Andermark

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Andermark is more than just the western-most nation of the Realm, a wet and dreary country filled with thick, ominous woodlands and inhabited by a hardy and dour people - it is the last surviving civilised nation in the world. So far to the west, it was the last bastion of humanity that the Legion came to in their invasion; refugees from all countries came flooding in to hide as the war looked increasingly desperate. When the war was won, this left all of surviving humanity huddled together in this country, a land of dangers that live in the forests and hard living. It is not the easiest land to live in even if one would seek to rebuild civilisation from it.

History

The Legend of Erik Stark

At the dawn of recorded history the people of Andermark were scattered and hard-pressed. The thick woodlands and jagged landscape of their home made for an environment rich in minerals and with good hunting, but this wealth was not easily enjoyed. The forests were not forgiving to humans. Anderian legends talk of creatures in the depths, monsters and deranged people - and if you wandered too far in, lost your way, you might become one or the other, never to find your way home or your mind again. Most of these tales are confined to the darker depths of modern Andermark, before and after the Fall, but at the founding of the kingdom, such stories were everyday truths.

Efforts to tame the wilderness were met with woods thicker than had been anticipated - or the forest itself and its denizens fighting back. Trees would not be felled, land would not be cleared, and so the Andermen of old were forced to remain as scared people huddled in villages, towns in natural clearings at best. Anderian traditions still demand all doors be locked at night, a horseshoe hammered above the threshold, the worked metal of civilisation holding the wild at bay.

Centuries before the formation of the Realm, at a time when Calavria's empire was in its infancy and even the kings of Lancereaux were tribal leaders, Andermark was nothing more than this remote, rugged wilderness. In one of the villages far to the east, near the coast, lived a young man named Erik Stark. A simple huntsman, he made his living doing his best to avoid the darkest parts of the woods and bring back food and furs for his family. But because of the danger of his work, the family of the girl he wished to marry, a young woman named Rosalie, refused to allow them to wed, not wishing their daughter to become a widow early.

The two engaged in a secret tryst, away from the prying eyes of those who would keep them apart, Erik using his knowledge of the woodlands to allow them to stay secret. Until one night where he went to the hollow tree they used to meet and, instead of finding his love, found the ripped and bloodied sleeve of her dress.

An Anderman such as Erik knew what this meant - the creatures of the forest had taken her. That there was no bloodied corpse to confirm her dead ought have been considered no mercy; surely she would not be seen again alive and well, that much was for certain. And yet Erik Stark would not be thwarted; he knew these woods better than any other man.

He brought back news to the village that she was gone, and shrugged off their words of anger, their blame at his fault - and that same night he gathered his supplies, and his hatchet, and went into the woods to follow the trail, swearing he would come back with Rosalie or not at all.

Anderian legends are full of the tribulations he faced along the way. The Farrowed he was chased by, hiding himself under a pile of leaves until they left. The Skaven he tricked into giving him information of where to go next - and to not eat him. But it was from them he learnt the one he needed to find was named the Woodsie Lord.

In the heart of the woods Erik found him, Rosalie enwrapped in the branches of a tall tree unable to escape, and the two fought, Erik with hatchet, this monstrous figure of the Fringe with limb and the magic of the woods. It seemed that Erik would be defeated, for even when he hacked off a branch-like arm of the Woodsie Lord, he did not falter and before he knew it Erik was unarmed, standing between Woodsie and Rosalie, all but helpless.

In a fit of desperation he lunged forth for the nearest weapon to reach and plunged it at the trunk-like chest of Woodsie - and this did stagger the creature, for the weapon Erik had grabbed was Woodsie's own arm. He did not fall, but he did flee into the woods, leaving behind Erik and Rosalie to make their tired way home.

Her family overjoyed, they could not argue with the right of the man who had done the impossible to wed their daughter, and for a time it was thought Erik's deeds would end there. But within months it became clear that the defeat of the Woodsie Lord would have more consequences than simply the fate of Rosalie. The woods near their village became brighter and less dangerous, the denizens of the Fringe no longer so present. In wounding him and driving him away, everything in life became safer, and the woods became such a place as to be controlled by man, conquered by man.

Birth of the Nation

The tale of Erik Stark's victory slowly made its way across the country, and before long there were tribal leaders and warchiefs coming to the village. A blow had been struck against the heart of the woods the like of which had never been seen, and the rest of what would become Andermark was desperate that the fight not end there.

Erik Stark was reluctant. He had undergone much and saved his beloved Rosalie. But these leaders and generals were not just content with his tale of what had happened, or even his offering them the arm of the Woodsie Lord, which he had hung over his fireplace as a memento of his trials. The people of Andermark were desperate for the grip the Fringe held upon them, and Erik was, they had decided, the man to bring this about.

Over the next five years Erik travelled from village to village, town to town, learning more about the woods across the land, of the different tales and monsters, and gathering with him men who could help him, with experience or with valour. And he learned that, wherever he went, the tales of Woodsie continued. Soon enough it became clear to him that to free Andermark from the grip of the Fringe, one victory over Woodsie was not enough; the Woodsie Lord had to die.

With the work of the many villages spreading word to each other, and the aid of the men and women Erik had chosen to join him, eventually Woodsie was hunted down at the Battle of Woden Wood. This great conflict between the Andermen army and the forces of the Fringe ultimately resulted in Erik, the bone of the Woodsie Lord's arm in one hand, his humble woodsman's hatchet in the other, fighting his way through to his old enemy and plunging the sharpened arm through his throat.

