate (101.58AU)
Jumps: Byzantium Secundus, Ravenna, Aylon, Pentateuch
Capital: Hakkonen
Resources: minerals, agriculture, prisons
Exports: pygmallium, giant vegetables, medical technology

History

Discovered from Byzantium Secundus (then New Istanbul) in 2407, Leminkainen was a primordial planet with a yellow sun only slightly more massive than Sol (1.2 solar masses). It had a rich diversity of plant life, but animal life was limited to arthropods, although the variety of their insectile forms and environments to which they were adapted allowed for extreme variations in form. The warm oceans teamed with species, from tiny microscopic krill, to hulking brute crabs that were larger than an automobile. With the planet in its early primordial development relatively few species had made the transition from the oceans to land.

The First Republic

From the beginning, the planet’s role was that of a scientific laboratory for the First Republic’s wealthiest conglomerates. Several corporations formed a cooperative to purchas the planet outright from the cash-strapped First Republic and funded the first colonial expeditions. Details of these years are incomplete, but some of the better-known concerns were Agricorp Interstellar (which took over the continent now called Grikkor), several major mining concerns, and Dextrite Medical Interplanetary, which built bio-weapons for various First Republican and corporate military factions. It was an axiom of the time that Leminkainen did not have citizens, only employees.
Without having to answer to official agencies of any sort, the planet’s corporate owners were free to remake the planet in their own corrupt mercantile image. Agricorp seeded the world with experimental plants and fertilizers, turning it into one of the largest food exporters of the day, rivaled only by Grange (now Pandemonium).

The Diaspora

The corporate pact that ruled Leminkainen lasted for over 1,000 years, surviving the dissolution of the First Republic, the Diaspora and much of the Second Republic era with little change in ownership. This apparent stability did not mean there was no conflict on the planet. Corporate wars took the place of nationalist conflict, making much of Leminkainen a battle zone for centuries at a time as various magnates fought for ascendancy with corporate rivals both internally and externally.
In the long centuries since corporate pact took control of the planet society had slowly become divided between those who were wage slaves of the corporate masters and those who were unemployed or at least those who were not employed by the corporate pact. Many outside of corporate control began to resent the power exerted by corporate citizens and the unrestrained greed of the corporate magnates. Amongst these second-class citizens a new movement was starting to take hold. Gjarti was a religious practice that had begun on Sutek in 2613, but when it arrived on Leminkainen almost two decades later to quickly took root and spread through the population, though the Gjarti faith is slightly different on every world, Leminkainen is synonymous today with the core ideals of the faith and its practice.
The corporate pact initially cared little for the spread of a backwards animistic faith, until it started to command adherents within ranks of their employees, inevitably they past laws forbidding religious practice, not just of Gjarti but of all faiths, but had little real power to command the hearts and minds of the people at large. After a period of protracted peace, a new round of corporate wars ignited in the late 28th century driven as always by greed and competition for resources. The practice of the “dirt worshipers” was unimportant by comparison as more immediate and pressing concerns cane to the fore.
So involved in these struggles were they, that the Prophet’s historic (2803) meeting with the Ur-Obun Disciple, Ven Lohji, went scarcely noticed. Corporate control did not fully stifle philosophical debate, however. Zebulon’s Church eventually found devout adherents among the planet’s citizenry.

The Second Republic

All things must come to an end, however; the combined might of the corporate pact could not hold sole property of the planet forever. As the planet continued to transform under their control, space around them also changed. Leminkainen’s neighbors—among them New Istanbul, Ravenna and Aylon—had changed in disposition and were no longer content to leave such a strategic world solely in the hands of greedy irresponsible corporate powers.
Historians record that the terminal event came when a shipment of Agricorp fruit carried a deadly plague to New Istanbul, killing over a million people. In 2952 House Hawkwood seized control of the planet, putting its land and people under more responsible stewardship. The Dextrite Medical Interplanetary corporation’s leaders managed to survive this transition of power by producing a cure for the plague; although many maintain their timing here was questionable, no proof was ever found that they were responsible for the outbreak. Already for all practical purposes a noble house, House Dextrite made allies among other corporations (and later certain factions in the Supreme Order of Engineers) and has survived (initially under the protection of House Masseri patronage) on the island of Kriel through the present day.

The New Dark Ages

As many planets divested themselves of technology after the Fall, Leminkainen resisted this trend. The planet was bombed into submission (4208) after the Doctrine of the Cleansing Flame. The events leading up to this bombardment took over a century as the Universal Church, planetary leaders and family members in House Hawkwood bickered, negotiated and threatened. Eventually the Patriarch excommunicated Leminkainen’s leaders and persuaded nobles from more devout planets to bombard Leminkainen into submission. This period is now infamous as a time of civil war between the families of the Hawkwood House. Abandoned by Delphi, under attack from Ravenna, and unable to receive adequate aid from Gwynneth, Leminkainen was on its own. By the time Leminkainen recanted, its cities were in ruin and there was no longer any choice about a returning to the pastoral existence. Leminkainen’s reputation as one as a tolerant world of religious freedom, where the Gjarti and other pagan faiths flourished drew the Inquisition’s wrath in the years that followed.
The dates are confused and uncertain, but at some point around c.4400 the people of Lemiankainen started to notice a change in their sun. Over the course of a few short generations the sun began to grow darker in hue, turning first orange and expanded to many times its original size as it became a deep red. As it did so the star shed a massive storm of ionic particles commencing a solar storm on a scale never experienced before or since. Leminkainen did not survive untouched; the shedding of the star’s mass caused the planetary orbits of the solar system to shift outwards, the strength of Leminkainen’s magnetosphere shielded it from the worst ravages of the solar storm, but even as the planets orbit settled into its new equilibrium on the inside edge of the stars expanded green zone. In time the ionic dust would settle into great rings like those common around gas giant worlds.
The effects on the world were profound, the oceans evaporated; plant and animal life died off in mass numbers. Ironically, what technology may have caused, it could also partially cure. Drawing upon deeply buried botanical secrets, the planet introduced hardy strains of fauna that could survive, even thrive, in the planet’s new hothouse conditions. These biological miracles have super hard skins, fibrous water-stingy interiors, and roots that can find purchase in solid rock and live for years without rainfall. The faithful see this tenacious plant life as a blessing from the Pancreator, while the Gjartin shamans see it as the bounty of their “Good Gjarti.”
The “fading” of Leminkainen’s sun also happen to coincide with the arrival of the first barbarian raiders. The first raids were sporadic and struck at lone loan shipping or outlying or isolated settlements. In these first years there were still colonies on the moons and distant planets of the solar system, though many of these were abandoned as the disruption of the solar storm reached them.
In 4520 the planet became a battleground as barbarian invasion swept into the Known Worlds. The invaders fully justified the label of barbarian: they brought with them strange diseases and foreign pathogens that killed over a third of the planet’s population and further. Many have leveled accusations of the use of biological weaponry, but in retrospect it may be that these were released as a defensive measure against the barbarians that then got out of control. Even now, centuries later some of these diseases resurface and combine with older native plagues, enforcing a gruesome legacy on the cursed planet. It is rumored that the barbarians have an antidote for the worst of these epidemics, Kessler’s Plague; both House Hawkwood and the Phoenix Empire have offered rich rewards for anyone who can recover this antidote. Despite these hardships, however, Leminkainen held out against overwhelming odds and absorbed much of the barbarian assault, giving other planets time to rally their defenses.
The planet did fall to the barbarians, though the fighting continued throughout the occupation. The Leminkainen Hawkwoods called for aid from their brother worlds, but Ravenna and Delphi had already fallen as well. Only Gwynneth remained untaken and deliverance from the barbarians did not arrive until the combined might of the Vladimir ALecto’s coalition could be brought to bare 4558, much of the world was then claimed by House Alecto, though the transfer of power back to House Hawkwood came in 4550 after the assassination of the Emperor. Although House Alecto lost all of its sons in the years immediately after Valdimir I’s assassination many of that bloodline sought protection from the Lion and intermarried with the Hawkwoods on all the homeworlds, but nowhere was this more obvious than on Leminkainen, which had largely become an Alecto world after its liberation. In the years following House Hawkwood reasserted its authority over the territories it had lost, though Vuldrok settlers continued to fight to hold their lands, mostly on the continent of Valdala, which proved impossible to route out. Although barbarian raids halted after the liberation, it was only a century later that he barbarians be began to raid again, all be it in much smaller numbers.

The Emperor Wars

The proximity of the Vuldrok barbarians has been an ever-present thorn in the side of Leminkainen. Even centuries after its liberation the barbarians continued to make claim to the world and small raids continued to pick at Hawkwood defenses. In 4963, the invasion forces came again, although not on the scale of the previous incursion into the Known Worlds. Leminkainen was briefly cut off, with the planets defenses overwhelmed the fighting was intense. The arrival of a combined fleet of Hawkwood and al-Malik under the command of the Regent Darius turned the situation around, and forced the invading Thanes to the negotiating table. In 4965 Leminkainen formally recognized the existence of the barbarian Thanedom of Valdala and other territories held in the Leminkainen system with the signing of the Teldor Treaty. This treaty bought enough peace that the Regent Darius could attempt to capitalize on his success against the barbarians to unite the Phoenix Empire behind him, but his dreams of Empire were short lived.
Leminkainen played its part in the Hawkwood war effort during the Emperor Wars, though many local lords held back forces in fear of their Vuldrok neighbors with whom they were supposedly at peace. The presence of barbarians on what many still consider to be Hawkwood soil is a sore point. The Temple Avesti have used the inherent distrust, and religious bigotry to gain in roads to the population and have in the last few decades increased their cognation many times over, now rivaling the Urth Orthodoxy as the dominant sect of the Universal Church. That said, Leminkainen is still a world that can be considered religiously diverse, including large numbers of Avesti and Orthodox adherents alongside the heretical Perceptors, and the pagan Gjarti, and related Vuldrok beliefs. Attempts to stamp out the heretical and pagan religious movements have been largely unsuccessful particularly in rural areas, where these beliefs have been long established.

