The Kingdom of Esshar is a land to the far east of Sheng, separated by the Restless Ocean, a stormy, tumultuous sea that's still heavily under the influence of the fading peace barriers. There are no references to Esshar in the ancient texts of the divine wars: the continent was uninhabited until the early third century, after the Dread-demon Mordred the Perfect and its legions destroyed the country of Astya. The High Angel Malziel and his aides managed to intervene near the end of the devastation, relocating many thousand refugees to this new land, and it has long since established itself as a leading superpower in the world's affairs.
- 1 Foundings
- 2 Key Locations
- 3 Society
- 4 Factions
- 5 Criminal Organizations
The Kingdom of Esshar was founded by refugees near the end of the second century, and its people have an eventful history that spans all the way back to the beginnings of the world. The empire of Astya was where it started, the first great civilization during the Mythical Era, roughly five millennia ago to date. This was a time when magic was in full bloom, and many of the more proficient magi were demigods in their own right, able to perform what by today’s standards would be considered miracles.
There were two in particular that, despite the heightened flow of magic of the time, still stood out among the rest. Amalia Elaide and Mihail Petrakis. They both held the rank of Archmagi, the highest honor the empire would award someone with… And while held in similar esteem by the people of Astya, they walked very different paths; Amalia’s interests were in the natural world, the animals in the forest and the spirits. Mihail’s was the past and future, but never the present, a disciple of the timestream.
Amalia’s interests would eventually turn from wildlife and towards creation. She used the fear of men as fuel for power, pulling their nightmares out of sleep like the clouds pull water from the ocean and turn it into rain. She called them demons, her own special kind of creature, a new breed of beast - far more predatory, deadly, and intelligent than any other. The council of lords that ran the empire saw this as a great advancement, and at the command of Amalia, the demons conquered many countries, helping to expand the reaches of Astya. Eventually, however, the witch set her sights on complete dominion, wanting total control of the empire rather than sharing it with the council, but her ambitions were directly thwarted by Mihail Petrakis, exposing her hidden agenda.
This led to the Civil War of the Astyan Empire. The first great war. Many provinces sided with Amalia over the empire, admiring her ruthlessness and power, or just considering her the safer bet. While a valiant fight was put up, the armies of the witch were eventually destroyed. She was said to perish in battle, though some sources claim she survived in some form or another. Her sister, Miya, also continued to live in secrecy among the Astyans. Peace returned to Eternia, for a time.
It wasn’t until many centuries later did the witch have her revenge, in the form of a demon. One of her own creations, one of the first to rise. Over the years, Mordred had ascended to the highest form possible within the demon evolutionary chain and moved to wreak havoc on Astya, decimating its cities, devouring its people. The demon was a mountain of moving flesh, and it destroyed the country completely, land and all. Just twenty thousand Astyans were rescued by the High Angel Malztiel after the elder Archmagi, Mihail, called out in distress, his voice reaching across the spirit realm and toward the heavens. What was left of the peoples of Astya were taken to a new land, the Continent of Aegis: To the far east of the world, across the Restless Ocean. It’s there they start over, led by the Petrakis bloodline, after being welcomed by the natives of the land - the people of Magnolia in particular - and given self-governorship of a small province on the western coast.
Over a millennia and a half has passed since then, and the new Kingdom, Esshar, is the most prominent power in the region.
Numerous towns and villages populate the mountainous greenlands of Esshar, with a total population of 24,000,000.
The Imperial City of Osrona
The jewel of the kingdom - the Imperial City is the spotlight of Esshar, with the nobility and military all operating from within. Life as a citizen there is fairly kind compared to harsher nations, the people are able to live freely and help shape the laws of the land, and shortages in food are rare unless there's a famine. Despite this, it is a large city that has its problems, with the trap of crime and poverty leading to slums, where no person is safe, not even the law.
Esshar is a constitutional monarchy, ruled by the Petrakis family since its foundings. Parliament is made up of citizens that are granted peerage, and they draft and debate laws that are proposed to the reigning monarch to sign or veto. The noble houses manage their allocated districts directly, such as providing missions to the guilds.