In the months after, the change to Andermark was remarkable. The woods were hardly free of the influence of the Fringe, but in the death of the Woodsie Lord, something had been destroyed, something primal and powerful which was no longer denying man the chance to conquer the woodlands. The villages grew and flourished, now able to use the riches of their land to better themselves. Towns sprung up, and roads, and commerce.

And in this age of prosperity even the reluctant Erik Stark could not stop himself from being declared the High Chieftain of Andermark.

A United Andermark

The construction of the Cathedral of Tyaus in Fordheim

The campaigns against the Fringe would not end there, but it would be more of a case of civilising rather than the long onslaught of Erik's times. And as Andermark grew in power, the attention of outside inevitably fell upon them, most notably that of their nearest neighbour, the kingdom of Lancereaux. First their influence was benign, as trade and diplomacy brought in the influences of civilisation, of masonry and coinage and so forth such that within a century, Erik's great-grandson was not a Chieftain but a King.

A king to be embroiled in a conflict of his own, it would transpire, as tensions with Lancereaux worsened. Lancesian expansion had brought them into the edges of the Anderian forest, but it was not the ire of the Andermen they had found there. The denizens of the Fringe were angered by this invasion, and fought back hard against the Lancesians, whose forests held no such monstrosities. In a fit of anger, and pride refusing to accept they had been defeated by bogeymen, the Lancesian king insisted these attacks were the work of Andermen.

There were several short wars over the next century between the two kingdoms. Lancereaux was larger and more powerful, but their military strength lay in their cavalry, whose usefulness was limited in the great forests of Andermark. Not only did the Andermen know their own woodlands, but they had taken their study of castle building and siege warfare and perfected it.

Anderian castles were never as picturesque as Lancesian ones, but in their plainness they were strong. And just as they had learnt how to build castles, they had learnt how to destroy them. The Anderian numbers were considerably less than the Lancesians, but they could defend their own lands, and their counter-attacks saw them devastating Lancesian border outposts. Thus were the two sides sufficiently evenly matched for the conflict to continue, unresolved, for decades.

The people of Andermark had long been religious. The god Tyaus had been considered a protector of the lands since long before the birth of Erik Stark, defending them against the elements of the Fringe. When civilisation began to flourish within Andermark and it was established as a player on the international field, so did more contact come with other human religions, most notably Gebrick, Aethon - favoured by Damryans - and Vaitera, favoured by Ibarriards. Due to the cordial relations between these gods themselves, these churches found Andermark to be a place where they could worship freely, and have extensive religious discourses, finding unity to be more productive than contradiction.

This would only be aided by the formation of the Realm.

The Coming of Damryn

Andermark and Damryn had seen little political interaction. Damryn was large and powerful, Andermark the weakest of its neighbours. They were not wealthy like Calavria, militarily strong like Lancereaux, or raiders like the Norls. And when Damryn's aggression turned on Lancereaux, at first the Andermen were content to sit back and watch their old enemy's defeat rather than find reason to be concerned.

By the time of the defeat of Lancereaux, however, Andermark was more concerned. Damryn had proven itself interested in conquest rather than just necessarily border conflict, and showed no sign of stopping. King Torsten Stark had even agreed to enter into talks with King Olivier Guihard to discuss Anderian aid - until King Olivier's betrayal and murder. The Andermen hurriedly began reinforcing their borders as Damryn secured Lancereaux then turned its eye on them, but the Damryans were not the Lancesians. They knew of monsters in woods and their infantry could cut Anderian levies to ribbons.

King Torsten was hard-pressed, but he had seen how the Damryans had allowed a loyal Lancesian lord to keep control of their lands so long as they were deferential to the High King. But equally, he knew they responded best to strength. As the Damryan army marched on Fordheim, the capital, his advisors told him to flee to Starkholm - the city which had once been the village where his ancestor Erik Stark was born. He refused, and insisted that they reinforce the city.

The Damryans were the finest army in the world, but the Andermen had perfected the art of castle-building, so knew how to defend themselves, and siege warfare - and so knew how to counter it. For two months the Damryans crashed against the walls, and over and over did the Andermen thwart them, even as food supplies grew desperately low. But the cost of taking Fordheim grew higher and higher.

Only when his advisors were at their wits' end did King Torsten call for a parlay with the Damryan king, and the two men rode out to meet between city walls and army, neither with so much as a bodyguard. The two spoke for a long time, and their words have never become a matter of any public record. All that is known to onlookers is that the two first shook hands in mutual respect, and that at the end of the conversation, King Torsten took his crown from his head, let it fall at the High King's feet, and lowered himself to kneel before him.

But what shocked the heartbroken Andermen is that High King Donan, when taking up the Anderian crown, instead placed it back upon Torsten's head.

Andermark had fallen to Damryn, the High Kingdom, as had Lancereaux before it and as would so many after it. But they had fought so hard as to win the respect of their enemies, and so though King Torsten owed fealty to the High Kingdom, his lands were still his own to rule, and protect.

Holy Work

An Anderian Crusader of the United Church

The joining of Andermark with the fledgling Realm would bring yet more religious fervour to the country in the shape of the clergy of Aethon, Damryans looking to spread the word of the Sun God. They were astonished at the warm reception they received, and all the more so when came the word of Archbishop Berthold of the Church of Tyaus.

He professed to have been visited by Tyaus himself, imploring him to gather the followers of the four Gods together and unite them. The world was a dangerous place, he declared to have been told, and as humanity came together in the Realm, so did the worshippers of the human Gods. Tyaus, Aethon, Gebrick and Vaitera needed not just devotion from their worshippers to bring good to the world, but their cooperation.

