Harrowfaust

Jack Shear’s post on Harrowfaust is here. This is one of the country descriptions for my upcoming book on the World Between. This is a draft.

Basic Description

The powers of the night are firmly in command of this country. Demons and vampires carry out intrigues against each other, casually maintaining the population to support them. The forests seem impossibly deep, the mountains impossibly tall. The past is more real in Harrowfaust than the present.

 Stylistic Feel

Not-Transylvania. Humans know their place—support infrastructure, cash cows, toys, and food. Peasants under decadent nobles feel that their disconnected rulers are monsters, and in this case, it is literally true. Vampire/noble/demons are longer-lived, pale from lives of leisure out of constant sunlight, rarified in tastes, without compassion, absorbed in intrigues that seem distant to the common folk, and surviving on an unhealthy reliance of the life blood of their subjects.

The jack-booted captains of the nobles can be escalated to werewolves. The outsider perspective and ancient culture of the gypsies can be escalated to Vistani with power over curses and divination. The lingering presence of past misdeeds influencing the present can be escalated to hauntings. The grim faceless oppression of armies can be escalated to ranks of the walking dead. The dangers of the elements and untamed nature can be escalated to packs of demon wolves racing through restless half-awake forests. The disinterest of rulers in the well-being of their people can escalate to crazed scholars and scientists taking up residence in lonely places to continue unwholesome experiments.

 Ruling Structure

Harrowfaust is torn between secular leadership and spiritual leadership. The king can only be crowned in the temple to Morgath beneath the Claustrum Arx, but the Claustrum Arx is the seat of power for the penangalan demons opposing the vampires. The penangalan cannot rule Harrowfaust on their own, and the vampires will not submit to them. So, Duke Maximilian von Karlock rules from Trivium, and Gabrielle Lorbrek rules from the Claustrum Arx. A feudal system of nobility (most vampires, some not) handles secular rule, and the penangalan are the priestesses of Morgath, the state religion. Those who serve vampires wear red; those who wear red and do not serve vampires are made to.

 Stereotypes

Medium height, mix of Caligarian, Northron, and Vistani blood. Servile wretches, they are looking for a strong master but ready to stab their master in the back if a better opportunity comes along. Or, arrogant ruler who thinks of people as mere cattle. Or, the hardest and scariest of monster hunters, blending wits and violence for continued survival. These people know the weaknesses and strengths of undead. They can summon and bind monsters. They worship a god of death when threatened, and the Lady when they think they have a chance for freedom. The spirit has been ground out of these people.

 Famous For:

Blood wine. Secrets for summoning and binding demons. Ancient treasures. Necromancy. Herbology.

 Major Cities

Trivium. Named for the point where three nations meet, this mighty city is one of the most formidable in the World Between. Frostreave has a settlement to the north, and Caligari one to the west, but Harrowfaust rules the port and the vastness of the city that the port serves. Duke  von Karlok rules from here and maintains the strength of his undead military.

Amnicola. This is the center of trade in Harrowfaust. It is not well defended, and it is sacked from time to time, but it is always rebuilt. It is too close to the outside world, so supernatural forces that rule Harrowfaust have a lighter touch here. The Brexton family has ruled Amnicola for centuries. They are monster hunters, allowed to rule to keep them too busy for murder sprees. They are canny and ruthless researchers and fighters, fond of traps and intrigue. This helps them rule and also hunt monsters.

Pacisurbs. The ironically named “City of Peace” has changed hands many times, and ended up an independent city. Its main export is compromise. The city is one of the keys to Harrowfaust’s security, and it is rife with spies, diplomats, and trade.

Solumach. Once this city surveyed a broad, fertile coastline. During the Deathfleet assault, a 500 mile across storm stripped the land away and made the mountain city a port. The pass to reach it is open about 3 months a year, it is narrow and dangerous. Solumach is generally independent, but it rules its local interests with an iron fist.

Adumbratis. At the western end of the Deep Road under the Storm Range, this trading city is the connecting point between the Scavenger Lands and the rest of the World Between. It is a major stop for Vistani. Harrowfaust controls the settlement in wary truce with Frostreave.

 Notable Locations

Claustrum Arx. This massive fortress is less of a city than a fortification. Four mighty castles guard the approach to the vast monument to military paranoia. It has never been taken by force (only through trickery, by the penangalan.) Below is the Seat of Morgath, where the king of Harrowfaust must be crowned. Legend suggests that from time to time an undead army marches from the Claustrum Arx directly from the World Below.

Mother Mina’s Gardens. Deep in the Shade Forest, there is a cleared meadow that has been transformed into an incredible botanical garden. Mother Mina is reputed to be immortal, but she is hunched and she looks ancient. She tends her plants, and according to legend, if it can die then there is something in her garden that will kill it. She always has a price for assassins, but if you’re bold and if you have something she wants, you can walk out with the means to kill anything. Hers is a unique temple to Morgath.

 Supernatural Elements

The Corpulent Reaper. Morgath is one of the Hundred Death Gods. King Harrowfaust called upon him when the empire of Ulverland was ready to absorb the last of his territory. In exchange for worship and rulership in Harrowfaust, Morgath gave the king’s nobles vampirism (and necromancy). Bolstered with new dark power, the vampires carved out their territory and still maintain it. They also worship Morgath. So too do many of the common people; they want the power they see the undead wield, and undeath ironically symbolizes independence. This is a lie, as the undead are mastered by their hungers and by those more powerful than themselves, but those nuances are lost on people who are starving and subject to brutality. The penangalan are the priestesses of Morgath, which annoys the vampires to no end.

Penangalan. These demons are the heads of women who can rip loose of bodies, floating through the air with hanging intestines they can use to strangle their victims. They are powerful spellcasters, utterly devoted to intrigue and concealment. They would like to own and rule Harrowfaust, but they recognize the need for the might of the vampires, (and the vampires realize the priestesses of their patron god should not be exterminated) so their conflicts do not escalate beyond sparring.

The Nature of Evil is to Defeat Itself. The dark rulers of Harrowfaust have their hands full with internal intrigue and conflict. They participate in international espionage with glee, but they cannot realistically invade; their own conflicts would sabotage them. Should another army invade them, they band together and fend off the threat. The only army they have consistently failed to defeat is from the World Above, and they’d have a good chance to win if they could stop bickering long enough. These practically immortal creatures have long memories for grudges centuries old.

Brotherhood of the Yew. These crazy hunters are trying to free Harrowfaust from its demonic and undead rulers. They have informants, scholars, priests, and warriors in their ranks. They are ignored when they pick off minor or annoying demons and vampires. When they attack someone who matters, that tends to launch a fresh investigation. Those connected to the Brotherhood die slowly, in great pain.

Reparation Servitude. Northrons caught fighting are given as indentured servants to nobles. It is the only way Harrowfaust has found to get some good out of the constant raids from Frostreave.

Church of the Lady of the White Way. Some peasants turn to the church in hopes of a future without monsters. The rulers tend to indulge this as long as it doesn’t get in their way.

Vistani. Harrowfaust is the main route between the Scavenger Lands and the rest of the World Between, and it is heavily traveled by gypsies. The locals use them as spies and gain news of lands nearby and far away, in exchange for relatively safe passage. Vistani influence has steeped the country; the nobles use the Vistani, and the common people admire and try to emulate their ability to survive. When things go wrong, both sides can be abrupt in using the Vistani as a scapegoat. That way they can send a message without getting on the wrong side of neighbors who will not simply move along.

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