Brevoy is a place where you can travel for days between small villages, to say nothing of the long journey between larger strongholds of civilization. These places tend to huddle in the shadows of the mountains, and along the shores of the rivers and lakes, leaving the lands between dotted with small settlements making their way as best they can.
Brevoy’s government is a heredity monarchy ruled by a king, although many (particularly those dwelling in the southern region known as Rostland) privately contest the current king’s right to rule.
Mountainous and rocky plains to the north, rolling hills and grasslands to the south, with a large region of forest in the east. Brevoy’s highest point is Mount Veshka in the north-central area of the nation. Its lowlands are centered on Lake Reykal in the south-central region.
Seven great noble houses dominate the political landscape of Brevoy, most dating back to before the arrival of the Conqueror, when they existed as powerful tribes of raiders and barbarians. Choral apportioned lands and titles to those lords willing to pledge fealty to him, reordering the houses into their modern forms. The past two centuries, coupled with various marriages of alliance, have shifted and expanded the influence of the noble houses, extending well south of the rivers and Lake Reykal.
The valleys and lowlands of the Golushkin Mountains are the domain of House Garess, founded on both the defensibility of the mountain terrain and the mineral wealth the house has brought out of the peaks for generations. House Garess once had a profitable alliance with a clan of dwarves living in the Golushkin Mountains serving as brokers of a sort for the ores, metals, and worked goods the Golushkin dwarves produced.
House Garess’s crest is a snow-capped mountain peak in gray against a dark blue field like the sky, with a silvery crescent moon in the upper right corner and a black hammer across the base of the peak, head toward the left. Its motto is “Strong as the Mountains.”
The Lebedas of Lake Reykal are known as the most “Rostlandic” of Brevoy’s noble houses, having inherited a good deal of Taldan blood and tradition, including a fondness for sword fighting and an appreciation of the finer things. Their family seat of Silverhall is one of the grandest castles in Brevoy, its spires rising above the shores of Lake Reykal. The Lebedas earn and maintain their fortune as merchants and brokers between the northern and southern reaches of Brevoy, and control much of the shipping across the lake.
House Lebeda’s crest is a white swan, serenely sailing across a blue expanse, with the sun on the horizon behind it. Whether the sun is said to be rising or setting depends on the house’s fortunes, but the Lebedas’ sun appears ascendant at the moment. Its motto is “Success through Grace.”
Whereas House Surtova slowly changed their waterborne ways to focus on their lands and political affairs in Brevoy, House Lodovka has remained strongly interested in maritime affairs. They have steadily grown their fleet of ships in the Lake of Mists and Veils and their influence along their lakeshore lands and the trade routes crossing the waters. House Lodovka claims comparatively little land in the northernmost areas of Brevoy, and much of the land they hold is unsuitable for farming, but the house has many vessels hauling catches of fish and freshwater crabs from the Lake.
House Lodovka’s crest is a greenshelled crab climbing from the blue waters toward the gray band of shore surmounted by a gray tower-keep in the center, against a backdrop of black. Their house motto is “The Waters, Our Fields.”
The easternmost house, Medvyed claims lands nestled against the Icerime Peaks and the Gronzi Forest, and rules them from the fortress of Stoneclimb in the lower peaks. They are a hardy folk, raisers of mountain goats and sheep, hunters in the Gronzi Forest, and cultivators of what good land can be found on the edges of their harsh territory. The Medvyeds and their people hearken back to the “Old Ways” of worshiping nature in its myriad forms. Isolated forest and mountain shrines to Old Deadeye are more common than temples of Abadar or Gorum.
House Medvyed’s crest is a black bear, rampant against a red field, with a spread of black antlers above the bear’s head. Its motto is “Endurance Overcomes All.”
From Eagle’s Watch on the slopes of Mt. Veshka, House Orlovsky seeks to remain above the conflicts in Brevoy, both figuratively and literally. Unfortunately, the house’s role as a staunch ally of the Rogarvias has placed it in an awkward position under the current regime. Thus far, House Orlovsky has refused to acknowledge Noleski Surtova as anything other than Lord Regent in the absence of King Urzen or a true Rogarvian heir, but it is becoming increasingly clear which way the political winds are shifting.
House Orlovsky’s crest is a black eagle against a gold field, wings spread, feathers almost touching at the point of the base. Its motto is “High Above.”
Looking to secure himself and his progeny as high a place in the new order as he could, Nikos Surtova offered the hand of his daughter, Myrna, in marriage to Choral, binding the house of the Conqueror with his own. Since Choral’s final victory in the Valley of Fire, House Rogarvia has ruled Brevoy, until the recent mysterious disappearance. The house built the Ruby Fortress in the city of New Stetven as its stronghold, and Urzen Rogarvia sat on the Dragonscale Throne up until 4699, when the entire family vanished overnight. The Rogarvias were well known as ruthless rulers, determined to hold Brevoy together in the Conqueror’s name by whatever means necessary. Still, while their loss was not overly mourned, the stability they represented has been. Loyalists have continued to call for investigation into the Vanishing and make much of the fact that their rule lasted precisely 200 years, but it has become increasingl
House Rogarvia’s crest is a two-headed red dragon, one head breathing flames, the other bearing an unsheathed sword, representing Choral’s legendary conquest, against a quartered field in white and gold. Its motto is “With Sword and Flame.”