Thus would come about the birth of the United Church, a religion which would spread from Andermark across the Realm over the centuries. Most humans would find themselves followers of such, offering devotions perhaps to one of the four primarily, but extending respect to each the others routinely, and as circumstances demanded.

The first test of the United Church came in the shape of Ibarran, which had fallen under the influence of the goblins of Sahradia, whose gods were sworn enemies of the Quadrimvurate, especially Aethon. Damryn had politically and militarily seen Ibarran as a threat due to the Caliphate's influence, and the United Church became convinced that the defeat of the goblins was not just a duty to free humanity from enemy control, but also to drive out the heretics and enemies of their Gods.

Thus the war to liberate Ibarran was not just a matter of politics, but also religion. The army was not just filled with soldiers, but also holy warriors - predominantly Andermen, but also devout Lancesians and Damryans. The liberation is often considered the first of the crusades, and was the birth of the notion to combine the demands of religious devotion with the tenets of chivalry and military service to a liege lord: the rise of the paladin.

This would secure Andermark’s place and stability within the Realm. They were respected for their solidity of nature and the trials that plagued their country, and the United Church solidified the Realm in the ways that politics or economics could not. It gave humanity a sense of joint purpose, and Andermark as its birthplace and champion was not forgotten.

Stability in the Realm

The Realm brought great prosperity to Andermark. Technology and civilisation aided the continuous efforts to fight back the woods, though the great forests would never be truly defeated, and in the more rural reaches of the country the Fringe would remain an everyday threat as opposed to just an occasional enemy to be put down. Nevertheless Andermark became a bastion of commerce, religion, and learning.

Calavria would always be the economic powerhouse and the centre of magical research, but the greatest universities of artisan crafts would prove to be Anderian. Craftsmanship was their strength; not only had they all but perfected the art of castle making and siege warfare, but Andermen also proved to be superb shipwrights and alchemists. Damryn’s armies had their fervour, Lancereaux their numbers, Calavria their funding, but the Anderian army was a hotbed of the development of technological warfare, in equipment and in tactical proficiency.

These would be honed in the War of the Narrow Sea against the Iron Empire, but most of all in the Crusades against Sahradia. Ibarran was the heart and staging ground for these conflicts, but no other country repeatedly sent as many soldiers on the Holy Wars than Andermark.

Andermark also gave the Realm both its greatest villain, and its greatest hero - and to make matters more notable, they were the same man: Konrad Stark. A lost Prince of the Royal family, assumed murdered by goblin raiders in Ibarran, when he made his return some thirty years later it was under the shadow of an assumed identity and with a desperate plan that could have ended heaven itself. An embittered individual from all he had suffered, he had kept his identity secret even from his own family - including his brother Tancred, a man he had grown to resent and hate. And Tancred hated him in turn, such that when he went to stop Konrad from breaking open a path to heaven so he might battle the Gods themselves, he made matters worse.

Such was the enmity between the two brothers that Tancred had turned to the darkest forces imaginable to stop him: demons. The sight of this shook Konrad to his core, and though brother fought brother Konrad realised his crusade against heaven was impossible, insane - and he had to stop the demons from finishing the job for him. He succeeded in stopping the demonic forces, at the cost of his own brother's life, and thus would redeem himself for his misdeeds. He was also then left as the heir to the Anderian throne, the lost prince returned to his people and his family, and a much wiser and more thoughtful man for all he had almost done.

This would renew vigour and faith in the Anderian crown. For a man to achieve great evil and then use this power, ultimately, for good, was unheard of. Stark became a living embodiment of the notion of redemption and self-determination, and from him the Anderian belief in choices being more important than the past began to form. Konrad would lead Andermark into a golden age that would last through his reign, into his son's reign, and even into the beginning of his grandson's reign.

But not for all of his grandson's reign, for his grandson was Constantin Stark, and in his tenth year of rulership, the Legion came.

The Fall

The country's experiences would make for battle-hardened soldiers from Andermark come the Fall. Although their nation was the furthest away from the Legion and they would not know their boots on their soil until the final months, Andermen still marched out to join the Alliance’s army. Andermen died on the shores of the Iron Empire, and in all nations since, but it was indeed they who were the least battle-weary when the Legion came to Starkholm.

The Legion had defeated the mighty Iron Empire, denied the stalwart Norls, marched through rich Calavria, brought down the cavalry of Lancereaux, defied the perseverance of the Ibarriards, and crushed the Damryans themselves.

But if there was one form of battle the Andermen had mastered, it was siege warfare.

The Last Stand of Starkholm

(See main article)

Starkholm, the ancestral home of the royal family, was the western-most bastion that could begin to contain all of the refugees, and it was there that the survivors made their last stand against the Legion. Against all odds, they were victorious; even though their Crown Prince Mathias was lost in battle against the Legion's overseer, even though so many died, at last the Gods answered the prayers of their desperate followers and descended from on high to join them in the battle.

When the dust settled there were no more Legion, no more enemy, and no more signs of the Gods. Just the bodies of the dead, and the great unknown beyond Starkholm's borders, the land the Legion had ravaged - and it needed reclaiming.

Cultural Overview

Before the Fall

  • Capital: Fordheim
  • Head of State: King Constantin Stark I
  • Legislative Body: The Royal Advisory Council
  • Population Density: Average
  • Religions: The United Church, Saralyne
  • Primary Language: Common
  • Demonym: Anderian (an Anderman)

The westernmost kingdom of the Realm, Andermark was always been a land which best exhibited the perseverance and stalwart determination of humans. It is a country that had seen the rise and fall of countless heroes, a strong lineage of Kings, and the formation of the United Church. Its people were proud, strong-willed and resolute. It was in some part down to the influence of civilisation creeping in from Lancereaux to Andermark that the Andermen found themselves unifying under a king who seemed chosen by the very gods themselves to lead them: Erik Stark, the first recorded King of Andermark, and a Stark like all others that followed. But it was more the constant threat of the beastkin of the woods that saw the Andermen finally unifying.

