Heroes of Atroa
The last bastion of light in a dying landscape, Armitage stands against the hordes of Gardusk, Ckalle and the Borderlads, and holds. It was once a beautiful, pastoral place. But when rifts to the Shadowfell began opening in Gardusk, and the undead leaders set their eyeless sockets on conquest, Armitage was their first target. Decades of strife and war have tempered the people of Armitage, making them cautious and stalwart. It doesn’t help matters that Ckalle also wishes to see Armitage sublimated to their twisted will. If it were not for the country’s military and spiritual leader, St. Balthas, it would have fallen long ago. Balthas the Reaver, as he was originally known, was an heroic adventurer in his day. When Gardusk was consumed by the Shadowfell and became bent on world conquest, he and his companions were among the first to fight against their undead hordes. Many years of war followed with many, many victories for Balthas and his friends. When Balthas finally met his end, his god (Bahamut) intervened, granting him sainthood and all its benefits.
The landscape of Armitage is windswept and desolate. The sun rarely shines through the near constant cover of clouds and fog. The once lush forests are now burnt husks and the rolling green hills now hide bogs and mud-choked mires. Traveling outside any of the major settlements will guarantee an encounter with; a battalion of soldiers from Ckalle, a squad of undead being led by a priest of Vecna, minions from the feydark depths of the Warped Wood, or, if you’re lucky, a bivouac of soldiers from St. Balthas. Only one road winds through Armitage; The Trade Way (also called the King’s Road in the Borderlands) passes through Durggenfast at the mountain pass, curves down to the City of Dawn, and continues on to Jotunfast. It once branched off to lead to Gardusk and Ckalle, but those roads are now overgrown and indistinguishable.
Ancient highways snake like veins through Armitage. These massive stone roads are remnants of Bael Turath. With slave labor and powerful rituals the Turathi built roads raised on walls so as to avoid the harsh terrain and speed trade with their allies. The Turathi Highways now stand as ruins serving only as obstacles and territorial markers. The greatest of these roads was a massive suspended bridge that lead from the heights of a spire into the mountains bordering Ckalle. Both the spire and the bridge now lie in ruins, but there is said to be magic still within the foul altars adorning the tower. For the right sacrifice, one might reinforce the bonding magics of the bridge.
St.Balthas: One earth mote exists in Armitage and on it sits the capitol city; St. Balthas. Named after Balthas himself, St. Balthas is the only true safe haven in all of Armitage. It is perhaps another blessing that this earth mote is the largest in all of Atroa, out-sizing even the great floating cities of Minz. Its large enough to accommidate not only the metropolis of St. Balthas, but also surrounding farmland and a moderately sized community of halfling burrows. The Great Drake, as the mote has come to be called, floats just above the southern stretches of the Veronian Mountains. The city itself encompasses nearly two thirds of the Great Drake. Without having to worry about defending an oversize city from terrestrial threats, St. Balthas has sprawled farther than even Midara. The remaining third of the mote is devoted to farming and is home to the many halflings that preform this agricultural task.
Within the metropolis the streets swell with pilgrims from Dunthrane, Sprohm and the Borderlands. Shops peddle reliquaries and blessed items to the naive and temples tithe the pious. Amongst all of this religious capitalism sits the Temple of St. Balthas. Interred within are the earthly remains of Balthas the Reaver. Pilgrims have said that praying at the foot of the sarcophagus can cure you of any ailment and bless you for the rest of your days. The pious camp outside the temple for weeks on end just to see the splendor of the temple and be cured of disease. Acolytes will often attend to the very ill with poultices until they’re admitted to see the reliquary and the head cleric. Other shrines exist within the Temple of St. Balthas, but they see far less patronage; Pelor and Kord both have a shrine in the temple.
Also located with the temple is the Spirit Sanctum; the return point for all slain deva on Atroa. The deva originated on Atroa through a pact between Balthas the Reaver and Bahamut, so it is from his temple that they are reincarnated. Erathis is the only other church to have a fully fledged temple in St. Balthas. It is from here, the Cathedral Civil, that the Registry is enforced and the Templars receive their orders to hunt down apostates and “unsavory” races.
All of this taxing of those who come to worship goes to fund the army and the constant battle against the demonic and undead hordes. This has also allowed the city to purchase a small fleet of airships, custom made, from Sprohm. These ships patrol the skies around St. Balthas, along with a contingent of griffon riding soldiers, constantly vigilant of any airborne threats. Anything they might miss must contend with the potent wards surrounding the city itself.
