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SEVRIN LORE: The Narwhal

When the people of Sevrin speak of narwhals, they might be talking about the small, tusked whales that summer in the shallow waters around Sevrin’s northern islands.  More likely they’re referring to Narwhal Harbor, a legendary seaport on Stormwall island, and the pirates who once ruled it.

Like many island cultures, Sevrin has a history of piracy.  It is particularly suited to raiding parties of several small ships–the famed Narwhal “pods”–which could disappear into rocky coves impassible to larger ships. But large-scale piracy was also practiced, with some pirate lords commanding fleets of well armed vessels.

When Eldreath rose to power, he seized control of Stormwall Island, Sevrin’s only deep-water port.  He razed Narwhal Harbor, the dock city, in a stunning and brutal display of magic that also burned every pirate ship in the harbor down to the waterline.  He placed Timmony Blackheart, the most powerful and brutal of the pirate lords, in charge of the ancient stone keep (most recently known as Muldonny Manor) and paid him handsomely to hunt down his former comrades and competitors.

This action won Eldreath considerable approval and support from rulers of other lands, many of whom sent ships and fighters to help this law-abiding lord consolidate his rule over the pirate islands.  Any foreigners who  might have harbored a secondary agenda and ambitions of their own soon learned that Eldreath was not inclined to share power or territory.

Some coastal raiding continued, however, and even after several generations of Eldreath’s reign, the Narwhal tradition ran deep.  The adepts’ rise to power was in no small part due to a fleet of raiders, fishermen, and merchant seamen who formed a blockade around the island to ward off any who might come to the sorcerer’s aid.  Once the battle was won, the adepts wisely put the raiders to work as sanctioned bounty hunters, thus giving rise to the Gatherers.

SEVRIN LORE: Troll Watch

Sevrin is made of of seven main islands, as well as many small outlying islands, some of them no bigger than a couple of jagged rocks thrusting out of the sea. One of the northernmost islands, Troll Watch, is large enough to support a few wild sheep and perhaps a small fishing community.  Indeed, some scattered stone ruins suggest that it was inhabited at one time, but no one one has lived on Troll Watch within the span of human memory.

In addition to the bleak landscape and rocky sea barriers, Troll Watch is rendered forbidding by a circle of ten-foot-tall standing stones, the origin of which is unknown.

About fifteen years ago, a fisherman casting herring nets nearby noted that the stone nearest the shore was getting a little rough around the edges. Curious, he came closer, only to have his boat dashed to pieces on the rocks. He managed to climb onto a piece of wreckage and was picked up the following day.  He died of exposure and cold before nightfall, and his ravings about “awakening trolls” were dismissed as delirium.

But when another fisherman noted the changing stones, someone remembered the dead man’s story.  The adepts sent Gatherers to investigate Troll Watch.  They affirmed that the standing stones did appear to be changing.  The likeness to trolls was faint, but too pronounced and uniform to dismiss as the random effect of wind and water erosion.

The adepts dismissed this phenomenon as the work of men who possessed an excess of time, mischief, and chisels.  But they secretly established a small community of watchers  on the island to make sure this was not, in fact, what was happening.  The standing stones continue to evolve into troll shape, for reasons no one can ascertain.

The adept Muldonny was particularly interested in this mystery.  He had one of the stones pulled down and shipped to his fortress workshop on Stormwall Island.  A man of great imagination and ingenuity, he thought it entirely possible that someone might have cloaked statues in a rock-like substance that would erode in response to some as-yet-unknown  trigger.  He spent several years chipping off small bits of stone and testing it for the presence of solvents and other signs of alchemical interference.

As time when on, Muldonny talked less and less about his experiments, and he looked increasingly uneasy when the subject came up.  It was noted that Muldonny turned pale when Rhendish jokingly said, “If that was a real troll, imagine how unhappy he’d be with you.” Muldonny never spoke of the stone again, but there are quiet (and largely approving) murmurs on Stormwall Island of a certain moonless night and a barge floating out to sea with a cargo of  stone rubble, followed some hours later by a burst of distant fireworks on the watery horizon.