The model of the ideal Anderman is the figure of Konrad Stark, a figure that men aspire to be and women secretly (and, sometimes, not so secretly) adore. Konrad is to the Anderman the pinnacle of a discerning, noble man that strives always for kin and country, a man of both strength in actions and strength in words, wise to the world and fearless to all foes. He is, to many an Anderman, not only the template for the Anderian way of thought, a celebration of brilliance and redemption, but also the quintessential regal figure. It is unfortunate to note, then, that Konrad’s heir was not a shadow of the man his father was and Konrad’s grandson, the current King Constantin of Andermark, is argued by some to be even less than that.

Just as the Stark line has always held Andermark’s throne, so too have the Andermen known the threat of those the foul creatures that dwelled within the forests. Every Anderman has in their life been affected by the beastkin at least indirectly. The beastkin of the woods were creatures either horrifically feral, deviously cunning, or if one was particularly unlucky, both. The wet-nurse and old wives’ tales of Andermark usually centre around warning of the beastkin, the wild elves, and creatures of the forests. The darkest depths of any forest contain the twisted products of the Fringe and, whilst Damryn boasted harsher inhuman creatures from its woods, the beastkin were (certainly in the eyes of an Anderman) considered a greater threat by the fact that they were so numerous, and so insidious. Almost every village and town had to be built within a palisade as there was almost certainly some local pack to present a threat, be it werewolf packs stalking the nights, or the territorial boar-men of the Farrowed baying for blood.

This has intrinsically shaped everyday life in the rural settlements of Andermark, even after the Fall; it is impossible to live near the wilderness and not be constantly aware of its presence and danger. This makes rural folk often quite closed-knit communities, banding together with remarkable loyalty in order to survive, but they are thus often wary and unwelcoming of outsiders. The Fringe-addled are not necessarily easily identifiable as such, and one might easily enter a town, be polite and courteous and pay for lodgings, and then murder villagers in their beds for the sheer deranged delight of it.

Such threats were unknown to those in the towns and cities, however. Here, the Andermen conquered the wild. They had good roads and decent transport links, blossoming commerce and a good education for those who can afford it. The Universities of Andermark were not as internationally renowned as the centres of learning such as the College of Magic in Antinori, but for those who would study for its own sake, or research matters of craft and science, Fordheim’s University was unrivalled. Andermark is the nation of the finest shipwrights, the nation whose skills in technical warfare such as siege weaponry held even the Damryans at bay long enough to earn their respect. These achievements did not bring them the same wealth as Calavria, however; it was a common comment that Calavrians had magic enough to change society, whilst all an Anderman could do was perform cheap mimickry of the arcane with mundane alchemy.

This difference has in the past made for some observers to comment that there are ‘two Andermarks’; the cities, and the wilderness. Certainly the city dwellers tended to think of the rural populace as being a bit backwards, whilst those living in the wild suspect the city of being ‘soft’, of having forgotten their roots, and see themselves as holding the wilderness back from ruining their lives, keeping them safe at their own expense. Class is as dividing an issue in Andermark as it is anywhere else, but is sometimes overlooked if only for the sake of an argument if a city dweller has a chance to win over an Anderman of the wilderness.

Women in Andermark hold a place not too dissimilar to that in most nations in the rest of the Realm. Traditionally they are expected to marry, look after the family, aid in a husband’s interests, and maintain a home. But in the wilderness there is sometimes a need for every able-bodied person to do what they can in the struggles against the Fringe, and this attitude dates so far back as to have trickled across through the centuries. Even in civilised Andermark, if necessity and a woman’s own skills bring her to the forefront, she is greeted with something of a grudging respect. As a soldier, or a scholar, or even a politician, a woman in the right place at the right time can be accepted by society - though once the necessity is perceived to have passed, they can often turn on her just as quickly.

As with everywhere, there was banditry in Andermark, but Anderian bandits were a different breed altogether. These were men and women who would make a living in the wilds of the woods, and as such have to be prepared to fend off beastkin as well as thieve from travellers and merchants. Thusly, bandits of Andermark tended to clump together in townships of their own, usually ramshackle settlements in forests that were built without consent with the liege lord. The knights of the land would come down on these bandits just as hard as the beastkin might.

Overall, despite what the Andermen might have thought of themselves, or the influence of Konrad Stark, internationally they were seen as a determined, but rather dour people, rendered eternally serious by the threats of the Fringe-warped or their attention and focus on their studies. The Damryans could wage war with relish, the Calavrians study and trade and enjoy the profits, but an Anderman is a serious man, doing serious work.

After the Fall

(See main article)

Starkholm, the Last Free City, is many things to many people. For some it is a bastion for the survivors of the Fall and a beacon of hope for the future. For others, it is a a grim and dismal reminder of the ruined state of the world. For most Andermen, it is both of these things. Those that lived in Starkholm have suddenly found it cramped and overpopulated, the shanty-town of slums that circle the cities walls a destitute eyesore full of thieves, beggars, rakes and prostitutes, its surrounding rural areas now overrun by, of all things, beastkin and savages. Whilst the farms, orchards and vineyards were not endless in their bounty, nor perfect, nor even plentiful come a sour turn in the seasons, Andermark now has meagre pickings for food. Unless you’re royalty or a noble, that is.

