A Light in Darkness
Cultural Level 6 (Early Medieval)
Tepest is nestled in the Balinok Mountains, south of Keening and Necropolis. East Timori Road bisects Tepest from east to west dead ending at the Shadow Rift where it used to cross the mountains. Near the center of the domain the road hugs the southern shore of Lake Kronov.
Tepest has only two villages, Viktal and Kellee, each home to about three thousand people. Viktal lies on the south-eastern shore of Lake Kronov, while Kellee is about twenty-five miles east on the Timori Road. The poor folk who reside here live in small white washed cottages with thatched roofs. As a matter of pride, they carefully adorn the cottage walls with intricate floral patterns and the summer window boxes overflow with blossoms. The sound of clanging bells resounds through the valley as shepherds lead their herds home at dusk.
In addition to human settlements, Tepest is home to indeterminable goblin tribes. The goblins lair in caves in the mountains and hills of the domain preying on travelers and shepherds. The goblins are, in turn, preyed on by horrid hags who dwell in the wilderness.
|gods save you (common greeting)||déicht duit|
|yes (I will / it is / I am)||beight / is líom / is ea|
|go away!||imigh leat!|
|witchcraft, arcane magic||draíocht|
|witch, warlock||cailleach / draíodóir|
Tepestani are fair of skin and freckled with hair ranging from auburn to orange shades. They speak a language unlike any other in the core. Their clothing is simple, consisting of cotton blouses and skirts for the women and loose-fitting shirts and trousers for the men.
The Tepestani are extremely superstitious and believe the night to be haunted by “little beasties” who kidnap small children. There was a time when the humans shut their doors tight and hid from these perceived dangers, but that changed with the Grand Conjunction. The stars shifted in the heavens and the two nations to the west and south of Tepest simply ceased to exist. In the place of G’Henna and Markovia there is now an immense canyon filled with dark, swirling Mists known as the Shadow Rift. With no better explanation, the Tepestani assumed this to be the work of hags, “little beasties” and other magic of the night. In an effort to avoid the same fate befalling their home they have declared war on such creatures and all who consort with them.
Tepest has no mages, so wizard and sorcerer classes are unavailable.
Wyan, an elderly priest in Viktal, spearheads the crusade against the night creatures. He and his men have managed to destroy a few of the more foolish hags but several innocent bystanders have also been targeted. More than one unfortunate elf traveler has been declared a “night-creature” and slain. Almost a dozen innocents have been destroyed in the last ten years. Wyan and his crusaders are well-meaning, but becoming increasingly overzealous.
Realm Magic Rating
Tepest’s magic rating fluctuates wildly depending on the area. In the forests, it can rise as high as 5, while in settlements it may drop as low as 1 when a purge is underway.
Tepestani society is almost entirely egalitarian. There is little emphasis put on family or social standing and no nobility to speak of. Most Tepestani do not use family names, as they mean little, but identify themselves by their birthplace. It is proper to address a man as “Goodman” and a woman as “Good mistress” if single and “Goodwife” if married. It is acceptable to use the slightly less formal “Goody” for either gender when addressing a friend or family member. All Tepestani value hard work, family and community. All but the very oldest, youngest and senior members of the Inquisition or Kellee militia spend their time working in the fields, tending livestock, fishing or trapping. Individual families may own fields, orchards or livestocks but everyone in the community pitches in to help with everyone’s harvests and tending flocks.
Marriage in Tepestani culture requires the permission of both families and is usually only permitted between men and women whose families are of similar means. This is not really a concern of social mobility, instead both families are expected to contribute equally to the new couples starting resources and doing so between families of vastly different means could be either embarrassing for the poorer family or overly restrictive for the wealthier. Children in Tepest are also the responsibility of the village as much as of their parents and a loose system of apprenticeships and hard work is the closest thing to an education most children will receive.
Although the Inquisition, under Wyan, has developed the first written alphabet the Tepestani have ever had they also actively discourage people from trusting any outside sources of information. Any exploration of ideas outside of Tepestani culture is viewed with deep suspicion.
Kellee is the first community that most visitors will encounter. Like most, it is just a loose clustering of small dwellings and barns around an open space that functions as town square.
The people of Kellee live in simple one-story dwellings with thatched roofs and whitewashed walls painted with flowers. A few of the homes have wood-shingled roofs, generally belonging to those who deal with Vaasi merchants. All homes and barns are scrupulously maintained with even animal pens being cleaned twice daily. The only exception to this impeccable image is the rundown cottage belonging to Leobe, the town’s foremost trapper. He’s an anti-social man who seems to let his dwelling fall into disrepair simply to annoy Gerrald Ferrier, the mayor of Kellee. Certainly his traps and tools are all in excellent condition.