Solar System

Suryan: A giant red star with an elaborate and beautiful ring structure extending almost 1.5AU. The ring is composed of micro fine ionized dust that forms a layer only with width of a gain of sand. The ring’s alignment with the plain of the ecliptic means that it is all but invisible to observers on Lemiankainen and those travelling between that planet and the Jumpgate. Only when a ship ventures for the plain of the ecliptic can it view the magnificent phenomena.  Some nobles have been known to take tours of the ring spectacle, but the threat of raiders in ever present in the system and most choose not to take such risks.
Nax: Prior the expansion of Suryan, Nax was the second planet in the solar system, the inner most planet was a small rocky world called Zerum, but burned up in the Suryan’s expansion c.4410. Observers at the time record seeing a bright scare across the darkening sphere of the star, many now consider that this was the death of Zerum.
Nax then is a medium-sized planet that boasted a science complex during the Second Republic. Now it sits in the outer fringes of the sun’s corona and is a desolate molten world. The world has not received visitors since the before the Suryan became a giant star, and those who once called the facility home are assumed to be long dead. Long-range observations had been able to pick out the twisted and melted metal wreckage of the Second Republic’s ceramsteel pressure domes.
Leminkainen (Staltos, Cox, Momerath): Leminkainen is now the system’s second satellite and the only planet with a life-sustaining atmosphere. The planet’s three moons cause unpredictable tidal swells and are considered to be three sister goddesses by the Vuldrok barbarians, they also hold a special place in the pantheon of the surviving Gjarti on the planet. All three moons have the bombed remains of great cities that once survived under pressure domes, but were destroyed by the same noble fleet that bombed Lemankainan’s own cities by order of the Patriarch.
Shylkor: Vuldrok barbarians seized Shylkor and claimed it for the Vuldrok Star Nation, during the early 50th century prior to the signing of the Teldor Treaty. In accordance with the Treaty, the Vuldrok have promised not to use the planet as a base for staging raids, but House Hawkwood believes they have broken the treaty on numerous occasions. Shylkor is a rocky world blanketed with frozen snow and ice. The atmosphere is toxic to humans but at sufficient pressure to make it possible to survive with only a breather, rather than a space suit. The atmosphere is thick, and soupy with a combination of blowing dust and frozen particulates, stirred up by volcanic activity at the planets poles.
The Vuldrok maintain a number of settlements here, including a spaceport and possible weapons caches hidden in caves and chasms. The world is of limited strategic value, which has given, Hawkwood observes pause to consider why the Vuldrok would be so interested in the world. Some have speculated about the presence of Annunaki ruins or valuable mineral reserves.
Tantalus: Tantalus is a rocky, volcanic world with a thin atmosphere containing a large percentage of free-floating oxygen. Past explorers discovered liquid water under the planet’s surface and primitive microbial plant and even fish life in subterranean caves near volcanic vents.
The world sparked renewed interest when House Dextrite established a permanent base on the world in 5009, and declared that they had claimed the world in the name of the Emperor. Hawkwood reactions have been mixture of bemusement and irritation. Marquis Telvarion Emery Dextrite has named himself as Duke of Tantalus. Though this title has yet to be confirmed. Some suggest that this may be some kind of power play within the Dextrite House.
Ivald: A seething, violent world, Ivald has over a dozen major volcanoes spitting lava and ash hundreds of miles into the planet’s atmosphere. The planet is so contaminated with radioactivity that it would take lead shielding several feet thick to protect any visitor.
Some speculate as to the origin of this radioactivity suggesting that the world has in the nuked with dirty bombs some time since the Fall, but no records have been discovered to suggest why or exactly when this event occurred. Whatever the reason some one wanted to ensure that no one would ever step foot on this world again.
Asteroid Belt: Sometimes called the Mord Belt after the large rocky world that sits within it rubble field. It has long been a hiding place for pirates and raiders striking at commercial shipping. Since the end of the Emperor Wars many veterans have found work, hunting pirates, in and around Mord.
Mord: Mord is a desolate, heavily cratered rocky planet in the middle of the system’s great asteroid belt. Ships that try to land on Mord must be skillfully piloted or be smashed to pieces. Treasure hunters and prospectors frequently visit the planet despite the risks seeking mineral riches and persistent rumors of an ancient research colony established during the Diaspora era continue to be a lure for the foolish and unwary, few of whom return.
Bilgo: Bilgo is an icy asteroid-pitted world, which serves as a base and a listening post for Hawkwood forces protecting the Jumpgate. In recent years these forces have been augmented by Merchant League, and Imperial Navy support, in a bit to protect the system against piracy or another Vuldrok push.

People and Places

The people of Leminkainen reflect the diversity of the world itself, reflecting its vast cultural differences. House Hawkwood is the dominant power on the planet, by the minor houses of Dextrite and Vasalyana both have sizable domains and their practices and religious identities are very different from their Hawkwood neighbors. Vuldrok settlers have only increased that diversity further and polarized some in to militant opposition of what they see has invaders.
Leminkainen has four major continents (Jyväskylä, Grikkor, Valdalla, and Isalight), and six major islands (Kriel, Vree, Mog, Tesla, Mazor, and the Cordan Chain). Despite its hot arid climate, most of the planet remains lush with vegetation, though under the light of the dying red sun this verdant greenery appears near black, its true colour only visible under artificial lighting. The planet’s three moons cause massive tidal swells in the shallow salt laden seas, with high tiding in some places being up to 50 miles in land of the low tide mark.
Leminkainen is divided into three duchies, and six counties, the foremost of which is the Duchy of Jyväskylä, ruled by Duchess Catherine Hawkwood who holds the planetary throne. Duke Redoran Blake Hawkwood rules the Duchy of Grikkor, Isalight once an independent but allied Kingdom, but is now a Duchy, ruled by Duke Sasha Vasalayana. Valdalla is part of the Vuldrok Star Nation but notionally owes fealty to Duchess Catherine (under the terms of the Teldor Treaty).

Jyväskylä

The largest continent on Leminkainen, Jyväskylä is broken in to four roughly equal parts by the Barrier Mountains that frame Central Jyväskylä. Arranged around the Central Jyväskylä are three regions; to the north is Tansid, and the south Gruvion, while to the east lays the Blood Desert. Each of these four domains constitutes a county. The terrain of the continent ranges from hard rock plains to great forests, low mountain ranges and a vast desert of scarlet sand. A series of great rivers also wind their way through the continent’s interior, though these are mostly sluggish and heavy laden with silt. The regions along these rivers are also quite fertile and teem with jungles, verdant woodlands, or plantations.

Blood Desert

The so-called Blood Desert is a vast wasteland of scarlet sand, covering the eastern portion of the continent. The desert gains its name from the oxidized metals in its sand, and was once a major mining and industrial region. Heavily bombed in consecutive wars, the central area is mostly devoid of human activity. The eastern coastline is often battered by storm force cyclonic winds that can create dust storms that choke a man in minutes if not properly equipped. Inhabitants of these lands are few and far between, but they do survive in ancient terracite buildings in the coastal regions, and in small villages, enclaves in the Barrier Mountains. The remains of ancient ruined cities still protrude from the desert sands and rumors strange monstrosities keep the deep areas of the desert free of all but the boldest explorers.
Ruled by Count Rubin Strom Hawkwood, the Strom family was amongst the poorest of Hawkwood nobles on Leminkainen, until that was, a geological team from the Supreme Order of Engineers discovered previously unknown deposits of Pygmallium amongst the grains of scarlet sand. Sand mining is a relatively new industry that uses a dune crawler to suck up and filter different materials that can then be utilized by local industry. Many serfs also pan and sort minerals by hand or with archaic devices that can separate metals from the sand magnetically. In only a few short decades the fortunes of the Strom Hawkwoods as been completely reversed and the families previously valueless fiefs are suddenly being put to use again, some say that the local Barons have resorted to cutting deals with the Muster to repatriate their lands with serf / slaves brought from other worlds.
Somvor: Located at the southern end of the storm belt, Somvor is constructed of low terracite buildings, re-enforced against the cyclonic winds that bring torrential downpours in from the Sedat Ocean. At first glace Somvor is almost 200 kilometers inland, but during the high tidal wash caused by Leminkainen’s moons the city can experience flash floods and in the last few centuries the cities rulers have erected the stormwall, a massive barrier construction and drainage channels designed to protect the city and bleed the surging water further in land in to a network of irrigation ditches and canals.
In recent times the size of the city has been swollen by guildsmen and prospectors drawn by the newly discovered wealth beneath the oxide rich sand so of the Blood Desert. Count Rubin has recently financed a considerable investment into a civil engineering project to improve the storm drains and create a gated water channel between the city and the coast by which to export the new mineral wealth of his domain.

Central Jyväskylä

Central Jyväskylä is mostly isolated from the aberrant weather systems that plague the Blood Desert; the Barrier Mountains act as a rain shadow preventing the winds from the Storm Belt from penetrating further in land. Combined with the Shield Mountains to the west, the over all affect is a tranquil weather system that brings little rain. Instead the lush tropical jungle is fed by many rivers the flow from both mountain ranges, that eventually find their way out to the Teldor Ocean to the west. Although the planetary capital, Hakkonen, is actually on the far side of the Barrier Mountains, on the edge of the Blood Desert, Central Jyväskylä is the personal domain of the Duchess Catherine. The area is divided up amongst many lesser lords who’s fiefs make a living from the natural abundance of Leminkainen’s unique growing conditions. Many such fiefs are wealthy plantations for herbs, spices, coffee beans, and locally derived tobacco variants, which are said to be mildly euphoric.
Hakkonen: The continent’s capital city, Hakkonen is beautiful despite its tenuous existence at the edge of the Blood Desert. A maze of graceful, sand-blasted terracite structures from the days of the Second Republic forms its center, and gold towers and smoked glass thrust out from the desert. Air-conditioning comforts the Muster executives, the nearby spaceport and the nobles in the queen’s Crimson Palace. Even those of lesser stature have access to clean water and shelter from the sun’s intense heat. “Every serf a king,” was a popular expression in Hakkonen as little as 50 years ago, though the planet’s increasing prominence has forced many serfs into poorer dwellings, as Merchant League, Universal Church and Imperial off-worlders have swarmed to the planet. The great eight-sided Morali Cathedral in Hakkonen houses one of the largest libraries in the Phoenix Empire.

Tansid

North Jyväskylä (Tansid) is cooler and receives more rainfall than the central areas. The area is able to produce a wide variety of vegetables and grains, including millrice, and red wheat, many of these vegetables grow considerably larger than they do on other worlds because of the favorable growing conditions under the red light of the dying sun.
The ancestral domain of the Blake Hawkwood family many of the local lords are closely related and tend to be insular, and suspicious of outsiders. The Blake Hawkwoods were once amongst the premier bloodlines within the House, but allegations of incest and inbreeding have darkened their reputations at court, though few members of the line now attend in person instead sending their seneschals in their steeds. The lord of Tansid is Count Roger Blake Hawkwood, who rules from Colvor City on the northern coast.
Although the Universal Church has a presence in Tansid, the local lords far from welcome it. In the recent years Count Roger has made several requests for an inquisitorial review of the local bishoprics claiming that they have preached the heretical doctrine of the outlawed Preceptors. Bishop Icarus Krant, was mortified by the accusations and instead leveled some of his own in return, claiming that certain (unspecified) nobles were engaged in unholy practices, possibly Gjarti or worse, Manja.
Colvor City: These days the name Colvor City is something of a misnomer. During the Second Republic it was a thriving seaport through which foodstuffs could be exported around Leminkainen. During the bombardment of 4208, an orbital drop plasma bomb struck the port district; the resulting inferno raised the city to the ground. What little survived was vaguely crescent shaped where the city extended beyond the primary blast. The ocean water rushed into enormous crater that was left in destructions wake. The modern city was rebuilt upon the crescent remains of the old city. The new docks were built out into the sea filled crater, but the city is little more than a large town. Most constructions now are traditional timber frame houses clad with wood or stone, or from scavenged terracite blocks cut from the ruins of the old city. The counts manor is an imposing site, much like the rest of the city it is timber framed, but clad in scavenged terracite that was burned black with the plasma bomb struck.
There are six other small cities in Tansid, all ruled by Hawkwood lords from the Blake family, and all in better condition than Colvor City, but Count Roger, like is fathers before him is steadfastly rebuilding his domain.