It is difficult to be an Anderman and not feel some resentment towards foreigners in their midst, regardless of how both sides have lost hearth and home and suffered equal heartbreak and sorrow. There has always been a sense of pride of kingdom within the Andermen. To most, the Prince’s sacrifice at the Last Stand of Starkholm is an example of not only the strength of the Stark line, but a noble act worth of Konrad Stark himself and proof that the gods have not forsaken the Realm. But not all of them feel the same love for King Constantin as they used to. The King still allows high nobles of his kingdom to levy taxes as they see fit, and in some cases these nobles are not true-blooded Anderian nobility. Their king has allowed amnesty to the beastkin and as many rights as a human might have. King Constantin’s reign was said to have begun with bad omens and for some Andermen it is getting hard and harder to bend the knee to their monarch.

Most Andermen today live in a struggle of cultural identity, some trying to preserve their way of life from foreign influences, some believing that the changed cultural landscape of the world is irreparable and holding no such qualms about the ways of other nations. Many seek to make the best of a devastated world, many feel bitterness for that same devastation. The refugees and the peasantry resent the nobility for not sharing their space and their wealth whilst the nobility feel no inclination to part with their station and their influence, nor to entertain the chaos that would bring. It is difficult to accurately surmise, therefore, the identity of the Anderman after the Fall. They have run the least, but stand as the last remnant of the Realm and a staging ground for rebirth, progression and rediscovery from the ashes that was left of society.

Lifestyle

Peasant Class

The peasant class are a numerous creed within Andermark whose lives are constant toil. They work from when they are old enough to and expect to do just that until the day they die. Their produce will be shared with the Lord whose lands they reside within, a taxation right that has only in recent times been made exclusive to the higher nobility. The lord of the land also might levy troops from the able-bodied men to aid his men-at-arms, but the wise do not remove all the able-bodied men from their villages lest they'll leave no-one left to work. The nobles of Andermark are held up by the peasantry, and they well know it.

This doesn't necessarily breed a great deal of resentment. Your average Anderman accepts the notion that the world is the way it is because of the forces upon high, that each must be contented in their station. The reward for the arduous work that the Anderian peasant goes through will come, if not in this lifetime, in the next. This view is cemented by the influence of the Fringe over the local area. The home of the peasant will likely be troubled by some beastkin or other, regardless of how close to a metropolised area that home is. Each Anderian has experienced the Fringewarped at some point in their life, and these encounters are seldom anything but confrontational. Whilst wives tales and lore about the Fringe can help ward off its effects, practices of hanging horseshoes above doors and ploughing circles around Hawthorne trees, these precautions can only protect the peasantry so far. It's when times get worse, when a bad winter brings the werewolves out of the forests to hunt or when the woodcutters fell trees within Fringe territory, that the Andermen have seen why the structure it is necessarily. It is not the villagers that will cast the Fringe back, but those that occupy the warrior class - the knights, the men-at-arms of the liege Lord, the forces that are mobilised in reaction to these uprisings that will see the threat thwarted. As such, there is a sense of dependency between the Peasantry and those classes above them.

The peasantry of Andermark are generally a strange combination of hardy and subdued. Their communities are made strong by the fact that they deal with these threats so regularly and they are all too aware of the threats that lurk within the woods. They are leery of outsiders and proud of their community and (usually) of the lord they serve under. The Anderean peasant is by no means comfortable in their daily life, but they will know each and every neighbour and share in every celebration and every setback as one. This double-edged blade is equally as protective as it is sheltering.

Merchant Class

A merchant in Andermark can afford to live a slightly better life than that of a peasant. In general, the prices that merchants mark up of wares is not entirely extortionate when one considers that the risks a land-based merchant has to endure. A merchant that travels through Andermark, even from town to town, runs the risk of coming into contact with the Fringe. There are creatures in the world that endeavour to lead the traveller astray and into the woods, for instance, that consider the combination of manflesh and the spoils of a caravan to be quite desirable. Sailing was no less risky an option, with pirates quite often watching the seas for trade vessels. The most lucrative trade came from the dwarves, who notoriously share their mountains with the marauding Yotunnar. Crossing into Kordurren territory was even riskier as a result.

Merchants that were city-based used to have a relatively more comfortable life. Those that ran stalls at markets would probably bring in enough income to live in relative comfort, whereas a particularly esteemed tradesman might well have fair sized house for him and his family. They didn't have lives of luxury, rather a life of comfort. Such a lifestyle is almost completely unobtainable in Andermark today. Even the most prestigious Merchant probably shares their home with other families, if they still live in their original home. No-one came out of the Fall as prosperous as they once had been, and the mercantile classes have felt that economic crush.

Warrior Class

A knight of Andermark

Andermark could split its warriors into three separate groups: the soldiers, the knights, and the paladins. The soldiers serve either their liege lord or are members of the army; the former tend to reside within the barracks of their lord's castle. The latter were typically garrisoned at trade hubs or troublesome hot spots so they could rapidly respond to Fringe-based threats. Both ways of life were focused and busy, with food and equipment provided, though it was difficult for soldiers in such a position to find the time to marry and raise a family. Soldiers could be drawn from all walks of life, and even minor members of the nobility might enter the army - at a position, of course, of rank. But a lowly peasant could better themselves that way, or a merchant son who had little desire to go into trade.

