Thieves & Kings
The World As We Know It
The world upon which Argoth is situated, is known as Kethira. It is a world very similar to our own in geology and size. The adventures that take place in my campaigns, center around the small continent of Argoth. It is a rugged, hazy, forested land some two hundred miles (about 80 Argothian Leagues ) off the northwestern corner of the major continent of Lythia, on the edge of the Aglothani Ocean (known as the “Ever-Deep” ). Lythia is one of several continents on Kethira.
Argoth is dominated by Celeste, the “Crystal Sea”, a large fresh water lake drained by two major river systems, the Trask and the Enorien. The Trask splits into two separate rivers, the North Trask and the South Trask, with the former emptying into the western seas, and the latter travelling into the Gulf of Chakro. The Enorien river has never been very well explored, but is believed to travel into the frozen wastes to the north. The most extensive river delta is the Siresha, which drains the vast region known as the Iberian Plains. Other major rivers include the Beastflow, the Horncross, and the Snow-Thunder. Much of Argoth is hilly. There are several mountain ranges of note: the Beast Shards of central Argoth, the Barrier Range which dominates the north, the Sorkins which loom to the north-east, and the Dragon March which lies across the entire of the eastern approaches.
Argoth has a climate of a basically temperate nature (cool summers, mild winters, and damp). Some have said that Argoth has no climate, only weather. The winds prevail from the southwest, off the EverDeep, resulting in fog, drizzle, and overcast skies being common along the western and southern stretches of the coast. The seas around Argoth are notoriously rough; calm weather on the seas, which is rare, can quickly boil into terrible storms.
The moist climate and abundance of precipitation promotes a lush growth of vegetation, mostly leafy deciduous forest and woodland. There are some needleleaf forests, alpine tundras, and permanant snowcaps common at higher elevations and in the northern reaches. Heathlands are rare, but do exist in the western marches.
A lack of good roads, the wild inhabitants, and the problems associated with rough terrain and unpredictable weather, combine to make travel difficult. The continent is widely regarded with disdain by Lythians and is generally avoided by them. Tales, perhaps exaggerated (or probably not), of wild men and fearsome beasts, have been carried to Lythia and have no doubt served to daunt most visitors from abroad. The unpredictable seas and weather, combined with the fact that virtually all vessels headed into Argoth must dock at Phaedra (the “Isle of Mages” ) tend to reduce the profitability of commerce. It is this foreign association with the mages of Phaedra, and the horrible tales of its wilderness denizens, that have earned Argoth the title the “Land of Magic”.
The people of Argoth are numerous and varied, most especially among the largest section of the population, humanity. Numerous other races also exist in limited numbers, dwarves and elves the oldest and most numerous after humanity, then halflings and many other “lesser” races. These are described below.
Mankind is also one of the most aggressive of the major races, approaching Goblin-Kin in ferocity and the Khuzdul in their single-minded drive when roused to battle. Their attitudes range from the beatific to the diabolic, and it numbers priests of numerous philosophies, as well as wizards, warriors and rogues aplenty. Humanity has developed the idea of wealth far beyond the dwarven concept of currency, has generated art and literature and commentary in immense varieties, and has raised the practice of warfare to an art and a science. Their abilities appear limitless. Individual sub-types include; the Ninnellen, the Coranik, the Iber, the Phaedra, the Hepekerian, the Drek, and the Adena. Others, such as the northern Vulcanir_, or the Horselords of the interior Hordelands are rarely encountered, if at all outside their own nations.
Adena : The Adena are a race of mysterious origins. They are considered by many to be a lost tribe of the Phaedra, but neither claim any familial ties. They are a slight yet strong people, of angular gray features, with wavy hair and deeply-set eyes of uniform black, although some Adena with Phaedra kin have piercing gray eyes. Many have broad or malformed heads, as the devout practice infantile head-binding. They are otherwise average in endurance, resistance, and life-span (60 – 85 yrs). They are generally haughty and self-centered; rash, confident, and full of pride. Organized religion is the norm among the Adena. The most prevalent cults are those pertaining to darkness and the afterlife, but are very moderate in their views towards personal rights (they do not openly practice any of the dark religions). Their language consists of a form of Ancient Boranik, known as Adeni, but it has little practical use outside of the learned or the clergy; the bulk of the population speaks Common. They are primarily found in the isolated city of Khorbul in the south-east corner of Argoth.