Gruvion

South Jyväskylä (Gruvion) is densely forested but the soil is a thin sandy layer over hard rock that grants little purchase to the trees. When rain soaks the ground, a strong wind can easily fell the largest and most top-heavy trees. The serfs of these climes know better than to seek refuge from the weather within a forest, as they are more likely to be crushed by a falling tree than gain sanctuary from the downpour. The forested areas a densely packed with fallen tree trunks and smashed wood, creepers and vines thread through underbrush making travel by foot very difficult. Combined with the poor light from Leminkainen’s sun and the preponderance of wet weather in the southern subtropics Gruvion can be a dangerous place to navigate. Despite the region’s seemingly diverse plant life, farming here is a tricky business. What little industry remains here is focused on lumber, or trapping.
The area was the only part of Jyväskylä to have suffered invasions during the last barbarian incursions at the beginning of the Emperor Wars, much of the rural population travelled for days to take refuge in Vaunheim. Only to discover that although they were safe from guns and bombs, a deadly plague spread swiftly between the closely packed people. The sick were so many that their bodies were said to have lined the streets, in a bid to save the city the Countess’s father (Count Anstrak Vinculus) had bodies loaded on to great barges and set alight, for the rocky terrain made mass graves impossible. Over a third of the population died in the years that followed and now much of the region is deserted. The Hawkwoods did eventually expel the invaders, though there are persistent rumors of barbarians and pirates operating in this region to this day.
The small population that remains here does so in relative isolation, most are fearful of outsiders, particularly the Vuldrok who are often demonized or depicted as part man and part beast. The Temple Avesti has made large gains amongst the faithful in recent years, by playing on the fears of the local people, preaching against the unclean nature of aliens and barbarians.
The present ruler of Gruvion is Countess Isobella Vinculus Hawkwood, is Emperor Alexius I’s cousin on his father’s side. Her ancestral keep rests in the city of Vaunheim on the eastern coast of Gruvion looking out towards the island Vree.
Vaunheim: Vaunheim could be considered one of the bastions of technology to survive the pogroms of 4208, despite being a primary target for the attacking noble fleet the city survived completely undamaged, thanks in no small part to a Second Republican tech cache that the ruling noble (then Count Artimus Vinculus Hawkwood) had access to. As a result the city has a reputation for being unassailable and capable of projecting a shield large enough to encompass the whole city.
Today the city population is much diminished; many fled back to the rural settlements the barbarians had driven them from when the plague took hold in the mid 4960s. Whole districts stand empty, although the Countess is keen to encourage new settlers to her domain. She has recently appointed two Barons to otherwise lordless fiefs within her domain, both were second sons of off-world Hawkwood lords, both from Ravenna and both distant relatives.

Grikkor

Located in the planet’s northern hemisphere, Grikkor was originally controlled by Agricorp Interstellar and derives its name from the now extinct corporation. A small and dispersed population of hardy farmers scrabble a subsistence living from the arid land. Grikkor has so far escaped the wild weather patterns and tectonic instability of neighboring Jyväskylä. Despite its luck in this regard, Grikkor has gained a dark reputation for having more husk plagues than any other place in Hawkwood space. Grikkor’s southern regions are mostly difficult to farm and largely unpopulated except by hardy forest nomads and genetic monstrosities. Despite this, the planet’s most fertile area is in South Grikkor’s Mikkelshire Region, a place renowned for its unique plant growth. Situated in a wide river flood plain, the region produces a fantastic quantity of red wheat and the planet’s specialty: enormous vegetables. The region has drawn the Inquisition’s attention because of stories about Changed humans and other Second Republic monstrosities stalking the land.
The majority of the continent’s population lives along the northern coast, in rural enclaves or in the domed city of Sardan. These northern, “polar” climes are somewhat cooler than the planet at large and receive rain on a regular basis. The region was once covered with glaciers, and is now a rugged territory of river valleys, fjords and steep moraines. Glacial ice still covers much of the region, and boulders the size of houses sit incongruously in the middle of open grassy plains. Hardy grasses and various lichens and mosses cling tenaciously to almost every surface.
The region is mostly peaceful and hospitable, though it has had increasing troubles with bandits and barbarian raiders who live in the foggy cliffs. Many of these barbarians do not consider themselves bound by the Teldor Treaty and have taken to openly attacking farming villages. Even given the continent’s many troubles, it remains a politically cohesive state under its ruler, Duke Redoran Blake Hawkwood.
Dyrak: The continent’s capital, Dyrak sits on the edge of an extinct inland sea and appears to be an unimportant city of maxicrete jutting from the continent’s otherwise abandoned southern region. Despite appearances, the city maintains a grim vitality. The inner city remains functional, but is not a place to elevate one’s soul. Technologically advanced in some ways (the city has an airport, but no spaceport), Dyrak was originally an Agricorp center. It is still a site for advanced food production, producing everything from advanced hydroponics and hyper-intensive factory farming to self-perpetuating foodstuffs. Despite this productivity, transportation difficulties, corruption and barbarian raids prevent the city from effectively feeding the entire planet.
The city is built in a radial pattern around the ducal palace and the royal concourse. The palace is a Second Republic terracite structure (originally Agricorp’s corporate headquarters), and shares the royal concourse with the city’s cathedral and the central agora. The agora was once an opulent structure, but its richest fixtures were sold to service its debt. The Merchant League is strong here and includes a criminal element with suspected Scraver backing. Around the royal concourse are hundreds of abandoned office buildings and maxicrete factories. Many of the latter are still functional, though their windowless facades give little indication to their function.
Sardan: This pleasure resort on Grikkor’s northern coast is either an oasis paradise or a pit of sin and iniquity, depending on to whom you listen. Shielded from the elements under great blue poly-shielded domes built with scavenged Second Republic technology, the resort is for the super-wealthy of any planet. Indeed, the city allows guests from any background, as long as they are willing to pay. The operation has been a major source of income for the continent, handsomely rewarding its investors. Here one is likely to meet extravagant dilettantes from any house, League deans, successful criminals, archbishops, barbarian chieftains and—if you believe the gossip—undercover agents from the Li Halan Jingcha, the Imperial Eye or the Decados Jakovian Agency. With such interested parties, it is little wonder the city has successfully resisted Inquisitorial efforts to terminate its operations.

Valdalla

Ceded to the barbarian invaders by the Teldor Treaty (4965), Valldalla is an ever-shifting alliance of rival barbarian thanes. Owing nominal allegiance to House Hawkwood in accordance with the Teldor Treaty, Valdalla has taken on some civilized Hawkwood aspects, but its citizens remain barbarians and pagans nonetheless. Many of the Vuldrok here are Gjartins, though their practice apparently varies somewhat from the native variety on other continents. Those who follow this path espouse a philosophy of personal enlightenment that is at variance with the Universal Church.
Trade and cultural exchange is limited, but does exist. The Valdalla barbarians follow a variety of religious practices, including a variation of Gjarti, Vuldrok Paganism, and in some few places even Urth Orthodoxy. The Universal Church has been quick to send missionaries to the halls of the leading thanes in the hope of gaining some foothold over the barbarians. Although Valdalla is considered a barbarian territory, many of the people who live there and toil in the fields are the same ones who toiled under Hawkwood masters only a few short generations ago. The Vuldrok have primarily displaced the nobility with their own crude aristocracy.
Although the Teldor Treaty proscribes barbarian military activity beyond the Valdalla border, this has not stopped them from violating the treaty’s tenets in the past. The barbarians are fractious and prone to rebellion within their own ranks. Some claim no particular interest in honoring past treaties; the Valdalla barbarians occasionally sally forth on wars against their neighbors, specifically the Cortran Barony and the Isalight Fiefdom. In both cases the Thane of Valdalla, Thorium Ukrops has made accusations that Valdalla had been attacked first.
The only part of Valdala not under the domain of barbarians is the small southern fief of Cortran. Once the whole continent was a fiefdom ruled by various branches of the Cortran Hawkwoods, now all that remains is a single barony, though largely protected by the Shimir Peaks mountain range that separate it from the larger Valdalla.

Isalight

The Duchy of Isalight was until 5004 an independent kingdom ruled by House Vasalayana. While the house is largely honorable and a nominal Hawkwood ally, its independent nature lead it its former ruler King Vaclav II, to make some ill considered choices, not least of which was to attack its patron house. The war was short and brutal, with Vasalayana forces quickly expelled from the neighboring Cortran Barony.  Among the Hawkwood dead was Sir Erasius Henry Hawkwood, a favored nephew of Princess Victoria of Delphi, his body was taken by the Vasalayana. King Varclav II died under mysterious circumstances in 5001, his three sons each made a bid for the throne, with the Hawkwood backed Sasha emerging from the power struggle as the new King. He promptly sued for peace with Duchess Catherine.
Eager to renew Hawkwood overt favor, Sasha first action as King was to offer up the body of Sir Erasius. The body however, showed not, as had been maintained, that the knight had fallen in battle, but that instead he had been the victim of torture. This revaluation further enflamed the fragile political situation. Hawkwood knights began arriving from Delphi in “Erasius Brigades” to seek vengeance upon the Isalights, which again plunged the continent into the Second Isalight War. House Vasalayana desperately sued for peace, leading to a political stand off between Duchess Catherine and Princess Victoria, although this situation is little known outside of the Hawkwood courts.
A ceasefire was negotiated in 5003 when Sasha Vasalayana willingly presented himself, bound in chains, before Princess Victoria to “answer for his father’s crimes”. In the months that followed the terms of surrender were negotiated, though Sasha was permitted to return to his fief he did not do so as King. Instead, an arranged political marriage saw him forced to take a low station Hawkwood lady as his wife (Lady Rebecca Langford Hawkwood), and accept the title of “Duke of Isalight” sworn to Princess Victoria. In addition House Vasalayana were forced to pay a staggering restitution to the family of Sir Erasius Henry Hawkwood and an area of north western Isalight was given over as Hawkwood fief to guard against any future Vasalayana misdeeds.