The most influential house in Brevoy, House Surtova, is also the oldest, established in Issia centuries before Choral’s arrival. The Surtovas were infamous pirates and raiders in those early days, and with the Conquerer’s coming were able to parley captured wealth into lands and titles. What started out as a defensible fortress became Port Ice, a settlement that has been the seat of Surtova power for generations. Nikos Surtova’s alliance with Choral secured House Surtova’s place at the right hand of the ruling house, and allowed them to move quickly into place after the Vanishing. The Survotas established a “regency” in the absence of King Urzen, which has quickly become the de facto succession to the crown.
The Surtova crest is a gray ship against a field of blue below and black above, the upper shield spangled with silver stars. Its motto is “Ours Is the Right.”
Although Brevans make it a point to honor all gods, three hold particular prominence among these hardy folk. Although worship of Erastil is not uncommon in far-flung rural areas, and cults of Lamashtu have a tenacious ability to endure all manner of cleansing crusade, the following three religions have the greatest influence over life in Brevoy.
The Master of the First Vault is the unifying religious power in Brevoy, favored of the merchant and tradesman class, as well as those nobles more interested in prosperity through trade and the rule of law than the iron fist of battle. Temples of Abadar are places of judgment and trade, and the bearers of his golden key are often invested as neutral judges or arbiters.
Our Lord in Iron speaks to the needs and interests of the nobility of Brevoy: strength through force of arms and prowess in battle. The household priests of the great keeps and strongholds of the land are ironclad followers of Gorum, wearing their red tabards and swinging iron censers heavy with pungent incense.
Our Lady of Gentle Repose is the divinity of the common people of Brevoy, more concerned with cultivation, birthing, and harvesting than wealth, and less involved in the outcome of battles than in the repercussions of the corpse-strewn fields they leave behind. Inhabitants of scattered villages are far more acquainted with the local bone-thrower, midwife, and black-clad mortician-monk than they are with the splendid clerics of Abadar or Gorum.
Bandits from the River Kingdoms and Issia nearly spelled the end of the Taldan colony of Rostland in its early years. Sirian First’s reputation as a duelist drew the attention of a bandit chieftain, who offered the baron a wager: half his fortune against the bandit leader’s head, if he could best him in a duel. Baron First accepted, and lost. He paid his due and disappeared, too ashamed to show his face any longer, most assumed. Yet Sirian returned years later as Baron Aldori and, in a highly-publicized “rematch,” defeated his foe in seconds and reestablished his rule in Rostland. Baron Aldori then issued his own wager: 100,000 gold pieces to anyone able to best him in a duel of blades. Thousands flocked to Rostland to answer this challenge, and the “Sword Baron” defeated them all. He founded the Aldori school of sword fighting, and established the influence of the Aldori swordlords over Rostland for centuries.
With the change in regime, many swordlords fled Brevoy to other realms, such as the River Kingdom of Mivon. A few became sell-swords, prostituting the arts of the Aldori School for the coin needed to buy them food and shelter. The rest primarily settled in or near the free city of Restov.
The Golushkin Mountains are home to Issia’s greatest concentration of natural resources, as the peaks sit upon deep veins of iron, nickel, copper, silver, and tin, along with some other useful or precious ores. Humans like the Surtovas showed little interest in mining these riches, particularly since the Golka clan of dwarves were already doing so. House Garess established trade with the mountain dwarves, building a reputation on metalworks and a stronghold in the defensible mountain lands.
The dark expanse of the Gronzi Forest is simply “the Forest” to the people of Brevoy. It extends from the highlands of the Icerime Peaks to the shores of Lake Reykal, forming part of the old border between Issia and Rostland. Although technically the forest belongs to the Brevic crown, hunting and even woodcutting is largely unregulated around its outskirts, particularly in the western reaches. The stretch of forest nearest New Stetven was largely cleared generations ago for the wood to rebuild and maintain the city, and Brevic woodcutters must delve deeper each year to meet their needs.
The Icerime Peaks wall off most of Brevoy from the former lands of Iobaria to the west. Their heights are perpetually covered in ice, even in the summer months, when cold rivers tumble and cascade down their sides, forming towering waterfalls and clear mountain lakes. The late spring thaws open what passes there are through the mountains, although few make use of them.
The people of Brevoy know the vast Lake of Mists and Veils simply as “the Lake,” and it defines the northern border of the land as well as dominates Brevoy’s seasons and weather. In the winter, the fiercest storms howl down from the foggy waters, driven between the mountain peaks to pour freezing rain, sharp hail, and heavy snow drifts upon Issia, slowed only slightly by the forest and the hills around Rostland, before exhausting their fury on the southern hills and plains. The lake gets its name from its tendency to warm enough in the peak months of summer so that when the first chill of winter sets in, the water “steams” with heavy layers of mist at night, slowly burning off each morning.
