Remnant of the Swan Kings
The Kingdom of Cygnus is the center of the fallen realm known anciently as “The Land of Five Waters”. Now a small, worn realm of faded beauty, it remains a rough, hazy land of fortified villages, haunted by the cry of wolves and worse in the night.
Known also as The Swan Vale, it is a rough country almost devoid of easily harvested timber near its capital city, Pelargir – City of Ghosts, rendering much of the nearby lands a wasteland. Settlement and the passage of time has converted this region into a grasslands, except for the remaining wooded pockets of the Old Forest and the Hornwoods. Several significant geographic regions exist within The Swan Vale.
The Northern Uplands are a region of hills leading from the rough lands around Frandor’s Keep, down towards the watershed near Pelargir. The light woodlands of the region are given to broadleafs and have considerable ground cover. Rain and snow are moderate, with the heaviest coming in autumn. Cold frosts are common around this time, as well. The extreme cold and unusually heavy snows of the last few years have brought rumors of another Wolf Winter to arise soon enough.
The Girded Highlands are a considerable expanse of rough hills and mountain valleys with very little tree cover. Myriad streams begin in this region, emptying into the Brandywater and the Great Basin, creating severe erosion. The tall grass seen in most plains is gone, replaced by a stony soil and stunted trees. Pasture, not agriculture holds sway here, and settlements are few and infrequent. Prevailing winter winds and sudden storms make life even more difficult.
The Great Basin is a region of streams and well-watered lands that comprise the best farmlands in the region. A broad, silt-fed region of land, it receives good rainfall and remains a rich and fertile farmland important to the continued survival of the Dale. Of late, however, the region has begun to receive less rainfall, and the erosion of its lands, denuded of timber and other protection has begun to drain the topsoil away, reducing its yields even further.
The South Coastal Lowlands are the region edging against the southern ridges that separate The Mark from Swan Vale. Well fed by stream and rain, the region is becoming popular as the only remaining lands outside Pelargir’s direct oversight to support agricultural efforts. Most of the inhabitants are locals, meaning they are not traditionally Hepekerian in origin, and in fact, tend to be descended from fishermen despite their present occupation. The weather remains warm, though moderated by chill winds from the north, and southern storms bearing heavy rain and snow.
Inhabitants : It’s primary people are typical “Northern Men”, though they have a sense of culture that has been influenced by Coranik gold and laws. Many of its youth spend their early years serving north in Land of the Two Princes as mercenaries, returning wealthy and bringing prosperity to their clans. They tend to be skilled in both weapons use and weapon-making, and are often well-schooled in the arts and lore of hunting. They tend to leadership roles among the coastal people, and are respected for their direct manner, being strong, tall and often majestic people. In the realm, they tend to be skilled officers, village and tribal chiefs, and its finest craftsmen. They often take great care in maintaining their own cultural, religious and political traditions, though Aelven has replaced their traditional Coranik as the common tongue.
The people living on the coast and in the central city of Pelargir, are a ruddy, dark-haired folk of mixed blood that are considered “civilized” in the area. Comprising the majority of farmers, fishermen and craftsmen in the city and surrounding region, they also comprise the majority of the crown spear levies. They are a hard, traditional people, not given lightly to change or modifying their perceptions. More likely to be scholars than others in the region, they still rely heavily on oral traditions and many are skilled orators and bards. Their own dialect of Common is heavily flecked with Hepekerian words and sounds, though most can speak traditional Common as well.
In the years since the Hepekerian settlement, the hearty, often blond-haired and bearded folk known as “Northerners” came initially to the region serving as mercenaries in the wars leading up to the realm’s failure. Most later stayed as settlers, mostly in the Borderlands, though a few came and prospered in Pelargir itself as urban craftsmen. Well-skilled in weapons-craft, they are also knowledgeable in the arts and lore of the wilderness. Due to their skills at war, they have been less-affected over the last decade of chaos in the realm, and while some have turned to outlaw ways to survive, others tend towards leadership roles in the Borderlands. Most speak traditional Common, and often pick up more unusual languages during their travels.
Most of the folk of Cygnus are human, but elvenkind and dwarves often pass through on various errands. Gnomes are surprisingly common, but have begun moving from the region over the last generation, finding homes in the Land of the Two Princes. Humanoids of all origins can be found throughout the border regions, with the ever-present goblins sometimes even trading openly, though tauri or orcs and their kin are still feared.
The first people to enter the lands of The Swan Vale, were the untutored and quarrelsome “Northmen”, who quickly built-up a relatively advanced forest society led by brash Warrior-Kings. At first, these little Kingdoms profited from their distant cousins, the Hepekerian traders, sailors and scholars who visited the region, and brought and impressed their culture on the local commoners.