Inhabitants of St. Balthas are usually in service to the church in some way, be it the church of Bahamut or Erathis. Libraries funded by the church are devoted to the study of demons and undead to better anticipate and defeat them. The St. Balthas School of Abyssal Studies educates and trains specialized clerics able to wreak havoc on demons and their kind. They live within the city until their graduation when they leave St. Balthas and Armitage for the wider world where they can study and fight demons firsthand. Most deva who do not take up adventuring live within St. Balthas, content to serve the church in an administrative capacity.
City of Dawn: Huddled below the floating utopia of St. Balthas is the military installation of the City of Dawn. So named because dawn light is the only direct sunlight the city gets, eclipsed by the Great Drake above and the Veronian Mountains to the west. During the day, the many delvers’ lights on the underside of the Great Drake sparkle like stars above the City of Dawn. Dwarves and gnomes mine the underside of the massive mote for its rich ore deposits. The City of Dawn is inhabited primarily by the Armitage militia, and adheres to a strict military hierarchy. In many ways it is a ‘police state’, though relatively few civilians actually live in the city. Those that do, are usually too poor to afford life in St. Balthas, and must make do in the City of Dawn.
There are few merchant shops and even fewer inns and public houses. The soldiers have supplies sent to them from St. Balthas and they usually take their meals in one of four mess halls located in the barracks around the city. The handful of civilians living in the City of Dawn are mostly merchants and shop owners, catering to the small trickle of travelers that pass through. Its population reflects its purpose, the vast majority being soldiers and commanding officers from the hardier races; dragonborn, human, warforged, dwarf, and goliath are common soldiers in the Armitage militia. Deva and a few eladrin compose a compliment of invokers, clerics and arcane spellcasters. Halflings are most prevalent among the civilian population with gnomes and humans as well.
The church of Bahamut is the backbone of the Armitage militia. The only existing temple in the City of Dawn is that of Bahamut; the House of the Shining Blade. This structure is a massive, reinforced complex that serves as a fall-back position as well as a temple. It bristles with guards and ballistas along its walls and its catacombs can more than hold the entire population of the city.
Transport between St. Balthas and the City of Dawn is heavily regulated. A system of five linked portals carry personnel from the surface to the Great Drake or vice versa (three teleport from the City of Dawn and two teleport to it). These gates are monitored by high ranking officers within the military able to cast the Linked Portal ritual. The gates are located equidistant from each other in four sections of the city with the fifth gate located in the catacombs of the House of the Shining Blade. The officers guarding the gates that lead to St. Balthas have orders to deny anyone egress unless they have the proper documentation. At least one of these officers has been known to accept bribes.
The terrestrial landscape of Armitage is a battleground. Armies from Dunador, and Sprohm are often shipped to Armitage, via airship, to aid in its defense. The spectacle surrounding the City of Dawn is that of shattered piles of bones and ash that used to be undead horrors, wrecked siege engines from Ckalle, and blasted and burned patches of earth from mage battles recently passed. At least once weekly are soldiers called from their posts to repel a threat. This usually consists of a legion of undead or minor demons from Gardusk or Ckalle (respectively) and lead by more powerful warlords and generals. To date, the army of St. Balthas (in concert with the Sprohm Knights and Dunthrane’s Golden Lions) have never had to fall back or evacuate any part of the city. This is either a testament to their skill or a sign that the enemy is simply testing them.
Recently, a walled enclave mysteriously appeared just outside the walls of the City of Dawn near the shores of the Platinum Sea. Thinking it a cunning ploy from Ckalle, the army cautiously deployed a unit to investigate. Bristling with paladins, invokers and clerics, the unit surrounded the enclave and called for a representative. After a short time, during which the unit anticipated an attack, a lone mage exited the gates of the enclave. A parlay was had between the mage and the commanding officer, and the commander ordered the unit to fall back. Since then, the church of Bahamut has openly welcomed the mage and his enclave, whom have offered to produce magic items for the church and its army. The enclaves inhabitants; strange bald, tattooed mages in red robes and warriors wearing silver masks, have been thoroughly helpful in the fight against Ckalle and Gardusk, and have produced several helpful items never before seen by the church. The Catherdal Civil has taken issue with the enclave and its unregistered mages. A representative was sent from the church to enforce the Registry, but he was rebuked (albeit politely). The representative returned with rumors of blood and pact magic being practiced within the enclave and the church of Erathis is anxious to rid of the mysterious mage and his allies.
Durggenfast:- The mountains also hold a few small cities, carved right into their face. These cities are heavily fortified by their predominantly dwarven inhabitants to protect the teleportation circles that lead to St. Balthas within. Durggenfast is one such city, perched on the eastern face of the Veronian Mountains just north of St. Balthas it overlooks the King’s Road leading through the mountain pass to the Borderlands. The pass splits the city in two, one half on each side of the crevice. A system of suspension bridges, underground tunnels and keyed portals link both sides of the mountain stronghold. A massive stone wall is located at the mouth of the pass where travel is regulated and threats are quashed.