Mazor

Mazor is a small and, for Leminkainen, relatively peaceful place. Miraculously resisting the earlier barbarian invasions, the jungle island now exists in a state of fearful vigilance. Its ruling noble, the Marchioness Latera al-Malik, maintains an orderly court from her hillside mansion. The court has garnered a reputation for its high art and civilized ways, attracting artisans, poets and scholars from a dozen worlds. Unfortunately her wealth has also attracted pirates and other brigands; only a powerful automated defense system has maintained the island’s independence.
The estates of Mazor once belonged to the now almost extinct House Usher, its last remaining descendents now rule but a single small province on the islands southern coast. Many claim that the minor house is plagued by madness that has steadily consumed the family line over the centuries.

Kriel

Kriel is the traditional home of House Dextrite. How this house, more appropriate to Decados space, has survived all these years on Leminkainen is as much a testament to the house’s roach-like ability to adapt and survive at any cost. The Dextrite have garnered wealth and privilege by selling their admittedly superior medical skills to House Hawkwood and the Engineers. Even a few Amaltheans have turned a blind eye to their atrocities in return for their advanced healing technology.
For the past 200 years Kriel has had an infamous reputation as a penal colony for violent criminals from throughout Hawkwood space. Few spare any pity for these offenders and fewer still see any sign of them again. Although the penal colony (Drexhavel) occupies only a small portion of the island, the lords of House Dextrite have done nothing to dissuade the common misapprehension that the entirety of Kriel is a massive prison.
House Dextrite was until 5007 a vassal of the minor House Masseri, however with that House’s fall from grace, the Dextrite was swift to rise, devouring its former master from within and taking over their fiefs on Cadavus. House Dextrite now owes its allegiance directly to House Decados, a situation that makes many Hawkwood lords uncomfortable.
Some suspect that it is little coincidence that strange deformed pirates ply the waters of the surrounding oceans in metal submersible ships. These Changed corsairs launch brutal raids on shipping lanes and vulnerable coastal townships on Mazor, Vree, Isalight, and sometimes further afield before seeming vanishing into the oceans depths.

Tesla

House Hawkwood gave the Supreme Order of Engineers a 100 year lease to Tesla Island in 4965 for unspecified services. In little time the guild constructed a research facility (an austere maxicrete complex) and mined the waters around the island to discourage visitors. The island’s administrator is Master Gridjz Kodak, and the scientific work that he oversees is done so in the utmost secrecy. There are many rumors, including proscribed research into genetics and changed sciences, golem construction and even symbiot research, all of which are baseless in fact.

Vree

Like much of the southern Jyväskylä coast, Vree is catacombed with fjords from the planet’s previous ice ages, now laid bare by the pitiless sun. Great stone arches, numerous caves and subterranean rivers provide ideal hiding places for pirates, escaped serfs, rumors of strange variation of Gjarti is practiced here, that depicts the mother goddess as a fish or mythological part human, part sea creature. The island has a haunted reputation; its few legitimate citizens inhabit three towns along its northern coast and live in fear.

Mog

A small forested island, Mog shares Vree’s craggy coastal appearance, but is ostensibly uninhabited. Used for nuclear testing and bio-weaponry research in past centuries, the island is rife with plague and inhabited by a host of unusually large and voracious insect life forms. There was a Dextrite research lab on the island’s center during the early years after the Fall, but even they have not considered the recovery of its resources (if any) not worth the danger involved in returning to the island. Hawkwood naval vessels pass the island from time to time; access is strictly forbidden.

The Teldor/Imperial Annex Zone

The annex zone consists of the Cordan Island Chain and occupies a strategic position in striking distance of Grikkor, Jyväskylä, Valdalla and the Isalight Fiefdom. The Phoenix Empire maintains a large military supply cache distributed between the three heavily fortified Taggart Forts. The sturdy dome-shaped forts fashioned from maxicrete and pre-fabricated ceramsteel ribbing offers a proven defense against several invaders during the Emperor War. Access in and out of the area is only allowed to those with the appropriate credentials.
Overseen by Master Nostroma Del of Brother Battle, the Annex Zone came under Phoenix Throne control in the wake of the Teldor Treaty. Both Hawkwood and Imperial ships patrol the sea around the annex zone; the militarized zone provides a bulwark against barbarian aggression in case they fail to live up to the terms of the Teldor Treaty.

The Cortran Barony

The Cortran Fiefdoms were ancient Hawkwood territories that once covered almost half of Valdalla. The Cortran Barony is now all that remains of those once extensive estates. Ruled by Baron Antonius Cortran Hawkwood, the barony has always followed a proud martial tradition, and one that bitterly resents the loss of its territories to its barbarian neighbors.
The Barony has long been on a war economy and much of their on going war effort is financed by wealthy donors from amongst the political elite of the Hawkwood family. Relations with the barbarians of Valdalla are hostile as would be expected, but there is a grudging respect for their prowess on the field of battle. The Cortran Hawkwood’s had always regarded Isalight as a potential ally in their struggle, but then to suffer aggression from their flank has brought about a bitter divide between the two fiefdoms.
To the north of the fief lies the Shimir Peaks a high range of mountains that acts as a natural bulwark against the barbarians of the Valdalla, the mountain passes have long been a strategic holding, seeing many battles fought between the two sides. Cortran is a roughly triangular peninsula, bordered on its remaining sides by the Sedat Ocean, the Isalight Channel, and the Angol Sea to the east. The Barony is heavily fortified with great maxicrete blocks placed along its shoreline to prevent the barbarians from making landings with vehicles or heavy armor. Pillboxes are dug in to both the mountain passes and as coastal fortifications, and the Angol Sea has been laid with mines, to prevent barbarian landings.
The Cortran Fiefdoms were established in the aftermath of the 4208 pogrom against Leminkainen and awarded as a duchy to Duke Askarus Cortran Hawkwood, he relocated his family from Delphi and subdivided his holdings between his children and favored advisors. When the barbarian invasions flooded the Known Worlds in 4525, much of the planet fell to the invaders, the Cortran Fiefdoms banded together and fought with unity and tenacity loosing only fringe holdings, but the barbarians came again in 4963 the Cortran were sure of their martial prowess, but their defenses crumbled before the barbarians, one by one each of the Cortran holding were over run until only the barony remained.
Baron Antonius Cortran Hawkwood (born 4967): A man born to a long military tradition who has spent his entire life fighting on the Valdalla border. Though he is the rightful ruler of the barony he seldom has the time to rule and his duties have been assumed by other ‘ranking’ but displaced Cortran Hawkwoods, primary the Duchess Estesia. The Baron leads his men into battle personally but despite several stunning victories has not been able to push the barbarians back for long.
Duchess Estesia Cortran Hawkwood (born 4952): The rightful heiress to the Valdalla throne, the Duchess spends much of her time ruling the barony and overseeing the activities of her displaced court. She often dispatches family members to other Hawkwood worlds to keep the families struggle alive in the minds of the extended family and she encourages others to funnel resources, weapons, and able-bodied soldiers to the war front. Unlike many of her family she has not been publically critical of the Emperor, or Princess Victoria for not providing greater efforts on her families behalf. Behind closed that is a different matter. Duchess Estesia is playing a dangerous game, supplying stolen Decados weapons to the barbarians, which in turn are used to inflame popular opinion against both the Mantis and the barbarians, perhaps even bringing the Teldor Treaty into question.
Men-at-arms: Almost everything the barony has and produces goes to supporting the war effort. Over 20,000 troops are currently garrisoned in the fortifications on Shimir Peaks and another 10,000 are held in reserve. Most are poorly trained levies equipped with antiquated weapons, but others are knights of the house armed with some of the best technology that firebirds can buy.
Using Baron Antonius Cortran Hawkwood as a Patron: The Baron is always in need of good soldiers, accurate intelligence, people he can trust to perform missions behind enemy lines. He is also keen to identify how the barbarians come to be in possession of a number of high tech weapons that may be of Decados origins. Information he has recently received casts doubt on Decados involvement, but he needs to be sure of his facts and some independent operatives could prove useful at getting to the heart of the matter.
Using Baron Antonius Cortran Hawkwood as an Adversary: The Baron is not a man to be trifled with, he expects no quarter, and would never offer it. His view of the world has become increasingly black and white over the years; either you are with him or against him, and he feels that much of his house and even the Emperor has abandoned him, forsaking Valdalla in return for false peace with the barbarians. If the characters engage with the barbarians on anything approximating friendly terms they will make an enemy of him.