Knights of Andermark are more common than the stereotype would suggest. Most are born to the role, either minor sons of nobles or the scions of knights themselves. Although the majority would be sworn to a local lord and do him service, in practice this often led to knights being granted the supervision of regions of land within a lord's holdings directly. They would be expected to keep a lord's agricultural interests safe against the Fringe, and so the knights of Andermark had more interaction with the common people than most knights of the Realm. They would be all-too aware of the threats which faced Anderian peasantry, and while familiarity could breed contempt, sometimes it led to strong bonds between the peasants and the knights charged with their safety. A knight would be expected to be educated and cultured, however, and it would not do if one returned from the frontier and appeared to have in any way 'gone native'. Although Anderian knights had plenty of exposure to military matters in fighting the Fringe, they were also expected to be capable as administrators, for it was impossible for a lord to rule as directly over his lands as he might in other, easier to traverse lands. This gave the knights more power than they might have elsewhere, but it also led to the reputation of their being governors, rather than warriors. In practice, most Anderian knights were both, managing the lands they oversaw and personally leading men-at-arms to fight back the Fringe beings that threatened it.

Paladins of Andermark are perhaps the country's most famous warriors. Although most common folk think of worshippers of Aethon when they consider paladins, it was the holy knights of Tyaus who first codified and formed the traditions of the paladins. They act in service to the Church, and because the Church of Tyaus is so widespread and powerful within Andermark, this makes them a common enough sight. These paladins are charged with the defence of the people against the forces of evil, and while some may be permanently assigned to a particular church in a particular region, others will travel as the Church dictates - and yet others would travel as they believe their faith dictated. Paladins of Tyaus were granted considerable powers to influence and be involved in local matters of government, warfare, and justice. Although most Paladins were born to noble or knightly families, who simply happened to enter the clerical route, proportionally more paladins than simple knights were of humble origins, having joined the clergy and discovered a talent for arms which had been cultivated.

This could often lead to tensions between the paladins and the knights. Often the former endeavoured to cooperate with the local authorities when they performed their duty, hunting the Fringewarped or Demons, or simply criminals, but they were not obligated to, and sometimes would deem it necessary to ride roughshod. Equally, a local knight could easily resent a paladin entering his domain with the authority to set to rights what he had likely already been tackling. Neither could openly act against each other, for both the word of the Church and the word of the Lords was respected, and held no automatic power over the other.

Noble Class

The nature of a noble of Andermark differed very greatly between those of the cities and those of the countryside. A nobleman of the centre of Andermark was much the same as a lord from any other part of the world - an administrator with a good deal of wealth and owed a good deal of respect, whose power over his people and lands were absolute save but for the voice of the King. Such Anderian nobility marked their differences less by wealth, however, so much as intellect. It was expected that an Anderian nobleman would have studied at one of the country's universities. Nevertheless they still had to provide the military for the king in times of war, and it did not do for a nobleman of Andermark to not be capable bearing arms.

Nobleman in the rural areas of the country were a different matter, and they are the more stereotypical lords of Andermark. Often they built simple, sturdy castles able to withstand the attacks of the Fringe which would thus be a bastion of civilisation against the wilderness, used as trading hubs and places for villagers to flee to in a crisis. Just as they invested their knights with the power to oversee and protect their lands, a lord would be expected to be as hands-on as possible in administering his region and protecting it. Andermark was not poor, but a bad season where the Fringe devastated the local agriculture could be catastrophic, and so Anderian lords had to be eternally vigilant. They still enjoyed a better quality of living, even if their austere castles and garbs made them oddities next to even lords of Damryn, but every lord whose lands were a certain way into the woodlands was a lord in a time of perpetual war.

Nobles were born to the position, though disasters did sometimes strike entire regions, and so Andermark had more incidents of elevating individuals to the nobility than elsewhere. Often it would be knights who would be elevated, and while sometimes these knights were from noble households, or at least respected, long lines of knights themselves, some of them may have had humble origins before they became squires. Paladins had also been known to be granted lordly titles as rewards for particular works, and as such whilst Andermark valued its nobility and the hierarchy of society, it was not entirely uncommon for nobility to be something earned, rather than just inherited.

Arts and Entertainment

The joke abroad is often that Andermen do not know how to have fun.

In practice, it is simply that Andermen have not had much to celebrate, but they by no means are incapable of having fun. Travelling troupes of entertainers are a particularly well-regarded group of professionals in Anderian culture, simply because centres of populace are so spread out that it is difficult for entertainers to make a living if they do not set off on the road. These entertainers tend to play up to the stereotypically superstitious nature of the Andermen, engaging them with displays of oddities and parlour tricks which keep them engaged and fascinated. Sometimes these spectacles go too far, however, or they pick the wrong audience, and some troupes have been chased out of villages for engaging in witchcraft the audience originally paid for happily.

Much of Anderian culture and history is written down and codified, and so many of the great stories of Anderian history are unavailable to those who do not have the skill to read and the access to books, or who do not encounter storytellers that did. Anderian art, such as sculptures and paintings, are not considered to be quite as sophisticated as those of neighbouring Lancereaux or Calavria, and can sometimes be downright maudlin. The Anderian subconscious appears quite preoccupied with dark magic and the Fringe, and this spills over into their cultural expression.

Andermen of the cities are more accustomed to focusing their time on academic study, philosophical contemplation, or religious worship than time at the theatre or easy shows.

Fashion

'Drab' is the word which describes almost all Anderian fashion. The peasantry wear the most basic of clothes, where wool is the predominant material. Linen underclothes were a necessity against the cold, but over them would be woollen or leather breeches, tunics, and cloaks. Because of the abundant hunting in Andermark leather was easily accessible for making trousers, boots, belts, and bags. An Anderman would use a bag wherever possible for carrying his coinpurse and important tools; it made these essentials safer against prying fingers or bad fortune when in the woodlands. Women wore simple dresses, but with the hard lifestyle of an Anderian peasant, trousers under a skirt were not wholly unusual - more often than not they were considered only taboo if they were obvious, in an unspoken understanding.