The Hepekerian came next as colonists and conquerors. They began by converting a strategically located fishing and forest village into Pelargir – City of Ghosts. The original settlement prospered and grew, and the city became the economic capital of a burgeoning new realm. Its leaders claimed wide but ill-defined lands, and wider and even more ill-defined powers, and by the rise of Akhorahil to the throne of the Second Coranik Empire, in 661 TR, the realm was led by a self-proclaimed Prince, and known as The Swan Lands.
With the rise of the realm’s importance, also came an interest in great works. A time of growth, the realm developed great paved stone roads, the construction of numerous fortifications and watch towers across the realm, and the daunting task of bridging the Gwathlo River at the site of Pelargir. The nobility of the realm fought many great wars against the surrounding Orkan, Goblin and Tauri tribes, ultimately pushing them back from the hills into the Trackless Heights of The Beast Shards, though it was hard-fought and not without losses.
For almost four hundred years, the realm was ruled by a line of kings and queens who kept much to themselves and ruled peacefully, settling the nearby “Borderlands”, particularly the lands “…over the mountains…” listed on maps as “The Valiant Wilds”. Containing lands and resources greater even than those claimed by the realm, it became a focal point for development, colonization and trade, and the independent baronies founded within brought new trade and resources to the region.
Seen as overt aggression by the various humanoid tribes that laid claim to the frontier, during the latter half of the TR 900s, the area became unsettled and difficult to control. In 956 TR, King Argleb was slain in battle with a traitor baron, and his son, Arveleg rose to the throne amid chaotic times. The independent-minded nobles of the Borderlands began taking sides in the growing conflict, making the realm’s politics fraught with constant chaos. By TR 981, the crown fell to Ostoher, a level-headed man who managed to bring peace to his realm, at the cost of granting the baronies in the Borderlands autonomy and status as allies against the rise of the armies of The Dark. He undertook great public works, and tried to bring trade back to his faded realm, ensuring paved roads and public works were available. In defense of his realm, he began rebuilding the army, improving its training, and establishing the outer defensive walls to protect the outer fields from casual pillage. Ostoher is today considered the greatest ruler of the realm, and his works live on.
At the turn of the century, his heirs began to feel increasing pressure from the various humanoid tribes along the borders. However, everyone recognized that there was something more behind the raids this time. Subversion of nobles and political maneuvering became rife, and within a generation, the realm was broken into three factions, one almost completely subverted and openly allied with the mountain tribes (The Barony of Redstone), and the other two natural rivals (The Kingdom of Cygnus and the Realm of the Mark).
Orc tribes among the mountains began to be openly employed in Redstone’s army, and trolls began to appear among the waterways of the Borderlands. Evil things began to multiply in great numbers, and even lesser drakes began to travel over the mountains and raid into the lands around __Pelargir_. Isolated areas began to suffer devastating raids, and life in the Borderlands was an experience in fear and hardship. Shell keeps and watch-towers all became dangerous places, and merchant caravans remained either small and unremarkable, or large, heavily protected forces to facilitate trade. The Fell Swarm changed everything.
In TR 1021, the Elves of the Silverwood were suddenly attacked on the fringe of The Mark by a large red dragon and a tribe of orcs. The forest was set alight, and the elves fled deeper into the mountains, establishing themselves somewhere unknown to the people of the Realm. The dwarves began to send their shipments of weapons, iron and coal into the realm sporadically, and soon almost never. Shipments of grain and fruit from Westwind also soon evaporated in Pelargir, and with the fall of the Coranik Empire its own support of Cygnus fell away. Trade withered and weakened both its economy and support of its armed forces.
As the Borderlands began to come under direct assault by the humanoid tribes of the mountains, its native human clans began to flee away from their settlements in the borders and into the central lands of the Swan Kingdom. It was a generation of fear and hardship, as the Borderlands slowly depopulated and its defenses wore down. In 1042 TR, the arrival of yet another “Wolf Winter” bore down on the region, and the allied humanoid tribes of the Barony of Redstone swept through The Mark, in a massive invasion. The Swan Kingdom sent forces in support of the defense of the realm, but the war was difficult and the tribes hard to contain.
One on one, the troopers of the Swangaard were better-trained and better-equipped than the humanoid tribes, but the ferocity with which they fought staggered the defenders. The allied forces were driven westward and south from the mountains, across the ravaged Borderlands until they fought a final delaying action in the deep, heat of Summer at Stonefist – Gateway to The Mark. In the end, the war was successful, and the invading army destroyed, but at a great cost; 80% of the army was lost, and its noble families were devastated, including the line of the King. The royal house was thrown into chaos, though plans had been made to keep the peace in such an eventuality. Under the Regent’s Council, the nation reeled, being thrown into economic and military chaos. The Kingdom of The Mark was abandoned and left to the mountain tribes and wild wolves.
For the past decade, the realm of Cygnus has tried to rebuild itself, but to little avail. Its economy is shattered and military recovering, but not fast enough. Already, Baron Vlad of Redstone has his eye on the realm, seeking a means to usurp the rulership of the realm, and unite both his own claims with Cygnus into a great single kingdom… by whatever means he may.