Coranik : The Coranik are often referred to as “Common Men”. They are of many builds, but normally medium in stature. Their skin is of olive hue, and tend towards black eyes and hair. They are generally shorter in stature than others, have an average life-span ( 60 – 85 yrs), and possess a normal resistance and endurance. They are a practical, hard-working lot, and are unusually inquisitive and superstitious. Their religion has been a tradition of various subdued rituals, with a reverence for local anime or spirits. With the increase in city populations in the Imperium, urban Coranik organized some of the most elaborate shrines and cults in Argoth. Their language is primarily Common, with a heavy accent and combined with regional dialects; few speak Ancient Boranik outside of the clergy. The Coranik Empire was the home for this people, with a few scattered throughout Iberia. The large-scale migration away from the Imperium during the Time of Troubles, led most of this population to scatter everywhere, and they can now be found in limited numbers in most communities throughout Argoth.
Drek : The Drek date their origins to an exiled tribe of rebellious Phaedra who fled to the forests of Shem during that realm’s foundation. When next encountered, they were corsairs, bandits and thieves, and have always maintained the title of the “True” bloodline of the Phaedran realm. They possess dusky gray skin, are slender, and of similar height among both sexes (average 5’ 9"). Their hair is of either black or (rarely) a shock white, and they braid it into elaborate knots. They do possess a considerable endurance, as well as a high resistance to disease, and a long life-span (95 – 175 yrs). Given these unusual abilities, the rumor of them having descended from a Drow-Phaedran origin, may not be too far off. They are aggressive, haughty, determined, and embittered – they have an attitude of royalty in unjust exile. Their worship is preoccupied with death and darkness, and largely revolves around ancestor and hero worship. Ceremonies dwell upon the continuation of the life of the individual and, more importantly, one’s lineage. They speak an archaic form of Ancient Boranik, which they maintain with an almost religious fervor. They dwell primarily on the Isle of Tulwyn, and throughout the western villages of Shem, particularly in the Dreadwaters region, where they outnumber all other races.
Hepekeria : The collective term for the peoples who occupy Hepekeria, an arid and semi-arid continent located west of Argoth. A rough and unblessed territory, their greater populations live along the seacoasts, rivers and bays; however the interior contains little true desert, and sparse groups roam the interior regions. Most are small and wiry, with light brown skin, straight black hair and dark eyes, particularly those of the interior (known among themselves as “Far Hepekerians”), with males averaging 5’6" and 130-lbs, women 5’3" and 100-lbs. Those of the cities tend to be taller and weigh more, and have lighter skin colors, sometimes black Molkurian skin, with straight or curly dark hair and dark brown or black eyes. They are more tolerant of heat and have less need of water, making them popular as sailors. They are also well-adjusted to bright light. Hepekerian prefer bright colors such as reds, purples and golds, with white and black in more practical highland desert regions. Men and women wear their wealth. Laughter, racing and violent games are popular, and most are well-educated and well-traveled. There is a distinct separation between men and women and extremely strong bonds within the clans. Men might take more than one wife, usually marrying their brother’s wife if he dies unexpectedly, to ensure his family’s well-being. Religion tends to be elaborate idol worship of various “high gods”, usually elemental gods of nature, and all clans keep household gods, that they specifically follow. Torre – Our Lady of Joy is common. They are a passionate, fiery, and fiercely honorable people, though some consider them cruel and vengeful, particularly since life is not particularly valued. They are common in Mornhaven, Seareach Castle and Katarre, but rare anywhere else.
Iber : The Iber are probably Hepekerian in origin, but have sufficiently inter-mingled with the native Ninn and Coranik to develop along independent lines. Due to this combination of sub-types, they tend to be compact and agile, with a swarthy olive complexion, hair of curly black, and dark almond-shaped eyes of brown or black. They are usually short (men average 5’ 6"), and have shorter life-spans (40 – 75 yrs). While they do not have an unusual resistance to any illness they do have a superior endurance. They are a cold, determined people, who can be brave to the point of foolhardiness. They have a tradition of martial skills, though not as prevalent as it once was. They maintain many superstitious rituals concerning nature spirits and heroic national ancestors. Many are known to worship the dark gods. The Iber are centered across the Iberian Plains, with related cities in the eastern mountains of Shirkma and western forests near Baud Selen.
Ninnellen : Often simply known as the “Ninn”, they are the descendants of the first human settlers to Argoth. It was their fore-fathers who peacefully integrated themselves with the Eldar who lived here before them. Due to this ancient contact with the Sindarin (or “Moon Elves” ), many Ninn have traces of elven blood. As a group, they tend towards being average to stocky and strong. Their skin is generally fair, with blond hair and blue or green eyes. They are known to possess an average endurance, life-span (60 – 85 yrs) and normal resistance to disease. They are known for being practical, straightforward, and somewhat loud. They enjoy a tradition of song, celebration, physical games, battle and they are fierce traditionalists. They tend towards formal worship, holding rituals to celebrate life, fertility, and the cycles of the seasons. The chief tongue is Common, though many also speak regional variations of Ancient Common; whose original written form has ties to dwarven Dethek. The bulk of the barbarian nations of Argoth are Ninnellen, as are the ancient realms of Antonica, Brak, Aragon, and the newer dominions of Shem, Tulwyn, the Shadow Dragon’s Remnant, and Ursak. Other minor sub-types can be found among the barbarian nations of the wilderness, but those populations tend to be of either Coranik or Ninnellen origin, and are too numerous to list here.