The armour of knights and lowly soldiers alike was simple and plain. For a knight, full plate was often expensive and cumbersome, and so they would usually wear half-plate with mail, or even a full set of mail armour. Even those with plate wore armour which lacked engravings or many distinguishing marks; a surcoat was usually the most they would bow to decoration. This was different from Damryans in that although a Damryan's armour would be plain it would often be of large and impressive design; an Anderian knight rarely had much of a chance to own armour that was not battered and well-worn, and usually lacked the resources to keep it at absolutely top condition.

Anderian nobility and knights wore clothes that were simple, but austere. They might own something practical of wool, but it would be well-designed and well-fitting, and inevitably emblazoned with their personal heraldry. Otherwise the men would wear doublets of a simple, but close cut. Form-fitting was considered the ideal Anderian fashion. The women would again wear tight dresses, though of a lower cut than the Damryans at the neck, and with looser wrists. Grey was a common colour, and despite its simplicity it was embraced by the nobility, dyes mixed to get shades which were not natural, and thus drew a subtle distinction.

Economy

Andermark enjoyed the most bounteous lumber trade of the Realm, even Damryn, and it exported a great deal of leather. Additionally, the mountains of Kordurren to the north were rich in minerals, and the Andermen negotiated rights with the dwarves to mine them. This allowed the Andermen to perfect their technological expertise in warfare, for they had the resources to do it.

Trade was nevertheless difficult in Andermark. A village would often produce only enough to provide for itself or trade for absolute necessities. Beyond a certain distance from the centre, the roads were too difficult for extensive and regular travel, and a village might have been surrounded with bounties and with the manpower to harvest it, but either dared not venture out for fear of the Fringe, or could not transport it once farmed, or both. Upon joining the Realm, Andermark would often buy food from Lancereaux and Damryn as a supplement.

Naming Conventions

An Anderman bears a given name and a family name. Given names, regardless of gender, tend to be derived from old words for virtues and personal traits. Anderian surnames are inherited down the paternal line, and tend to be held by all echelons of society, from peasantry to nobility. They have been common more-or-less since the birth of the Realms. The historical languages of Andermark are quite harsh, leading to names made up of short, sharp syllables.

  • Sample Male Names: Adalrich, Geroldt, Theobald
  • Sample Female Names: Bathilda, Erika, Theda
  • Sample Family Names: Arentz, Hessler, Taegert

Geography

Andermark's forests are the first and foremost trait of the land. They are massive, deep, and thick, and cover a huge proportion of the country. Many settlements are nestled within them, and despite the many battles fought for humans to claim them for their own, they are undeniably paranoid about excessive deforestation. Locals will warn that Anderian woods are dangerous - in and of themselves, not simply for what is within them. A traveller can turn a corner in an Anderian wood and realise he's not on any path at all any more; the trees can shift and move and deceive the finest of navigators, and then the Fringe will come for you. The woods of Andermark have never been fully mapped.

Andermark also enjoys a coast, and has a significant amount of industry along the coastline, though much of it is in craggy cliff-faces than gentle shores. This has allowed the construction of several port-towns with formidable natural defences, however. Much of Andermark is cold and wet, even towards the east and south, closer to more temperate Lancereaux and Ibarran. Of the latter, there was historically a wide space of unclaimed land as the forests turn to shrubland turn to desert, which neither nation staked a claim to.

Religion

The Andermen are amongst the most religious people of the Realm. They have not the fiery fervour of the Ibarriards, but they are quietly devout in their worship of the United Church, especially Tyaus. It was in Andermark that the United Church was born, it was in Andermark where the Church of Tyaus made its home, and had it not been for the practicalities of Damryn being the seat of the Realm, Andermark would have likely proven the seat of the United Church.

Tyaus is worshipped above all other Gods, even Gebrick, for the peasantry scared of the Fringe think of their safety before they think of a convenient harvest. It is partly because of this that Tyaus stands first and foremost amongst the Gods worshipped by humanity, for it was the Anderians who codified it as such. So long as this reverence is acknowledged, however, Anderians are not remotely opposed to the respect or worship of other Gods. Aethon is less popular in Andermark, but Gebrick and Vaitera both find their niches.

The most popular God outside of the United Church is Saralyne, for her wisdom and intelligence are most often called upon amongst the academics of Andermark, who conduct their alchemy and plan their great engineering endeavours. Ferodir is a close second, for those who do not turn solely to Tyaus for protection when travelling the dangerous lands would look to him.

Military

Andermark was distinctive in the Realm in that it maintained a small army outside of just the levies who would be gathered in times of conflict, or the men-at-arms who protected a lord's interest. This would be necessary with the wilderness of the country so often dangerous; so many fighting men were needed to protect travellers and caravans going by roads that went through thick, violent forests, that it was simply practical for the Crown to keep such individuals funded and equipped. These soldiers would receive exhaustive training and be provided with excellent arms and armour, as unit cohesion and discipline were considered the best and most effective defence against the savagery of the Fringe.

But in building a bigger military, Andermark has always found itself in a difficult position. It lacks the body of nobility to form a heavy cavalry to rival Lancereaux, or the natural landscape and native horses to form a light cavalry to rival Ibarran. When it comes to the average soldier, the people are not possessing of a warrior tradition the same as Damryn, Norlundar. As such, it has been forced to take the more modern approach of training and discipline to see an advantage. The heavy development of infantry warfare and tactics, rather than relying on knights or a warrior’s personal strength, originated in Andermark.