The wall has an interior area with enough room for a barracks, two inns, a stable, a small shrine to Kord, and a small common square where traveling merchants and skilled soldiers can ply their wares. Many foul things stalk the Borderlands and the landscape of Armitage, the soldiers of Durggenfast must contend with both. Duggenfast was originally a dwarven outpost, much like Hammerfast, but, with the oncoming threats from the surrounding area, it came to rely on St. Balthas more and more until it became a military outpost for the great city.
The army of St. Balthas has few soldiers in Durggenfast. Its soldiers are mostly comprised of the Durggenfast Militia; dwarves, gnomes, humans, muls and goliaths that live and have families in the city. The militia is considered a branch of the army of St. Balthas and receive regular supplies and funding (and reinforcements if needed) from the city.
The city itself is split in to three sections; the military quarter located on the southern face, the civilian quarter located on the northern face, and the mining camps below the city. The civilian quarter has much more to offer in the way of trade than the wall below. It must cater to those living in the city and so has a wider selection of shops and taverns, though it would still be considered sparse by normal standards. The military quarter is composed mostly of drilling areas, mess halls, armories, smithies, barracks, and a small library of arcane and religious materials. The layout of the city doesn’t afford much in the way of architecture. Everything is built for function; bulky walled switchbacks lead from level to level and shield those walking them from the harsh winds, and the stores and other buildings could be called ‘boxy’ and rarely sport any adornments. Everything appears to be precariously stacked. The streets are narrow with heavy rails and angled slightly inward to prevent pedestrians from falling to the levels below.
The use of horses is restricted to the wall only. Above that, llamas and other smaller more nimble pack animals are used to carry goods and pull small carts. Inside the mountain, systems of streets and buildings are carved deep into the rock. Carts and rails and pulley systems transport goods from floor to floor. Massive staircases and ramps lead from level to level. Deep below the feet of the soldiers and civilians, miners hack away at the precious ores within the mountain, always careful not to dig too deep. The camping area is composed mostly of temporary buildings, since it shifts whenever a new deposit of ore is found. The fruits of the miners’ labor is put to the anvil within the city and is then put in the hands or on the back of the militia members. What little is left over is traded within the wall for supplemental goods from areas like Fallcrest Winterhaven and Andevar.
Jotunfast- Like Durggenfast, Jotunfast was initially a dwarven outpost (called Harborfast). But unlike Durggenfast, this settlement is now much less militaristic and inhabited primarily by goliaths. Twenty-five hundred years ago, the dwarves of Harborfast abandoned the city for unknown reasons, and it sat empty for three decades. Eventually a tribe of renegade goliath from Bael Turath came across the settlement and saw much potential in its dwarven architecture. They took root in the city and used its defenses to repel the agents of Bael Turath bent on reclaiming the erstwhile tribe of slaves.
After a decade of strife and battle, the tieflings of Bael Turath gave the goliaths of Jotunfast up as a lost cause. At home in the mountains and able to cast deadly earth magic; the half-giants took too many of the tieflings soldiers for it to be worth their while. To this day the goliaths of Jotunfast practice a strong tradition of primal and arcane earth magic, and the famous goliath sorcerer Voran Earthmane was born in Jotunfast. Many of the original dwarven structures within the city have been torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the much taller half-giants, but you can still see hints of the older style.
The city sits in the mountains straddling a harbor on the southern end of the Veronian Mountains, not far from the City of Dawn and St. Balthas. The harbor is a massive sea cave set in the southern face of the Veronians where ships from Midara Dunthrane and Agub come to trade. Potent primal magic keeps the tide even so ships can come and go as they wish. Simply by adjusting this ritual the goliaths can raise the tide and effectively fortify their city from attacks by sea if needed. Beyond the cave harbor, the city is a cluster of natural-looking caves, honeycombed along the walls. These serve as residences and overlook the central area of buildings where shops temples and taverns are constructed in stylized (stretched) dwarven architecture.
Wolfstone:- In Nerath’s final days, King Elidyr recalled the garrisons from the frontiers, urging them to surrender their posts to shore up the cities against the gnoll hordes. Many returned to their native lands, but some stayed behind to shield the flagging kingdom against the other arrayed enemies as they had since the kingdom first spread beyond its first cities. Such is Wolfstone’s story, because far to the north, raised among the icy peaks of a jagged range stands a great and sprawling fortress, where doughty defenders still guard against the darkness these many years after Nerath’s fall.