Drexhavel

Drexhavel is what most people think of when they hear the name Kriel though most are ignorant penal fiefs actual name. Overseen by the elusive Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite, Drexhavel has the distinction of being the most widely feared purgatorium outside of Decados space. Drexhavel is much more that just a prison, it is a place of torture, experimentation, and slavery. It is here that many of the young Dextrite lords are squired in the forbidden lore of their House.
House Hawkwood turns a blind eye to what occurs there simply because it has a vested interest in being able to dispose of violent criminals and political agitators without getting its own hands dirty. For the right price, Drexhavel accepts any prisoner from anywhere, and ensures that they never again see the light of day. As a result, inmates of this horrific place come from all corners of the Known Worlds and the profits from this business have turned House Dextrite’s fortunes as well as allowing them to engage in research that the moral majority would consider distasteful at best, and heretical at worst. It is no coincidence that House Dextrite has a reputation for merciful lore, and as masters of anatomical, and surgical sciences.
Drexhavel is constructed on two levels. Above ground resembles a prisoner-of-war camp, with its long huts fenced in and guarded by high towers, there are also workhouses and charnel houses. This part of the facility is reserved for low risk, non-violent prisoners who are allotted to work gangs and used for slave labor in the production of food, manufacturing, or manual labor for the benefit of their Dextrite masters. In truth there is little difference between the lives of these prisoners and the typical Dextrite serf, except the right to family and offspring. Located below ground, away from prying eyes is a labyrinth of tunnels, that connects to a secure solitary confinement prison just as House Dextrite claims, but there are is also physick laboratories wherein are conducted horrific invasive practices upon selected inmates.
Drexhavel is more than just a prison; it is a great experiment in behavioral control. The lessons learned in the deep laboratories are applied on a wider scale to the House’s serf population to ensure a passive obedience and an inability to rise against their masters and betters. Interestingly, Kriel has almost no freemen population at all, even the term ‘freeman’ is seen as a threat to Dextrite supremacy. By definition, freemen have free will and the right to control their own destinies; this is the greatest threat to the Dextrite way. In the ideal Dextrite society all would be obedient and subservient to the House, behaviorally programmed for absolute loyalty to their masters.
Kriel should be a paradise, a fertile land of temperate weather and plentiful water with which to grow crops. But instead it is viewed with suspicion and fear. It is a place of terrible horrors and monsters that wear the skins of men. If popular myth is to be believed the whole island is a dumping ground for murderers, thieves and rapists. Most maps available of Leminkainen mark the whole island of Kriel as a penal colony; though this is not strictly accurate, the Dextrite lords prefer not to correct this misunderstanding, as it deters unwanted visitors to their lands.
Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite (born 4981): Count Carsden only recently made his acent to power, after the death of his uncle and elderly mentor, his father, and two older brothers died swiftly on unknown ailments leaving the way open for his ascension. Since then his younger siblings have all met with unfortunate accidents. The Count is a master phsyick, but unlike many other Dextrite lords he does not concern himself with genetic manipulation, or cyber implantation to build his perfect and subordinate population, instead he pursues “the perfect order” through nerve agents, and chemical behavioral modification, his ultimate desire is the creation of willing subjects.
Subject 05769376 “Captain Nemus” (born: 4972): A figure of Leminkainen folklore, the dread pirate Nemus has been the scourge of the high seas for over quarter of a century. His great metal submersible has been inspired fear and awe in equal measure. Nemus is a Dextrite experiment, an attempt to enhance and induce a tactical instinct into a cowardly criminal. The treatment saw him subjected to torture and drug therapies that ravaged his body while pushing his mind to the limit of sanity. To his credit Nemus embraced the changes that his Dextrite masters instilled into him using his enhanced intellect to plan complex raids with a casual disregard for human life. Over the years he has studied naval tactics and specific styles of the prominent naval captains who have been ordered to bring him to justice. Often able to second guess what his quarry is going to do his uncanny foresight has given much fuel to the idea that he has made a deal with the dark powers in return for being undefeatable.
Men-at-arms: Drexhavel has 60 guards that work the above ground facility and as many again who work in the labyrinth below ground. Many of these men were prisoners once themselves, but have been “reformed” sufficiently that they can take up duties, as guards, torturers, and for those few with true potential as physick assistants to their masters. Above ground they are armed with clubs, and a few even have primitive rifles or other assorted weapons. At the lowest levels of the tunnel complex, there the submarine pens are located, the most trusted and “successful” experiments are dispatched on missions to recover valuable cargos, intercept enemy agents, or acquire more subjects of bizarre experiments.
Using Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite as a Patron: The Count rarely leaves his fief, and when he does so he prefers to travel in secrecy. When beyond Kriel, the Count employees the services of the characters to ensure that his travel plans go uninterrupted, they will serve as advance riders heralding the Count’s immanent arrival, meeting with various shady characters, and performing whatever small tasks he needs done.
Using Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite as an Adversary: There are great many prisoners in cells under Dexhavel, the characters are given information that someone they need can be found there. Mounting a rescue mission is only half the problem, working out how to get in and get back out again without being captured.

Wildlife of Leminkainen

to be done

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cradle of the Reborn Sun

Another chapter from the never completed House of the Lion faction book.

RAVENNA

A tranquil orb of blue and green, only the planet’s mountain ranges and few desert regions mar Ravenna’s impression of uniform serenity. A stellar anomaly of sorts, Ravenna has no set axis, but rather spins in a gentle, ever shifting pattern around the great gravity engines at its core. Bathed in the warm light of a stable yellow sun, Ravenna is often called a living paradise by those who call it home. Mirroring its geological stability, the nobles of Ravenna seemingly prize political stability above other considerations. This is a centuries-old proposition which only now seems to be unraveling.

Planetary Traits

Star: Storn (pale yellow star)
System: Mosari (0.57AU), Ravenna (1.02AU; Triangulus), Jualwa (6.58AU), Dro (18.54AU; 23 moons), Madro (19.72AU; 17 moons), Nylus (32.99AU), Jumpgate (68.09AU), Ploo (72.58AU)
Jumps: Velisamil, Leminkainen, Gwynneth, Delphi
Capital: Celdor
Resources: stone, gem stones, precious metals, deuterium
Exports: marble, jewelry, fine arts, foods

History

Discovered from Delphi by Independent explorers in 2505, they surveyed a stormy and hostile world. The inclement conditions where driven by the planet’s extreme axial tilt that alternated conditions between the extremes of heat and cold. The surface of the world was often broken by tectonic activity that dredged up massive mineral wealth from the depth of the planets mantle.
Despite the hostility of the conditions Ravenna possessed a natural biome of it’s own, though many of the life forms that called the world home were inimical to human life. Clearly, exploiting the mineral-rich planet demanded great sacrifices of human and financial capital. A number of competing corporate interests from the declining First Republic sought to gain control of the mineral wealth, this included the Cynostar Corporation that already held Delphi, its strategic placement and the fact that it had recently redeployed to Delphi gave it an advantage over the competition when the land grab came.

The Diaspora

Many of the first colonists to arrive on Ravenna came from Delphi, perhaps driven by their pioneering spirit to see what lay over the next horizon, but most would have arrived with the deployment of the Cynostar’s assets. Many others soon followed from Urth arriving with other Ziabatsu corporation intent on surviving the slow unraveling of the First Republic.
The storm tossed and tectonically active world had few places of safety to establish secure holdings, though Cynostar had the advantage of being the first to arrive and therefore secured the most strategic sites.
As other corporate interests began to arrive Cynostar resisted these incomers, under the leadership Ravenna branch CEO John-James Mountbatten (2479-2622). The later period of the 26th century became a corporate claim war fought between Cynostar and the arriving conglomerates from Urth. Even with Cynostar’s head start it was unable to secure its dominion of Ravenna due in the main to the hostility of the environment and the indigenous life forms.
In the mean time Cynostar gradually began to change, moving from a corporate to an extended family structure under the leadership of John-James. The best description for the political situation on Ravenna for much of the later 26th and early 27th century could be described as a cold war. Each of the surviving corporations began to morph in to something approximating landholding nobility, but each in a perpetual state of cold war with each of their neighbors.
In was only when the Hawkwoods reached out from Delphi to reassert their claims over the territories held by the Cynostar Corporation did the stalemate crumble. In 2623 the two halves of the Cynostar Corporation were rejoined as a political marriage between Trevor Hawkwood and Marianne Mountbatten, brought the fledgling House Mountbatten into the greater House Hawkwood.
As the final vestiges of the First Republic fell many worlds suffered unrest, and new politely structures struggled for dominance. The Mountbatten family, with Hawkwood support was able to assert significant military strength and crush most of its competitors bring about a period of relative peace and stability on the otherwise stormy world.
In 2799 the Prophet Zebulon visited Ravenna, thereby changing it forever. Ravenna’s harsh environment had bred an apocalyptic furor and the planet welcomed his words of salvation with the ardor of true converts. From then on, Ravenna became the most devout (and conservative) of Hawkwood worlds. When the Prophet died on his embassy to the Vau, the planet went into deep mourning. This bereavement was such that one of the Prophet’s most pious followers, Lord Cato Hawkwood, followed the Prophet’s lead; he took a ship full of the devout into space and crashed it into the jumpgate. Others sought to follow his example, but House Hawkwood repelled additional suicide attempts for fear they would damage the jumpgate. Saint Cato’s image remains a prominent fixture in Ravennan stained glass windows and other iconography.

The Second Republic

During the Second Republic, Ravenna underwent a physical metamorphosis to match its earlier spiritual transformation. Fantastically prosperous because of its mineral wealth, Ravenna invested in the most advanced terraforming technology, remaking the hostile world into a garden paradise. The Second Republic scientists used force fields and colossal gravity engines to correct the planet’s flawed axial tilt, making its current changing rotation virtually unique in the Known Worlds. Though the radical procedure took almost two centuries to realign the planets extreme axial tilt. The use of sophisticated weather control technology eased the transition and realignment of the planets environment.
With great effort, hunters wiped out most of the native predators, though some escaped into the planet’s nearly endless underground caverns. Vast tracks of land were set aside as nature reserves and the planet imported less dangerous wildlife from a dozen other worlds. Indispensable to this project, the beast-speakers of House Trusnikron settled in the North Folari continent and have remained close allies of House Hawkwood ever since.
Many today view this as an act of ultimate hubris, altering the Pancreator’s work. Indeed, some blame this act for the fading suns phenomenon noticed there a century later.

The New Dark Ages

Despite its dependence on high technology, Ravenna was among the first planets to heed the Universal Church’s call and discard republican rule. Indeed, Ravenna was one of the few planets to avoid mass violence during that time. The faithful abandoned the cities and returned to a saner and more holy way of life in the country. The planet only reserved some technology to defend itself and to help its less agreeable neighbors (especially Gwynneth, Leminkainen and Velisamil) to follow its path to a more agrarian existence. Ensconced in what it considered a new holy age, the conservative populace was slow to adopt the Doctrine of the Privilege of Martyrs, allowing the clergy (and eventually nobles and guilds) freer access to technology. It was only the advent of the Barbarian Invasions in 4525 that partially shifted most people’s thinking on the matter. All Hawkwood planets suffered during the barbarian invasions, though Ravenna, buffered by Leminkainen and Gwynneth, did not suffer raids until the late 45th century onwards.
In 4520 the Barbarian fleet of Thane Froijir scattered the assembled Hawkwood Fleet in the Leminkainen system and struck at lightning speed hitting both Ravenna and onwards into the Delphi system. But this was no mere raid this was a fully-fledged invasion and Ravenna was cut off from the other Hawkwood worlds and beset by murderous pagans. For the next thirty years much of Ravenna came under the heel of the Vuldrok.
This was no passive occupation, the people of Ravenna were conservative and stanchly orthodox, bolstered by their faith many areas of the planet though isolated from each other and from off world Hawkwood support, they continued to fight, and considered in their religious duty to throw of the shackles of their oppressors. The occupation of Ravenna was the bloodiest of any of the worlds captured by the Invaders.
Eventually Prince Gervaise II liberated the world in 4547, backed by a coalition of Hawkwood, Justinian and Alecto forces. This was not the end of the war against the Vuldrok, but only the beginning, what followed was several years of religious cleansings as Vuldrok, their sympathizers and bastards were systematically tracked down and brought to cleansing flame. If it was possible the Vuldrok occupation had only made the people of Ravenna even more conservative and devout in their faith.
The next time Ravenna would cross the stage of galactic politics was in 4684 when Lady Avyryl Hawkwood, the planet’s nominal ruler, married Bishop Halvor Li Halan of Kish and threw her political weight behind his bid to become patriarch and Emperor. The rest of the family, fearful that she might bring Ravenna into the Li Halan fold (and generally opposed to a theocracy) blockaded Ravenna. Challenged by Halvor’s forces, the combined might of House Hawkwood destroyed the invading fleet and arrested Lady Avyryl. When Halvor died from a mysterious malady a year later, the ambitious duchess ruled House Li Halan in her son’s name until he came of age, where upon she retreated to a private life in a convent on Velisamil.