SEVRIN LORE: Gunpowder

Gunpowder has been known in Sevrin for nearly 500 years.  It is an explosive black powder made from saltpeter, ground charcoal, and sulfur.  All of these ingredients are readily available to Sevrin’s alchemists.

Saltpeter, also known as niter, is a white crystal that results when waste matter decays in the presence of lime or similar minerals.  Some of the sea caves on Stormwall Island are mined for salterpeter, which results when bat guano decays on limestone.  Manufacture of saltpeter is common in cities and towns, where human and animal waste can be collected in quantity and mixed with wood ash or certain types of rotting vegetation, then periodically doused with urine.  It should come as no surprise that saltpeter mining and production is not a highly regarded profession.  It is, however, well compensated and highly regulated.  Penalties for selling fake saltpeter include exile and hanging.  This might seem excessive, but only up to the moment when a canon refuses to fire upon invadors.

In addition to its use in gunpowder, saltpeter has several medicinal and culinary uses.  It is sometimes used to cure meat, particularly corned beef, and in pickle brine. Saltpeter may be prescribed to cool a fever or to relax muscles.  This use led to rumors that it could quench male ardor.  It does, but only in the same fashion as a fatal hanging. A high dose of saltpeter is more likely to stop a man’s heart than his libido.

The best charcoal for gunpowder comes from willow, alder, blackthorn, and pine.  All of these trees grow on Sevrin’s islands.

Sulfur, a non-metallic crystal abundant in nature, is one of the three “heavenly substances” and widely used by alchemists. Sometimes called brimstone, it is regarded as an essential element of Life and a symbol of man’s search for knowledge.  In its natural form, it’s a pale yellow crystal.

Proportions for gunpowder are approximately 75 parts saltpeter, 15 parts finely ground charcoal, and 10 parts sulfur.

SEVRIN LORE: Muldonny

Seven powerful alchemists known as adepts rule the islands of Sevrin.  Rhendish rules the largest island, which is also known as Sevrin.  The island next in importance–or first in importance, depending upon whom you ask–is Stormwall Island, which is ruled by the adept Muldonny.

A plump, fussy, middle-aged man, Muldonny is reclusive to the point of paranoia.  He seldom leaves his double-walled fortress and permits no one to enter the inner sanctum but a few carefully selected visitors.   Not even servants and guards are permitted, only the clockword constructs he builds with his own hands.  Even then, Muldonny is not a trusting man, and he keeps alchemical weapons on hand in the remote possibility that a clockwork guard might malfunction.

Anyone meeting Muldonny today might have a difficult time equating him with the warlord who played a pivotal role in the overthrow of the sorcerer Eldreath.  He is aware that his warlord image would be tarnished by his comfort-loving appearance, and he limits his visitors to his fellow adepts and visiting alchemists. Among his peers, his reputation is as bright as ever, and he is widely regarded to be the most powerful of Sevrin’s adepts.

Stormwall Island is the center of Sevrin’s contact with the Known Lands.  It is the only island with a deepwater port, and all goods and travelers enter Sevrin at Stormwall.  In times past, the fortifications of Stormwall held off invaders, and Muldonny’s vast stone fortress is still considered the cornerstone of Sevrin’s defense. 

The adept rules the island through a team of senechals and prefers to spend his time in study and research, but the mere fact that he lives is enough to make the people of Sevrin feel secure and ambitious foreigners regard the islands as unassailable.

Muldonny is passionately interested in the old races, the elves in particular.  He collects elven artifacts and has a vast personal library of learned tomes and travelers’ tales dealing with elves.  He has never actually met an elf, though this is a personal and private dream.   A few of his fellow adepts know of this interest and worry about what it might portend.