The town militia patrols the streets and the East Timori road between Viktal and Kellee on foot or on ponies. They admonish citizens who let their homes show even the slightest bit of disrepair and administer swift justice to those who prey upon travelers as well as offering aid to those in need. The Kellee militia is the only truly organized armed force in Tepest. Even the Inquisition varies greatly in its organization. The militia is led by Xeleen, a solidly built Tepestani man with an icy stare and a firm command of his men. Kellee is also home to one of Tepest’s best storytellers, a scrawny young man named Karsten,
Where to Stay in Kellee
Hawk’s Haven provides fine quality food and rooms to weary travelers. The stables can hold ten horses and there is an enclosure for draft animals and additional horses. A fenced and gated courtyard holds merchant’s wagons. The horses and ponies belonging to the militia are stabled at the Hawk’s Haven.
Hawk’s Haven is a large and efficiently staffed hostel owned by Kellee’s mayor, Gerard Ferrier. It is a place where citizens are happy to work and the only place where merchants from Nova Vaasa rest their draft animals. The rooms are scrupulously clean, the food is a unique blend of Vaasi, Tepestani and Falkovnian traditional dishes. Manzel Hannet is the chief and another Falkovnian transplant who arrived with Ferrier. Hawk’s Haven is very reasonably priced, Ferrier charges 1 gp per resident per week in the private rooms or 2 sp per single night per resident for a bed in the common rooms. Meal prices vary, depending on the desires of the guest, but nothing costs more than 2 gp.
Viktal is a large fishing and farming village on the south shore of Lake Kronov. The homesteads resemble those in Kellee but barns where boats are stored and repaired line the waterfront. The most remarkable structures in Viktal are the temple of Belenus and the home of Wyan, founder of the Inquisition. Both of these are located in the same walled compound. They are of an architectural style reminiscent of the dwellings of the axelords, ancient rulers of Tepest from time out of mind.
Unlike every other temple of Belenus in the entirety of Tepest, the temple in Viktal is covered by a steeply pitched roof with a row of stone symbols along its highest point. A further difference is the presence of rows of pews for the faithful. The inside of the temple is also unique in that the main altar to Belenus is flanked by smaller shrines devoted to Brigantia and Manannan mac Lir, so that worships can prey to the trinity all at once. Even stranger, there is a large five pointed star mounted on the wall behind and above the altar of Belenus. Although the symbol is usually associated with Lugh, the Inquisition insists that it is actually a representation of the face of Belenus and the Fey have spread corrupt tales of its meaning beyond Tepest’s borders.
Where to Stay in Viktal
Fisherman’s Rest is the only public house in Viktal. it is a rustic two-story building with an attached stable. Rooms are available for rent and the food is decent, it’s also a popular evening spot for fisherman and herders alike. An apprentice bard named Webb comes and goes throughout the day spreading and collecting gossip. The owners of Fisherman’s Rest are a monstrously obese couple named Greabo and Marla who also gossip incorrigibly.
The trees of Tepest are typically ancient hardwoods (oak, beech, hazelnut, etc.) punctuated with the occasional towering evergreen. Although common enough in type, the trees in Tepest grow in a manor unlike anywhere else in the Core. The trunks and branches are tortured, bent and gnarled. The branches twist like arthritic hands and even the pines appear oddly warped. Knots that look like nothing so much as faces twisted in pain leer out from the bowls of suffering woods. Despite that, the canopies are thick and full, tangling overhead and obscuring the sky. Beneath the eternal twilight of their canopies a wide variety of mushrooms and mosses flourish. Among the common plants, there are three distinct plants that grow only in Tepest: cloudberries, fairy stools and wichtingourds.
Cloudberries are used to make the famed cloudberry wine, one of a very small number of Tepestani exports. They grow in low prickly bushes found in small patches mostly along the Blackmist River and in the Tanglewood forest. They are notoriously difficult to harvest and the only successful farming is done by the community of Linde along the shores of the Blackmist River.
The Tepestani are almost entirely followers of Belenus and his pantheon, there is only a very limited presence of other religions here.
Ezra: The reputation of the Church of Ezra is poor due to the nearby Darkonian sect so there is no open worship of Ezra.
Hala: Hala is reviled in Tepest. In some parts of the core she is considered a merciful goddess of healing and beneficial magic here she is a patron of the fey and a protector of those who court with them.
The Lawgiver: The Tepestani dislike the openly bigoted and arrogant clerics of the Lawgiver who often accompany Nova Vaasan caravans looking to make converts. The animosity is so strong that the Lawgiver does not even have a presence in Kellee.
The Tepestani believe that the gods created the world one season at a time, beginning with Spring. Each season was populated with distinctly different beings. Along with spring, the gods created the Children of Spring – the fey. These immortal nature spirits neither knew nor experienced death and therefore held little respect for life. Spring is credited as the work of Daghda (goddess of fertility and spring), Diancecht (god of healing) and Lugh (god of magic and secrets).