Notably the development of their famed pikemen was a response to warfare with neighbouring Lancereaux and its knights. Similarly, Andermark boasts some of the finest archers in the Realm, perhaps courtesy of the familiarity of its people with hunting. And with the colleges and guilds of Andermark second only to Calavria, the invention of machinery of warfare is claimed by the Andermen.

Magic

Magic has a peculiar place within Anderian society. It is routinely distrusted by the most rural of Andermen, and unfortunately this has formed the stereotype by which all Andermen are judged. Because they struggle to identify the difference between the magic of a stranger from outside, and the magic which the Fringe uses to warp and hurt them, they are slow to accept magic. On the other hand, if a member of a community can use magic for the betterment of the village, they can become accepted. Normally this is a tenuous relationship, however, which can turn sour the moment suspicion is born.

Elsewhere, magic is accepted and acknowledged. The Andermen do not have a strong tradition of magic casters due to these rural origins, which leads to the accusations that their many alchemists are simply failed mages, unable to cast and simply trying to put magic in a bottle. But once an Anderman engages in the study and pursuit of magic on Anderian soil, their Anderian mentality shows itself. They are inclined to precise academic study, to treat magic as a science just as much as they treat their alchemy, or engineering. Usually mages of Andermark commit themselves to research or to utilising their talents within these other practical endeavours, communicating with Calavria. Andermark's culture of spellcasters was not insignificant, but would never be comparable to Antinori's.

It as difficult for a lowborn Anderman to become trained in magic unless they discovered a talent in a village where there was already a mage. Then they might be apprenticed and take on the mantle, and some village casters might travel to search for their own students to carry on their work. Otherwise, if an Anderman was not of rank, they would likely not have the opportunity to be trained and to develop their magic, as Andermark had none of the scholarship programs for the talented that Calavria enjoyed.

Perspectives on Other Races and Nations

Damryn "They're straightforward people, and that should be respected. But right now they're sitting in our lands and acting like this is only temporary. Like tomorrow we're going to retake Caer Darrow and some Damryan will put his arse on the High Throne and then we're back to bowing to them. And maybe that's what'll happen, but it's not certain. Nothing's certain. They're good folk, but they can be blinded by just how bright they think they are. We're in too dark a place for the bright light to get through."

Lancereaux "The worst evil the Legion put upon us wasn't the deaths of thousands. It wasn't the damage done to the land. It wasn't having our country overcrowded, or pitching us into eternal fear of what's to come, of what's beyond our borders. No. The worst evil the Legion put upon us was making us stand in the same room as bloody Lancesians."

Calavria "They're soft. They think money's all they need to fix problems. Well, Fringe don't care about money, and neither did the Legion, and neither does the great unknown before us. But they're learning. They're making themselves useful, helping us get enough food and wealth to provide for everyone, to expand. I think they're figuring out how to put their smart minds to good use. But I'm not sure they understand."

Ibarran "Godly men and women. They led the charge against the filthy goblins back in the day; it's hard to not respect them for that. Their sands might not be as deadly as our forests, but they understand what it means to be self-sufficient, to not have someone just a shout away to back you up. They're a bit odd, but they're hard-working and they're tough. We could do with some more of that."

Norlundar "I don't think they know what they're doing here. They settle in harsh woodlands and think they can handle it - and end up butchering enough Fringe to really piss them off. Or they shack up in the towns, offering themselves as dumb muscle - and they end up picking fights and turning into gangs. I think we'd help them if we could, but they just seem so damn angry at the idea."

The Iron Empire "Some humans might bitch and moan about us having elves with us. But we didn't take the war to them, and it was a hundred years ago. Let the Damryans nurse their bruised egos for losing Carnthor and we'll take them on as allies and maybe even as friends. They understand hardship, now. They've really learnt their lesson. More than I ever hope we do. Maybe we can learn a bit from them of how to be careful. How to be ready."

Dwarves of Kordurren "They were our neighbours for centuries. Can't say it's a great surprise that their workers did that to them; beat a dog that often and that hard, and some day he'll bite back. Only this time the dog left the owner outside to die. But while these new leaders are strange, they're serious, and they're sensible. I can't blame them for not getting involved with us. But they'll trade."

Sahradia "We sent our soldiers and our paladins to wage holy war on these heretics for centuries. That they turned on us even in the face of the Legion proves their evil knows no bounds. For now, they're an ocean away. But if they come for us, by Tyaus we will send them back to their dark gods."

Beastkin "Monsters. Beasts that know nothing but savagery and death. They helped us out of necessity, nothing more, because even they can tell the Legion would wipe them out as well. And they're tricky enough to not want to be destroyed utterly. A man of a village would say we could never trust them, that we should kill them all, and maybe he'd be right? He'd know them best, after all. But the men in the cities say that everything's changed, that maybe they've changed too, and maybe they can help. It sounds risky. And I'll gut it if it so much as puts a paw out of line. Maybe they have changed. But I'll believe it when I see it, and the moment it's back to its old tricks, I shall have a new fur hat."

Demons "They're monsters, followers of the traitor Chernobog, who would rip apart our society and tear us all asunder when we are at our weakest, at our most afraid. Do not listen to those in the streets who whisper of a new way, of a path to power; who say the Gods have abandoned us. They were at the Last Stand. The forces of Chernobog were not. Do not trust their lies."

Legion "Andermark is lucky to have suffered as little as it had. But we sent men out there, as far as Carnthor, to fight all over the Realm, across two continents. We know them as well as anyone else. And we were the ones who held firm. It was on our lands that they were defeated, by our prince, with the sword of our royal line. May we never have to do that again. But we held firm."