When the call to abandon Wolfstone came, it was clear to the garrisons that they could not completely leave their posts because the frost giants mustering in sight of their walls would overrun the citadel and tumble into the south as they had long striven to do. Many warriors, supporting personnel, and traders did answer the call to leave, but the bravest warriors, along with their families, remained. So while Nerath entered its death throes, Wolfstone stood fast, its defenders numerous and able enough to protect the walls and drive back their own enemies. Yet they never found out what happened to the king or their nation, because no word came to them and no reinforcements arrived to relieve them. These warriors were alone on the world’s edge and, if they wanted to survive, they would do so through their own resourcefulness because no help was ever going to come.
The glaciers and icy storms crash against the jagged frozen mountains marking the border between the untamed wild and the battlefields to the south. Manning these mountains from walls, turrets, and keeps bristling on their barren heights are the bold men and women charged with defending humankind’s empire from hostile invaders. These fortifications together are called Wolfstone, so named for the wolf ’s head peak standing at their defenses’ center. Wolfstone is located just west of Gardusk, northeast of Dragomir, and far north of any other city in Armitage. To make matters worse, the Warp Wood has begun to creep its way between Wolfstone and the rest of Armitage, making any possible attempts to send aid even more difficult.
Wolfstone’s inhabitants are hardy humans—big, muscular, and heavyset. Men have thick beards and long shaggy hair, and women are plain-faced and grim. Man or woman, all are strong and tough, tempered through constant battle with the enemies beyond their walls. Furs are a staple in their clothing, with wolf or bear skins being the most common. Wolfstone inhabitants pass down materials through the generations, patched with curtains, tablecloths, and whatever else they have on hand. In battle, warriors don heavy hide armor and wield massive weaponry, such as greataxes, greatswords, mauls, and picks. Wolfstone player characters favor martial, divine, and primal classes, with fighters, battle clerics, and barbarians the most common.
Wolfstones value strength, honor, and battle prowess above all other virtues, and all strive to live up to the examples of their predecessors who laid down their lives to protect their homelands. Training begins when a child is old enough to walk, with a practice sword thrust into these children’s hands so one day they can replace the fallen. So ingrained are the military traditions, everyone living in Wolfstone can fight, from the lowliest scullion to the hoariest elder. The world darkens, drifting toward the final days when the gods wage war against the dark elemental lords. The people of Wolfstone, devoted to Kord the battle god, believe they are soldiers in this apocalyptic battle and that laying down their lives to fight the giants, winter wolves, and the horrific undead drifting through the snow is not only honorable, but also demanded in the celestial war. In addition to Kord, many folk also include the Raven Queen in their prayers, beseeching the dark goddess to ease the winter and lend her strength against the evil hordes bearing down on them. Although not unknown to the Wolfstone’s warriors, magic is feared and misunderstood. The few mages living in Wolfstone learned the craft from their fathers and mothers who were also mages, and they live apart from the rest. Priests, however, find much more welcome here, especially those who channel Kord’s power to give them an advantage against the enemy.
Primal magic is relatively new, and it is expressed through the berserkers who fight on the walls and lead expeditions onto the glaciers. Some have begun to realize more is behind the rages than simple battlelust and have identified the primal spirits who sometimes goad the warriors to ever-more-daring acts. From this study, some have started harnessing primal magic in new and effective ways, and the evocations they perform have been invaluable in the ongoing war against the giants. The enemy is out there, roaming the glacier. It is the frost giant reaver, the winter wolf, and the undead stumbling forward in armor wrought from ice with blades as sharp as a winter gale. These foes emerge from the swirling snow to lay siege to the fortress as they have for nearly one hundred years, though each time the defenders throw them back.
The giants and other icy horrors are but half of the threat Wolfstone must face. Undead from Gardusk regularly wander west to the walls of Wolfstone. With this added nuisance, the warriors of Wolfstone are finding themselves taxed. As much as St. Balthas would like to send aid, they cannot spare the soldiers and worry that spreading themselves too thin would repeat the folly of Nerath.
Until a decade ago, the Wolfstoners faced the gathering evil alone, but a dwarf band from a distant outpost brought supplies, arms, and armor. Seeing the human plight, they pledged their service for a time. Some suspect the dwarves have an ulterior motive since they seem overly concerned with the deep tunnels below the complex, but whether they came under false pretenses, they are stalwart allies on the walls. Dwarf bones now join those once belonging to humans in the warrior crypts below the walls, and the dwarves offer not one word of complaint, proving as fearsome and as ferocious as their human counterparts.