Phaedran : Among the most enigmatic of the human sub-types, coming from murky origins and having little in common with their mainland cousins. They are unusually tall (men average 6’ 3") and strong, with fair (in some cases almost translucent) skin, and black or dark brown hair. They have gray, hazel, blue or green eyes. are known to possess an average resistance to poison, but a high endurance, and an unusually long life-span (90 – 120 yrs). They are a noble, confident, proud, and impatient people, often haughty with foreigners. Religion to the Phaedra is restrained and personal, but when they do construct temples, they are large complexes with many elaborate rituals. As a people, they seem obsessed with the concept of death, and pay particular attention to the burials of their loved ones. Their primary language is Ancient Common, though they often muddle it with more common usages when in an informal setting. The Phaedra are primarily situated on the Isle of Phaedra, but are scattered among their mainland colonies of Shem, Seareach Castle, and Khorbul.
Vulcaniri : The Vulcaniri are the principle inhabitants of northern Lythia and the Ilse of Vulcanir, in the far north-eastern reaches of Argoth. Tall, fair-skinned folk who are largely fair-haired with blond hair predominating over black and brown. Those encountered in Argoth tend to also have raven-straight black hair, hinting at a different ancestry. They area strong, proud folk who thrive in a harsh environment, viewing southerners as soft and weak. They are an impetuous folk, given to proud boasts and prodigious consumption of ale and beer. They live as long as most common humans, and possess no special resistances beyond those of the cold of their realm. Renowned as fighters, warriors and skalds, they have little concept of class distinction as their more southern relatives might; honor and prestige are earned through martial fortitude and strength of will. They are expected to be self-sufficient at an early age, and those who depend on others to do their tasks, such as hiring mercenaries, are especially mistrusted. Wizards are rare, though sorcerers are encountered, hinting at a draconic ancestry most kings claim to be somewhat true. Most speak Draconic and Common, though literacy is not a common skill; while most can read and write, few know more than the basics, and those who use words are valued, but not trusted.
In addition to humanity, there are important communities of elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes to be found throughout the realm. While they keep much to themselves, they trade and interact with humanity on a scale unlike anywhere else in the Dominions of Argoth. Tieflings and Dragonborn are rarely, if ever encountered, while Goliath and Half-Orcs are the most rare of races in Shem.
Gnomes : Possibly the most scattered and uncommonly met race of demihumans, in the Grandwood, gnomes are also the least populous and influential race in the world, sometimes called the “Forgotten Folk” by some, a name which they do not take as a slight. Inquisitive and irrepressible, they shine despite their short 3’-high stature, weighing a slight 45-lbs when wet. Their tan or brown skin are easily adorned with broad smiles, prodigious noses and shining eyes of brown, blue and green. They carefully trim their hair and beards, and their clothing, while usually of simple earthy tones, is elaborately decorated with embroidery, embossing and gleaming jewels, often depicting the clan talents and symbols. They are a lively race who live anywhere from three to five centuries, best known in the wider world for their alchemy, gemstones and tinkering with clockworks, things which they apply their superior intelligence to readily. While they offer their opinions at the drop of a hat, they listen to others as readily, making them sages and tutors among wealthy human families for two or three generations at a time. Other races of gnomes, such as the elusive “Forest Gnomes” are tied closely to the Feywild and vanishingly rare, while “Deep Gnomes” are isolated deep within the earth, harvesting salt and gemstones, and it is said, following the private agenda of their creator, Ilmarinen. They are familiar with both Elven and Dwarven enough to read and write both, though they tend to exclusively use Boranik and speak Common among humanity.
Halflings : Also known as “Hobbits” and “Hin” among themselves, halflings are the smallest of the major races (averaging about 3’ high), and most resemble small street urchins, wise beyond their years. They are typically slim, but with large hands and feet. Their skin is ruddy, and their hair is black and straight, with brown or black eyes. Halfling males often have long sideburns, but beards are rare among them and facial hair is almost unseen. They possess a subtle ruggedness akin to the Khuzan, and when pushed, can display an unusually high endurance. They have a high resistance to cold and magic, with long life-spans of 120-150 years. They are a basically cheery, reliable and hard-working people, unassuming but also clever, capable opportunists, survivors who are looking for their proper place in the universe. Halfling religion is without exception, low-key and informal. It seems based upon a series of joyful celebrations for the gifts of nature. Harvest times are, of course, especially important. They adapt their language to the local usage, and invariably speak a version of Common popular among the local human clans.