The Emperor Wars

Ravenna has again come to galactic prominence in recent years, but this time as the birthplace of Emperor Alexius I. Born to the family matriarch, the Duchess Regnus-Octavia and her paramour, Duke Utar Vincius Hawkwood, Alexius grew up in a house at war. His uncle, Prince Darius Hawkwood, had triggered the Emperor Wars in his ill-fated attempt to be named to the Phoenix Throne.
 Upon Darius’ death (4977), Lady Octavia threw her support behind her sons, Alexius and Alverax. With the dowager mother’s backing, Alexius was able to quell family dissension and out-maneuver other rivals to Darius’ power.
When Alexius I ascended the Phoenix Throne, he surprised many by ceding his Ravenna lands and title to his brother, Duke Alvarex, and distancing himself from the family. This act does did not sit well with many on his home planet. Ravenna is a now a world of barely contained resentment. Rivalries within the Hawkwood family have in places broken out in to actual warfare where brother fights brother for control of hereditary fiefs. Duke Alvarex initially quelled many of these disputed by calling for unity in the face of barbarian aggression and for a time this held things together. But succession wars have become all too common on Ravenna. No longer is it the right of the oldest to inherit the title and fief of his family, but instead such things must be won through the use of military might to clear the route to succession.

Solar System

Storn:
Mosari: Mosari is an unsual world, blanketed in a thick wrap of toxic carbon and sulfur dioxide. It exerts a surprisingly high gravitational field and very strong magnetosphere, both of which act in concert to prevent its atmosphere from being steadily eroded by its proximity to Storn. It is believed that the planet has a tiny extremely dense corethat creates both of these effects but is largely composed of gases.  As such Mosari has been dubbed a “miniature gas giant”.  Inhospitable in the extreme, the planet is scoured by hurricane-speed winds and shrouds many mysteries within its clocking gas shroud.
Ravenna: Ravenna is the system’s second major satellite and the only planet with a life-sustaining atmosphere. Its current climate and stability are largely due to Second Republic terraforming that corrected the extreme axial tilt that drove both aberrant weather systems and extreme tectonic upheavals.
Ravenna’s moon, Triangulus, is roughly 1/10 Ravenna’s size; it maintains an artificial atmosphere and the gravity of a planetoid six times its mass. Though life is sustainable, it is by no means easy. The rocky soil makes for poor crops, and nobles who manage fiefs here usually really on mining for their principle income. The Muster has a strong presence, operating a penal colony that makes use of prisoners as a slave labor force to mine various minerals for use in manufacturing.
Jualwa: A small rocky planet that was subjected to systematic strip-mining to supply the needs of the world engineers when they manufactured the tremendous gravity engines that now sit at the core of Ravenna. All that remains is small rocky world riddled with caves and massive caverns, sometimes miles deep. It is said that some of these caverns are so large that one could hide a whole fleet inside, if you could be sure of find the way back out again. There are persistent rumors of pirates operating from Jualwa, but little hard evidence backs up tales of a pirate city built at the heart of a great labyrinth of caves.
Dro: A great gas giant of swirling red storm clouds, unusually Dro travels in opposing orbital direction to the other worlds in the solar system leading First Republican astronomers to speculate about its possible extra-solar origins. Dro has 23 moons, most of which are unremarkable barren and rocky. They all show some signs of ancient habitation, having at some point in the distant past either having been mined or subjected to sizable excavations.
Strangely, ancient records recently recovered by the Charioteers record Dro has have 47 moons, thought there is no indication of what happened to the missing moons or when exactly they disappeared.
Madro: Dro’s physical twin, Madro the pair appear as two scarlet specs in the Ravenna sky. Often called the “Eyes of Azzurayelos” (the demonic Lord of the Gates of Death), their conjunction in the sky is supposed to portend death and calamity. Madro has 17 moons and much like those of Dro there are a great many ancient remains, though most have been picked clean of useful tech by the Scravers long ago.
Nylus: Nylus is a large, rocky world, at least three times Ravenna’s mass. Its massive gravity allowed the world to hold onto its atmosphere as the world cooled at the dawn of the solar system. However as the temperature dropped the gases cooled, turning to liquid, much of which is now frozen across its surface obscuring the details of the world from orbital surveys. The gravity is far too great to allow for human exploration of the world, despite its considerable mineral wealth.
Ploo: Ploo is a small chunk of frozen rock. There are those who question if it should be classified as a planet at all. Following an elliptical orbit that brings it close to the orbit of the Jumpgate every 345 years. Its position outside the solar system means that this world has not been visited since the time of Second Republic when a survey mission reportedly landed there.

People and Places

The people of Ravenna are often characterized by stern, disapproving, and taciturn with a strong Orthodox morality. Like all stereotypes there is a foundation of truth to this perception. Ravenna is certainly the most traditional and zealous of the Hawkwood homeworlds and the Universal Church holds a great deal of sway in the hearts and minds of the people. Many are disapproving of rapid change and what many see as the defection of the Emperor has created a bitter undercurrent in the usual Hawkwood reserve.
Ravenna has three continents (Castillo, Andyra and Folari) and eight major island groups (Chul, Kasi, Trieste, Austram East, Austram West, Lugano, Locarno and Bredonia). Originally torn apart by runaway tectonic activity, the planet’s geological destiny is now determined by its aging planetary engines dug deep into the core of the world. The strange tumbling rotation of the planet ensures an even distribution of sunlight to all areas of the globe, ensuring a temperate climate with now polar caps. There are still predictable seasonal variations depending on the precise phase of the rotation, though his never reaches the summer heat or winter chill of other worlds.
Traditionally Ravenna has been divided into three duchies and a county, the foremost of which is Duchy of Andyra, currently held by the Duke Alverax Hawkwood, the Emperor’s brother. Duke Alverax is also named as the Protector of Ravenna, making him the ruling planetary lord and second in authority only to Princess Victoria on Delphi. Duke Cassius Hawkwood rules the Duchy of South Folari. The Duchy of Austram has been divided by a succession war between the children of the former Duke. Though officially still a single duchy, these days it is considered to be two counties, the County of Austram East, ruled by Countess Cassandra Justinian Hawkwood, and the County of Austram West ruled by her brother Count Otto Kierkegaard Hawkwood. The Countess Morgana Solara Trusnikron holds the County of Folari North.
The continent of Castillo falls under the domain of the Universal Church and is officially ruled by Archbishop Sondra Nies.

Castillo

House Hawkwood gave this continent to the Church after the Fall; diplomatically, Castillo is now considered Terra Firma (part of Holy Terra). The citizens of Castillo are now considered among the most holy and devout in the Phoenix Empire. Industrious and honest to a fault, crime and corruption are virtually unknown among the continent’s common citizenry. The Inquisition operates quite openly here, but unlike in many regions, they have a wide degree of support as keepers of public order. It is not an unusual sight to see common citizens greet them on the street. Despite this, accusations of clerical corruption remain. Whether the citizenry’s honesty is a result of the continent’s inherent holiness, or of the Universal Church’s draconian adherence to Orthodox law and codes of punishment is in question.
The Castillo Theological University is a major font of learning throughout the Phoenix Empire; every year thousands of scholars, merchants and pilgrims visit the Castillian Holy Land. Little is left of the region’s mineral wealth, but the continent’s wineries, rich farmlands and industrious population have made the continent a major source of wealth for the Universal Church at large. Castillo is known for its cathedrals and holy places, including the mount in South Castillo where Zebulon addressed the multitudes.
Castillo is ruled by the Archbishop Sondra Nies, the elderly church leader has been a frequent and vocal detractor of Emperor Alexius I. criticizing him openly and frequently to her congregation. She is particular concerned by the rise of the Reborn Sun, the so called Emperor Cult, and has issued a number of Inquisitorial Seals through the planetary synod to empower the Inquisition on Ravenna to purge such heresies where ever they may be found.
Craintown: The capital of Castillo and the site of the planetary cathedral and a large airport that makes it easily accessible by flights from the worlds’ four spaceports. The city is not the largest on Castillo but it is widely considered to be the most architecturally beautiful city. Destroyed during the bombings of 4208, the entire city was conceived and designed by the genius of the noted theological architect, Benedict Ishim; more familiar with the design of cathedrals than whole cities he conceived the city as a whole as a place of worship. The Planetary Cathedral

Andyra

Emperor Alexius was born here but now, in his absence, his brother, Duke Alvarex and his bride, Duchess Penelope Hawkwood, rule Andyra. Despite occasionally strident criticism by the Ravenna Orthodoxy, Emperor Alexius I still remains wildly popular on his home continent, which remembers his even-handed rule. Even now, peasant homes across the region keep images of the Emperor in places of honor and pray every night for his well-being. A recent investigation ordered by Archbishop Lyander is probing accusations that the Reborn Sun has gained a foothold here.
Alexius I’s reign has also brought a new age of prosperity to the continent. Visiting pilgrims who wish to see the birthplace of the Known World’s longest-reigning Emperor visit the planet. More importantly, perhaps, the boom on Byzantium Secundus and other parts of the Empire has resulted in a new interest for Ravenna’s mineral wealth and skilled stonemasons.
Ravenna marble brings greater wealth to the region than at any time since the Fall and the continent still has the second richest mineral reserves on the planet (next to the barely tapped regions of the Folari North). Ravenna’s citizenry are divided between a rural existence in agrarian communities and a partially technological way of life in its deep core mining cities. Due to its status as a center of politics and major export center, Andyra maintains a large interplanetary spaceport in its capital, Suryada, and also a comprehensive magna-rail train system. This system is widespread in the more populated southern regions; few places are more than a few hours away from each other. The rail system does exist farther north, but only reaches a few destinations.
In the years since Duke Alverax took over from his brother the continent had seen little change, functioning primarily as a wartime economy producing munitions and equipment for the Duke’s personal army. The recent marriage between Duke Alverax and Lady Penelope as already produced an heir and her courtly savvy is seen as a stabilizing influence upon the fiery Duke Alxerax.
Andyra has begun to thrive under their combined stewardship, with the realignment of the general economy away from weapons production towards other industries. The duchess has proved to be driving force for modernization but seeks to balance these ideas with the traditional necessities of the local people. She has already become a very popular figure and her patronage of the local Midwifery Guild has improved the birth rate and survival of both mothers and infants in the Suryada locality.
Suryada: Suryada is a large, orderly city in the south-central portion of Andyra. While the capital has a low technology appearance typical of many Ravenna cities, it has modern aspects. The guards who patrol the street frequently carry advanced firearms and higher-ranking officials have personal shields. There is some motor traffic, though such vehicles are seen less and less as one travels north, where the roads fail. Almost all of the buildings in Suryada are made of quarried stone; the planet’s builders mostly disdain synthetic materials such as maxicrete, and the population destroyed all the Second Republic architecture after the Fall. The most important buildings are made from Ravennan marble of various dazzling patterns and hues. Suryada contains such sites as the royal palace, the planetary agora (the Viceroy) and St. Regoe’s Cathedral, where Bishop Tyrus Hislop oversees services on state occasions. Twenty miles north of the city is the palace where Emperor Alexius I was born, and the site has become a place of pilgrimage for many. There are a number of active guilds in the city, far more than on the planet at large. The spaceport in Suryada is large, opulent and displays a combination of the modern and the traditional.