Choral the Conqueror established the Brevic capital of New Stetven after his successful campaign, building over the ruins of the original Taldan settlement of Stetven. It remains the center of political and economic power in the land, in spite of the recent upheavals. Of particular importance is New Stetven’s place as a trading city, carrying goods to and from Brevoy along the East Sellen River and the major trade roads that meet here along the shores of Lake Reykal.
New Stetven earned the nickname “The City of Wooden Palaces” for the abundant use of timber to build everything from walls and houses to mansions and forts. Even some of the city streets are “paved” with planks laid in the nearconstant mud from the snow and slush. Raised wooden sidewalks are common in the wealthier parts of the city, allowing people to walk up out of the mud as much as possible. The only great stone structures of the city are the Ruby Fortress, the seat of power to the crown of Brevoy, and the Bulwark of Gorum, Brevoy’s greatest temple to the Lord of Iron. Fire, like that which destroyed Old Stetven, remains a constant threat, and the city relies heavily on the services of volunteers aided by local spellcasters to put out the handful of fires that occur each winter.
House Surtova’s ancestral lands extend from Port Ice, a settlement that has shifted increasingly inland, like its masters. Although connected to the lakeshore villages by a reasonably well-maintained road, Port Ice is locked behind its walls for much of the cold winter months, visited only by sled and the occasional foolhardy traveler. The rest of the year, the city is open to stockpile all the supplies needed for the next season. The White Manor is the Surtova ancestral seat, currently in the care of King Noleski’s uncle, Domani Surtova.
Nowhere is the Rostlandic spirit more alive than in the Free City of Restov. The city owes its allegiance to the Brevic crown, and Lord Mayor Ioseph Sellemius must bend his knee before the Dragonscale Throne like any lord, but otherwise Restov belongs to no house, making it a haven for the lost glories of the Aldori swordlords and those who look back to the old days before the coming of the Conqueror. Restov is a city of both refinement and rough-and-tumble manners, as only a colony can be in fondly recalling and imitating its motherland. The gentry of Restov consider themselves sophisticates, although a Taldan visitor would consider their ways quaint, and touched with no small amount of northern barbarism. The city is a bustling trade center along the border. Restov’s relative wealth supports no small number of idle and titled lordlings and merchants’ sons. They frequent the various Aldori and Taldan dueling schools, as well as the alehouses, and fight each other in street corner challenges at dawn and dusk. The schools, salons, and taprooms of Restov are also hotbeds of rebellious talk against the reign of King Noleski Surtova, with young firebrands in search of a leader to rally them to the cause.
The region of grassy plains and rolling hills to the east of the Sellen and south of the Gronzi Forest are the heart of Old Rostland, dotted with farming towns and villages with a mixture of Issian and Taldan heritage and manners, but with more of an emphasis on the Rostlandic descendants of the original Taldan colonists. Although close to the capital of New Stetven, the Rostland Plains harbor some simmering dissent against the crown, the man who presently wears it, and the very idea of Brevoy as a unified nation.
High in the northern Icerime Peaks is a city built around an ancient observatory discovered by the Surtovas centuries ago in the early days of Issia. In spite of its apparent age, the observatory is perfectly preserved, maintained by a powerful, lingering magic. The same night House Rogarvia vanished, Skywatch sealed its gates, and the walled city has allowed no one to enter or leave since, not even couriers or supply caravans. Messages and envoys sent to Skywatch have been ignored and none are known to have left. Even divination magic cannot penetrate its walls to discover what is going on within, or even if anyone there is still alive.
In the southernmost Icerime Peaks lies the mountain valley where Aldori rebels fought their last battle against the forces of Choral the Conqueror. They were lured into the valley with the hope of cornering Choral, but instead found themselves in a trap when the Conqueror’s red dragon allies bathed the valley in fire, wiping out the men of Rostland. To this day, the Valley of Fire is an infamous place where life refuses to return to the blackened and melted earth, said to be haunted by the tortured shades of the men who died here, seen in the night as fiery shadows with a burning hatred for the living.
The people of Brevoy are known for their somewhat pessimistic (they would say “realistic”) view of life, summed up in the many expressions on the lips of every farmer, trader, traveler, and tavern regular. Common Brevic sayings include:
• “Riders at night carry no glad tidings.”
• “Winter always follows spring.”
• “As the stars see me” (a common oath asserting the truth) and “The stars see all.”
• “The dragon has two heads” (referring to both the crest of the Conqueror and the duplicity of the nobility).
• “The temple is close, but the night is cold. The tavern is far, but I have a cloak.”
• “Fire is everyone’s ally, but no one’s friend.”
• “Pharasma makes cradles for us all.”
• “No man dies wishing he had worked more.”