They are capable craftsmen, but are not great friends of complex machines or magic. Their vices are few, as they enjoy wealth and the pleasures it brings, but tend to spend gold as quickly as they acquire it. They are infamous collectors, and this represents their greatest vice, as well as their most notorious appearance as thieves. Most enjoy the simple life as farmers, millers, and craftsmen, but are notable adventurers in their youth, following their curiosity at an early age to “find their place in the world”. The center of Halfling society is the farmlands around Westwind, having dwelt there for centuries, and under the protection of the Tyrant. They are allowed to follow their own traditions and live their own lives in this sheltered land, and are granted a great deal of freedom in that realm, often serving as merchants to the nobility. They also have notable communities in northeastern Shem in Elmshire March, and in the fields around Ramos in the Riverlands of Iberia.
Khuzdul : The Khuzdul (also known as “Khuzan” or commonly “Dwarves”) of Argoth are as materialistic as the Sindarin are spiritual. They bear a superficial resemblance to humans, but average well under 5’ in height. They are stocky and possess strength out of proportion to their size, seeming to be molded from the earth itself, bearing ruddy complexions, with hair and eyes of dark earthy tones. They have a tremendous resistance to disease and poisons, great endurance, and may live over 300-400 years. As a group they tend to be secretive, acquisitive, jealous, stubborn, and very clannish, but they are impossibly polite with a strong sense of racial and personal honor. Despite their long life-spans, they will rarely, if ever, forget friend or foe. Religion to the dwarves is very much a personal thing, having little use for elaborate ceremonies in public. Within the clan, they hold a deep reverence for their ancestors and the art of craftsmanship. The Khuzdul write in the ancient Dethek, but speak a guarded tongue, known by virtually none besides themselves, gnomes and scholars. When in public or about in the world, the speak Common, and are known to speak some Elven.
The Khuzdul are best known for their skills at trading, their abilities with forge and stone, and the seemingly tireless efforts they put towards all aspects of their lives. They also have an aversion to the Sindarin, stemming from some dispute that predates modern history. The local colonies of dwarves hold closely to their underground holds in the Kingdom of Greysmere, where the bulk of the population are “Shield Dwarves”, the larger portion of dwarves in Argoth are “Gold Dwarves” who live in the distant and isolated realm of Azadmere under their own king. Similar in appearance to their cousins in the Grandwood, the locals are somewhat taller, and seem to spend more time outside their cavern complexes, maintaining close ties with the humans of the Grandwood. Also, a far more “wild” tribe of Shield Dwarves are known to dwell in the Beast Shards, with them sometimes visiting highland human clans of the Fellreeves to trade their fine swords for rare mead and fine wool cloth, however little is known about this clan. Other dwarven races, known as the Duergar or “Grey Dwarves” are rumored to exist in the Deepearth realms, and another Gold Dwarf realm is located somewhere in the central deserts of Lythia.
Sindarin : While there are three distinctive races of elves in Shem (the “Sylvan”, the “Sindarin” and the “Eladrin”), the race most commonly encountered are the Sindarin, or “Moon Elves” from the Kingdom of Imladris. Undisputed as one of the oldest living races on Argoth (except maybe the Drahken ), they are physically similar to humanity, but tend to be slim, slightly shorter, graceful, and fair of face. The Sindarin seem immune to most human disease, suffering more from ailments of the spirit than those of the flesh. Their near immortality (most live upwards of a millenium) has profoundly influenced their character, granting them great patience, sensitivity, wisdom, and moodiness. They do not sleep as we understand it, instead experiencing a half-conscious blend of dreaming and wakefulness, incomprehensible to other races. They do not practice a ritualized form of religion, and the priests of the Sindar tend to provide an advisory role when sought, rather than the demanding voice of their gods. Their own language of Elven is known only through song and lore by the outside world. They also tend to speak and write Common, and a collection of “beast” tongues.
Compared to others, Sindarin society lacks any real structure. There is no class structure beyond an enlightened nobility that are served out of love, respect, and tradition. Guilds do not exist, all skills being taught in a family setting, and any individual can be as capable as any other at a given skill. Most have acquired some skill at magicks and the sword, making them unrivaled songblades in a fight. They are probably best known as musicians, hunters, and guides throughout the wilderness of Argoth. They generally seem to take little interest in the actions of other races around them. An exception to this, is the colony in the Grandwood, which has openly allied itself to the local human Principality of Shem. These elves seem unusually gregarious, and are known to teach the locals they trade and live among, their language and traditions. Other similar colonies are unknown in Kethira.