Deepcore Cities

Deepcore cities are great urban complexes built around deep mining shafts during the Diaspora and Second Republic. Up to five miles in diameter, some are rumored to extend a hundred or more miles into the planet’s interior. Originally built to exploit the planet’s deep mineral wealth, and later to install and service its planetary engines, the cities are largely enigmas. During earlier times, the sprawling underground metropolises supported hundreds of thousands of workers. Grand concourses, shopping and entertainment plazas and spaceship landing pads jutted out hundreds of yards over the yawning precipices. Abandoned and placed under Universal Church interdiction during the early Dark Ages, some of them became active again after the Barbarian Invasions of the 46th century. There are currently 15 active cities. The cities often have unofficial names, but most are known by their pedestrian republican names (i.e., Deepcore 1, 2 and 3, etc.). Muster miners and Scraver archaeologists largely administer them, though House Justinian also lays claim to one of them. This has lead to fierce competition and even some violence between local guilds and the off-world nobles.
Power has been restored (at least partially) to some of these complexes, while in others miners still dig by oil-light. Strict Universal Church and noble edicts ban exploration of the deeper tunnels, for fear of disturbing monsters, planetary engines and exposing the faithful to forbidden technology. The cities are widely seen as cursed; this is not purely superstition. Monstrous subterranean creatures have plagued recent mining operations. Disobedient Muster miners were blamed for the recent surge of earthquake activity on Austram East. After this incident, the Inquisitorial Synod sent confessors to ensure the theological purity of each of the mining operations. For the most part, however, the Universal Church has to do little to dissuade the citizenry from approaching the ancient cities; they avoid the shafts with superstitious dread. Deepcore cities also draw the attention of Eskatonic geomancers who wish to study the planet’s deepest secrets. This has lead to some conflict between the mystics and the Inquisition.

Folari

Since the Fall, Folari has been divided between two great fiefs. House Trusnikron has ruled the northern area since the early period of the Second Republic and has largely function as a preserve for much of the native Ravenna wildlife that survives to this day. The southern area has long been the domain of House Hawkwood.

Folari North

Folari North is highly mountainous, forested and wild, with more species of wildlife than anywhere else on the planet. Some mining activity takes place on the mountainous eastern coast, but there are strict rules governing the Muster’s mining and timbering practices. Although the Muster guild is the largest mining operator and contractor they are by no means the only guild operating in this area. The Prospectors guild and number of local guilds (the Collieryers being the most powerful) vie for lucrative extraction contracts.
The Reeves also have a role maintaining the region’s environmental wealth, and often audit local fiefs to ensure adherence to mining practices and maintenance of environmental statutes. The Universal Church supports Trusnikron rule and fights to keep Merchant League interests to a minimum, favoring local guild activity over the intervention of Interstellar guilds.
The Trusnikron’s hardy subjects live in either stone or timber houses, often with numerous animals. Their Trusnikron lords mostly live in palatial mountaintop aeries, soaring above their subjects on their great urroc steeds. Amongst the Trusnikron are a select group know as Beast Speakers, who display an uncanny ability to communicate with and control the animals with which they work. Far from viewing these Beast Friends with suspicion or fear the local Orthodoxy welcomes them has living in harmony with the beast of the Pancreators bounty. On many other worlds such talents are seen as witchcraft or devilry and actively hunted.
House Hawkwood has often depended on House Trusnikron for their aid in war, their value as couriers and agents cannot be overstated, and they have a reputation for fierce loyalty, and good council. To be a friend of the Trusnikron is to have a steadfast ally.
During the Second Republic there were two Deepcore Cities dug into Folari North, both fell into disuse after the Fall and both the Universal Church and House Trusnikron have fought to prevent the Merchant League reopening their operations. So far the house’s leader, Countess Morgana Solara Trusnikron, has refused all such entreaties.

Folari South

The duchy of Folari South still profits from its remaining mineral wealth, though much of its resources are, after a thousand years of exploitation, finally nearing exhaustion. There are three Deepcore Cities within this domain, two run by the Muster and one run by House Justinian. While some elements cast their eyes to the still mineral-rich Folari North, the region’s ruler Duke Cassius Hawkwood and his predecessors have been content to slowly steer the region’s economy to a more agrarian base.
The domains within Folari South are some of the most technologically backward on Ravenna. When the Universal Church called for a return to a simpler existence Ravenna answered, but Folari South wend further than most, many of the nobles themselves willing reverted to a lower technological base, with many of the agricultural areas reverting voluntarily to a pre-industrial tech level. Even the existing road network has been allowed to fall into disrepair, with riding beasts rather than cars being used by the nobility. The wealthiest nobles can buy trained urrocs from their Trusnikron neighbors in the north, but most peasants and freemen must travel on foot.
The display of high technology here will likely get a person shunned at best or likely stoned for technosophy. Even nobles need to be weary of flaunting their traditional rights where technology is concerned. This is mainly a result of the local Orthodoxy’s strong objections to open technological expansion.
The Scravers guild attempted to muscle in on the mineral extraction operations in both Folari North and South during the turn of the century attempting to usurp control of several local guilds. Duke Cassius, alongside his Trusnikron and Universal Church allies resisted the underhand attempt by the guild to steal control of local resources. In 5002 an assassination attempt against the Duke was foiled, and the resulting investigation pointed a finger at the Scravers as the instigators. The Duke took the unprecedented step of declaring the Scravers blacklisted within his domain, and that anyone professing allegiance to that guild to be considered a criminal and arrested for their affliction.
The Scravers have of course protested this ruling, initially petitioning Duke Alverax to over turn it. After hearing representation from the guild, Alverax endorsed Duke Cassius’s action. The Orthodoxy continues to support the nobility against further encroachments of guild power on the continent. The peasantry here is largely uninterested in politics, but have strong opinions on religion and theology.

Major Islands

In addition to Ravenna’s three main continents, there are also eight notable island territories.

Austram

If there is a tragedy on tranquil Ravenna, it is the war between the two Austram Islands. The island chain has traditionally been a single duchy, but the last ruler, Duke Sigmund Keirkegaard Hawkwood (4933-4998) divided it into two separate counties giving one to his eldest child Countess Cassandra Justinian Hawkwood, and the other to his eldest son Count Otto Kierkegaard Hawkwood. With the provision that it would revert to a full duchy and go to the surviving heir, these half siblings have been locked in a bitter war ever since. To date over 100,000 people have died senselessly in the Austram War.
Initial attempts to bring the warring parties to the negotiation table failed. In 5003 Duke Alverax involved himself in the war by backing Count Otto Kierkegaard and providing military support to the Count’s war machine in the hope of bring about a swift resolution. However, Merchant League and Trusnikron support have been instrumental in maintaining the Countess in her fief.
In 5008 Sir Ambros Kierkegaard, Count Otto’s younger brother attempted to break the deadlock between his siblings by arranging a ceasefire and convincing both to attend a negotiation to resolve the situation. In secret he plotted to murder both his siblings and assume control of the Ducal fief himself. The explosion killed a high proportion of the delegates and injured Count Otto. Countess Cassandra escaped without injury; her security forces captured her errant brother, Sir Ambros Kierkegaard, whom she later turned over to Count Otto as a gift.
Sir Ambros has not been seen since and is believed to be languishing in the Count’s dungeon. Though no formal peace has been negotiated, though a ceasefire has remained in effect with both sides occasionally undertaking small raids and saber ratting naval engagements.

Austram West

Austram West is a hilly country and the richer of the two Austram islands. Heavily forested, much of the habitat is not natural to Ravenna, instead having been transplanted during the transitional years when the planet under went its massive realignment. The resulting ecosphere has finally reached its own internal equilibrium and many of the plant and animal species imported have adapted to fit their new environmental niche. A number of rare species exist that can be found only on this island (including the ocelynx, a nearly extinct giant cat), and the region has a reputation for excellent big game hunting, a pastime that Count Otto is particularly fond of.
A great deal of untapped mineral wealth is believed to lie beneath the craggy mountains that dominate the islands interior. Thought there are several mine workings that produce much needed ores these operations are run by the Barons who’s fiefs they are within, as a result these operations have a poor safety record and lack the expertise of guild run operations. The Muster have made attempts at opening negotiations to exploit the mineral wealth that still lies under the mountains, but so far their delegations have been unable to meet with the Count directly to begin any meaningful discussion. Count Otto is suspicious of the Merchant League since it supported his half sister in the Austram War and instead holds to the council of his Barons and to the local Orthodoxy that preaches against allowing the guilds any greater power than they already possess.
Count Otto rules from his father’s former ducal capital at Kairtop on the island’s east coast. It is a small city nestled deep in a fjord that grants it a safe anchorage and makes it defensible from both land and sea. The origins of the city can be traced back to the mid 46th century when the world fell under the control of the Vuldrok barbarians and some suggest that the ducal fief began as barbarian thanedom. The local Austram dialect certainly contains a number of words that might have Vuldrok roots.
Kairtop: Situated at a head of a long narrow fjord the small city is easily defensible from both land and sea. A pair of great artillery installations atop the cliffs defends the mouth of the 2-mile long fjord over looking the mouth and ceramsteel submarine nets are deployed to prevent any silent incursion. The city docks and harbor line the north and south faces of the steep cliffs while the city itself stands watch high above on the cliff edge. There is a circling outer wall the secure the landward facing side of the city. Most of the buildings are of a sturdy stone build construction; much of the stone having been cut from the cliffs it defends.
The city is traditionally laid out with the most important buildings grouped together and faced in the best local stone. The former ducal palace is a castle by the traditional definition, with a solid fortifying wall built around a keep at the highest vantage point above the cliffs. It is said that on a clear day a lookout can see across the Castillo Straights with the naked eye.