Summer, and Summer’s Children, came next. This includes men and women and all natural animals. The gods agreed that giving the fey immortality was a mistake and created Summer’s Children with a limited life span. The god Belenus (god of the sun) was the main architect of Summer and of men and women while his consort Brigantia (goddess of nature, industry and agriculture) and her brother Manannan mac Lir (god of the water and aquatic creatures) created the animals and helped with defining how mortal beings moved through their limited life spans.
Autumn and Autumn’s Children followed. This season came about because some of the gods felt that they could improve upon Summer, they failed miserably. The creatures of autumn are all inferior and twisted reflections of Summer’s Children – goblins, hags, lycanthropes and other monstrous beings. Autumn and Autumn’s Children are the creations of Arawn (goddess of death) and Morrigan (goddess of discord and war). They felt they could create a superior world but succeeded only in making a place of death populated by hate filled creatures.
Last in the order of creation was Winter, as well as Winter’s Children. It is generally agreed that Math Mathonwy, (god of dark magic and secrets) created Winter alone. Most commonly it is believed that this creation was designed to spite the other gods, who failed to consult him in their efforts. To people his world he created the undead and elemental beings as strange reflections of Spring’s Children.
The Tepestani believe alternately that each of the four seasons was created as a separate world, then united under the guidance of Belenus or that the world was created as one, a single season at a time. Both camps agree that, in order to limit the immortality of Spring’s Children the gods caused the world to move through one long year encompassing all of history. Most agree that we are currently in the autumn of the world.
Tepestani Religion is explained on a separate article.
Tepestani Trials are explained in a separate article
Tepest is a land of ancient forests and rocky hills. Most of the land is between 500 and 800 feet above the level of the Sea of Sorrows, though one mountain the north rises to 1500 feet. While most outsiders consider Tepest to be one giant forest with impassible gorges and white water rivers, the Tepestani see their land as several distinct forests.
Tanglewood is located between the South Dnar and Lynn Kathryn rivers and Lake Kronov to the west. This is also one of only two areas in Tepest where cloudberries – source of the famed cloudberry wine – grow.
West of the crying river, north of Lake Koronov and stretching to the barren slopes of Mount Lament in keening is Goblin Wood. Goblin Wood is separated from Wytchwood in the south by the East Timori road and a series of barren ridges. As its name suggests, this area is home to the largest concentration of what the Tepestani call Autumn Creatures. This includes goblins and goblin beasts, a type of corrupted creature found only in Tepest.
North of South Dnar and Lynn Kathryn Rivers and reaching to the mountainous frontier with Darkon, Wretchwood contains most of the realm’s thorps and tiny hamlets.
Wytchwood, like Goblin Wood, is nearly uninhabited. It is rumored to have the largest concentration of the Fey or Children of Spring. The Tepestani believe this is because it’s so close to the Shadow Rift.
Very little is known about this darkest of Tepest’s forests. It occupies the hills between the Blackmist and Vaugh-Dnar rivers and even the goblins are rumored to avoid it.
This forest covers a large area in the southeast part of Tepest and thins out as it transitions to the grasslands of Nova Vaasa. This area is home to Vaasan outlaws, goblins and enclaves of Hala’s witches.
Lake Kronov is the source of or destination of every major river that flows through Tepest. Two of the three settlements of note in the region are also located on its shores (Briggdarrow and Viktal). Lake Kronov is home to the dreaded Castle Island, which appeared in the middle of the lake around the time of the Great Upheaval. Many Tepestani, especially the fishermen of Viktal, believe that the lake is home to some dread monster known as the Avanc, although the exact nature of this creature is always in dispute.
The Tepestani are aghast at the society of Necropolis, in which magic and elves are openly accepted. They believe that Death is a being of pure evil and, since he rules the land, Necropolis must also be a place of evil. Because the Darkonian sect of the Church of Ezra is based in Nevuchar Springs, they have drawn the conclusion that the Church of Ezra must also be evil (making no distinction based on which branch they are dealing with).
Lord Tristan Hiregaard of Nova Vaasa is considered a friend to all Tepestani due to his generous aid during the famine of 691 BC. This relationship, and the presence of Gerald Ferrier in Kellee, has ensured that Nova Vaasa remains Tepest’s only trading partner.
This barren wasteland offers no living creatures to trade with. The Tepestani believe it to be a place where unquiet fey spirits who have somehow endured beyond death go to congregate. They prefer not to speak of the place at all, or only with a sign against evil and a whispered word.
Most Tepestani believe that the Shadow Rift swallowed their neighbors and will due the same to them if their vigilance flags. Some believe it is a gateway to hell, or the Gray Realm, or the Fey World or something inconceivable. There are even some who believe that Markovia and G’Henna are still down there somewhere, lost to the terrible mists. There is a universal consensus that the Shadow Rift is both the result of, and home to, the hated fey.