Austram East

Austram East is the northerly of the two Austram isles, and the terrain is much less mountainous and arable, growing a wide variety of crops. The east coast of the island has always been volcanically active with many geysers and hot springs seeping up from the earth, many of which are reputed to have restorative properties. In past decade tectonic activity has increased with three major earthquakes and numerous minor tremors that have caused damage to local settlements and one major tsunami that caused major damage to the eastern coastline of Austram East and across the straights on the western coast of Andyra. The Viewports naval facility on the east coast also suffered considerable damage, though much of the fleet was deployed to patrol the Austram Channel and was available to give aid.
The Countess Cassandra Justinian Hawkwood rules Austram East from the city of Paravel on the west coast of the island. Some three decades ago (during her father’s rule) the Muster were given license to reopen the Deepcore City that sits in the heart of the island. Though the decision was controversial at the time it has proven to be pivotal in supporting the economy of her fief. Guild interests have also supported her fief military, augmenting its otherwise limited capability with seasoned veterans to provide specialist support.
Her close personal relationship with Countess Morgana Trusnikron has also provided much need military assistance. The local Orthodox Church however, distains the Countess’s entertainment of alien dignitaries and sponsorship of the arts. No small amount of scandal is attached to her name, and the Countess has rarely been seen at the Ravenna Count since Duke Alverax provided military assistance to her Brother in the early years of the Austram War.
Paravel: The city has greatly benefited from the rule of Countess Cassandra, through by necessity she has been forced to make investments in military infrastructure and defenses. The lady is a patron of the arts, and Paravel reflects this in its cosmopolitan style, and its vibrant art scene is encouraged by the presence of a public art gallery and theater. The city also has a bohemian alien quarter, most of the aliens are Ur-Oban, though there are a number of other species present in much smaller numbers, including Ur-Ukar, Gannok and Shantor. Note of this would be possible if it were not for the generous tariffs paid by lucrative guild contracts, specifically those of the Muster and Scravers guilds.
The local representatives of the Universal Church have strongly criticized the Countess for her support of alien influences. Although the Countess remains a stanch adherent of Orthodox theology other sects have begun to take hold, only a decade ago the Sanctuary Aeon established a hospice in the city, the Obun Church too has a temple in the alien quarter.

Chul

Chul inhabitants are reputed to be backward, highly insular and suspicious. They live a very simple existence surviving on subsistence agriculture, augmented with fishing and scavenging birds eggs from the rocky crags. They disapprove of even the low level of technology seen on the rest of Ravenna, believing that such items as candles and water wheels are evil.
An enormous volcano dominates the southerly end of the island, though it has been inactive for centuries the massive crater is still full of bubbling hot magma. A local splinter sect of the Universal Church holds the volcano to be sacred and a physical manifestation of the Pancreator’s holy fire.
The Chul’s periodically engage in raiding behavior, often attacking the neighboring island of Kasi, taking supplies, foodstuffs and slaves. In return Kasi’s citizens have made accusations that the Chul are descendants of the barbarian Vuldrok, that they practice Antimony and human sacrifice. An inquisitorial investigation in 5002 found no evidence to support accusations of Antinomy. Nevertheless, visitors to Chul island have been known to disappear.

Kasi

Kasi is a rugged island with high mountains to the northern end, though slightly smaller that the neighboring island of Chul, it a population almost five times greater. A large number of inhabitants are guildsmen, and many of them affiliated with the Muster that has a large-scale operation at Deepcore 12. The Deepcore City was reopened during the early period of the Emperor Wars under contract to provide ores and minerals necessary to support the war effort, since then the population has grown, making it the most populous city on the island by an order of magnitude. Its citizens enjoy a slightly higher level of technology than that found on most of the planet. Many of them have electric lighting, though the Muster keeps a cap on the more extreme technologies in deference to planetary tradition.
In addition to the conflict with its Chul neighbors, Kasi has other problems. Rumors of subterranean horrors lurking in the dark tunnels below the city were once scoffed at as superstition, or tales to frighten children, but the Muster does on occasion lose workers in the cavernous tunnels, often times they simply vanish and are never seen or heard from again. Several exhaustive searches have so far discovered no trace of whatever might be responsible.

Trieste

Trieste is a heavily wooded island and, despite its size, supports one of the planet’s four spaceports because of its willingness to handle technology. The island acts as a center of trade and has a strong Merchant League presence and several well-known agorae. Perhaps most importantly, Trieste is one of the Phoenix Empire’s few sources for luminite, a mineral that is critical for the manufacture of blaster technology. In the past the mineral rights have been leased on a five yearly basis, with bidding encouraged between the Muster and House Justinian, however with the recent change in the islands ownership that pattern has been disrupted with Muster having been granted an indefinite contact by Baron Tarland Trieste Hawkwood, who succeeded his cousin Baroness Morgein Trieste Hawkwood, a noted socialite, after he raised an army and took the fief by force in 5006, executing his cousin for bringing the family name into disrepute and setting a poor moral example to her subjects.
Although the new Baron has not instituted curbs on guild activities as many amongst the local Orthodoxy might have wished he as strengthen the position of the Universal Church and commissioned the construction of a Cathedral dedicated to Saint Leronus, a woman who heard the words of the Prophet in 2799 and organized the first faithful on Ravenna into a greater movement, though the Ravenna Church would later be incorporated into the growing Universal Church of the Celestial Sun established years later by Palamedes Alecto.

Lugano and Locarno

Lugano and Locarno are two relaxed resort islands known for their Urth-like wildlife, breathtaking scenery and rich ocean life in the surrounding clear blue waters and coral reefs. Both islands are major tourist and business attractions for Ravenna citizens and off-worlders alike. Indeed, one is just as likely to run into foreign nobility, League traders (especially Reeves and Engineers) and Ur-Obun scholars here as Hawkwoods and Orthodox clergy. The area has many plush resort hotels and some of the highest concentrations of technology on the planet can be found around the spaceport on Locarno. Both islands are more cosmopolitan than the planet at large, with a combined population exceeding that of every continent except Andyra.

Bredonia

Since the Barbarian Invasions of the 46th century, Bredonia has become a place of retirement for old soldiers who can choose to live in monastic solitude or as instructors at the renowned military college, the Lextius Academy. The academy accepts students from all across the Phoenix Empire, but the majority are scions of House Hawkwood destined for positions of military leadership within the armed forces of the House. Duke Alverax is a generous patron to the college and he often selects from the finest available Hawkwood candidates for his personal star navy.

Barony of Vulflor

The Barony of Vulflor is located on the west coast of the Island of Austram West, and beholden to the Count Otto Kierkegaard Hawkwood. The lord of the domain is the elderly Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood, and the years of the Austram War have not been kind to him or his family. As a coastal domain the baronies economy is dependant upon fisheries and some agriculture, but the most significant asset within the domain is the Cantrope Naval Station.
Although the terrible Austrum War has finally would down to a state of cold war, each side is ready and poised to strike at a moments notice. Engagements between naval units are still frequent, particularly in the narrow Austram Channel that divides the two islands. Relations with the other barons of Austram West are strained as Baron Gareth feels that he has been abandoned to fight his lords war alone, his considerable naval power and expertise is allowing his allies to shirk their responsibilities in defense of the island realm.
The fief has a strong naval tradition, and many of its freemen and serfs serve in their lord’s navy. Serfs who serve a naval career are often rewarded with their freedom; acts of heroism, or displays of military excellence can accelerate this process. As a result there are few families in the fief who are not in some way tied to the Cantrope Naval Station. The stanch military discipline of the naval tradition overflows into the general population creating a people who respect military authority and those who serve.
The losses of the Austram War have been keenly felt in the Vulfor fief, every family has the suffered lose of loved ones. Baron Gareth Montague is no exception; he has lost three of his four sons in various naval skirmishes over the past decade. The baron has become increasingly bitter in the last few years, and has taken the unprecedented step of forbidding his last son to enter naval serves for fear that he would be lost too and that his barony would pass to another family.
Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood (born 4939): A man of military bearing, the baron served his time as a naval officer, before the death of his own father passed the family fief into his hands. Although his body in aging and he suffers painful arthritis in his hands, his mind is ever the keener. He can see no clear end to the Austram conflict, and the price of that conflict weighs heavy upon him and his fief. Receiving no dispensation from his liege and having lost three of his four sons in the war to date, he is determined that he will not be the last of his line. Though not a natural when it comes to political schemes the baron can see no other way for him to preserve his family and his fief from the long slow attrition that is claiming it.
Lady Estella Varsolay Hawkwood (born 4976): The baron’s second wife and the mother of his youngest and only surviving son. Lady Estella was a political marriage intended to build stronger bonds between Vulfor and the neighboring Barony of Craigdon. She has little time for war or the military traditions of Vulfor and has actively tried to steer her son away from the military and the navy specifically. Initially this approach earned the ire of her husband, but his attitude changed as his elder sons perished. He now endorses her stance, but it may already be to late to redirect Sir Gilespie without earning his resentment.
Sir Gilespie Montague Hawkwood (born 4994): The young son of Baron Gareth, he has just reached his age of majority, and had intended to enlist to naval service and follow his brothers into battle. His father however has denied him his opportunity for revenge and glory and has taken to sending him on extended ‘missions’ to the courts of various important allies. Sir Gilespie sees this as his father’s way of keeping him from his natural birthright, and a rift is opening between father and son.
Vice Admiral James Goodman (born 4951): The Vice Admiral (the baron holds the title of Admiral) is the commander of the Cantrope Naval Station. He has served with distinction rising through the ranks from his first days as a serf seaman. During his service he has been decorated several times and earned a commission awarded by the baron himself. The Baron considers him his equal in many ways and the pair close friends and allies. The Vice Admiral is privy to the baron’s schemes, and acts as a voice of reason to his lord’s thoughts. If the baron were to give an order that the Vice Admiral were to disagree with he would still follow it unto death. He is a loyal man who will do anything his lord requires of him.
Men-at-arms: Vulfor has a strong martial tradition and the Baron commands a large naval fleet with thousands of serving personnel. The fief does receive a tax dispensation from Count Otto in return for maintaining a standing fighting force. The personnel include naval officers, seamen, marines and various auxiliary support personnel. Naval officers are often drawn from the second sons of the nobility of Austram West, though a sizable number a long serving freemen, some elevated from serfdom.
Cantrope Naval Station also trains its own marines, and many of these are rotated through other duties, including guarding the fief, and providing sentries to the baron’s manor. While on guard duty they are dressed for ceremonial duties, in a smart uniform and armed with a cutlass, a revolver, and often other arms depending on their assignment.
Using Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood as a Patron: Baron Gareth is tired of war; he fears that he will lose his last son and that his family line will die with him. He has become increasingly disillusioned with the war between Count Otto and Countess Cassandra to the point where he just wants it to end before it claims his last son. His fief pays almost soul upkeep for the navy that now largely protects the island, and his allies do not share the burden equally. Urged on by his young wife, the baron is prepared to end the Astrum War once and for all, by turning traitor and letting a fleet from Austram East through his defensive perimeter. The only problem is, that he needs some one trustworthy to send as an envoy to the Countess, some one who could be deniable.
Using Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood as an Adversary: Baron Gareth is a traitor; he is conspiring against his rightful liege and playing a dangerous game in the process. Count Otto has become suspicious that the baron is conducting unsanctioned covert operations against Austram East, and is keen to discover exactly what is ‘loyal’ subject is doing. Agents within the Cantrope Naval Station have reported unusually ship movements that seem to be deliberately opening a close holes the naval defense line, perhaps allowing unseen agents to come or go.

The Wildlife of Ravenna

to be done