The Three Great Noble Houses are Pelleaux, Grimmore, and Astor. They serve as the direct protectors of the crown, and have individual duties to carry out. Members of these houses are branded with the insignia of their house in their coming of age ceremony, and so are those in service to them. This insignia establishes a distant connection with the star that their house is aligned to. Astor are gold, Pelleaux are blue, and Grimmore are crimson, and their hair and eye color tend to reflect this among family members.
House Pellaux manages Osrona's Magical School, known for their academic interests. House Grimmore oversees intelligence agencies and operations outside of the country. House Astor have a long running history of serving in the military.
There are also a number of noble houses, several hundred. After being knighted for outstanding service by the ruling monarch, the person and their family is given the title. The elevated social status is a perk in itself, but there are also certain protections in the law - such as a noble being able to select a champion to represent them if challenged to a duel, and the title often comes with an award of land.
All nobles are formally addressed as Lord or Lady, regardless of their age. It is also typical to curtsy or bow on greeting.
The ancient house of Astor has been seen as protectors since the refugees of Astya first came to this land. The founders of the family held great pride in being defenders, using their lives to ensure the longevity of those around them. To ensure their lives were not traded, many children born under the banner of House Astor - be in directly into the bloodline, or into a close vassal family that has pledged , are taught to hold and use a sword before they are taught how to read. Of course, as one of the Three Great Houses, this does not mean that the Astor are uneducated in any way, simply that they find more merit in their actions rather than within their words. Of the Three Great Houses, Astor is the most accepting of those with blood below them. While it isn't uncommon to come across someone who places themselves above commoners, most do it with the thought process of their strength and rank over the common people meaning they would be far better at defending them than the commoner would be themself.
The members of House Astor are all but expected to join The Order of the First Light as soon as they can, many being allowed special enrollment below the age gate in order to start them in Knighthood as soon as possible. Due to their high blood and important social ranks, they often ascend the ranks of the Order very quickly, both due to the harsh training and mindset that has been placed upon them since birth, as well as favoritism towards their name and nobility. Those who do not reach the rank of Exarch Knight are looked upon with scrutiny.
Unlike some other houses that have dedicated their lives to the blade, the mortality rate of the Astor bloodline is not as high as expected. Though it remains tradition to have many children in order to guarantee an heir in wartime, even in times of peace, main and high-ranked branch members of the family are often given vassals or early betrothals to another family of knighthood to keep them safe.
Of course, they train and fight on their own just the same - they are the swords and the shields of this country, a belief that is groomed into them before they can even process the weight of those words.
Proud and unyielding in their role, the members of the noble family of Grimmore are clever and worldly. They are primarily Ambassadors and Emissaries to foreign countries, and handle most diplomatic meetings. Although not openly spoke of, the Grimmore family also handles the intelligence operations within Esshar. They deal extensively in private information, and usually have a multitude of spy networks set up within the city. House Grimmore is always the first to know of any secret plans or events.
It is also up to House Grimmore to keep tabs on the various countries surrounding Esshar, and they tend to be very knowledgable about the surrounding territories. They are incredibly worldly, and it's not uncommon for a member of House Grimmore to have traveled to at least one foreign country before they turn ten years old.
As a whole, the members of House Grimmore tend to be the least open of all the Great Noble Houses. They keep their own secrets tucked close to their chests, and not much is known about the inner works of how Grimmore operates. Due to this, members of the Grimmore family can sometimes be seen as shady, and rumors often circulate about their potential dark dealings.
The Grimmore family has a long-standing tradition of taking in young orphans to train them as servants, spies, and even assassins. These are known as the "Jurors of House Grimmore", named as such to remind them that the Juror is part of a group, and is not to make judgements on their own. They are prized for their stealth and espionage abilities, and tend to mostly investigate corrupt nobles of major and minor houses alike.
The great and noble family of Pelleaux is a clan of overseers, academics, and researchers housed within the highest echelons of Osrona's society. They are chiefly known to administrate the largest magical school located inside of the city, though their influence does not end there. In the halls of businesses, research conservatories, and the bureaucracy of the city, it is not uncommon to find a Bluecloak - a name commonly given by the masses to a graduated member of the family - striving to improve the work set out for them.
Members of the Pelleaux household who are not part of the school are often incredibly sought after consultants and researchers, capable of lending their vast pool of learned knowledge to those who need it. Often, large businesses in the city will dedicate a significant sum of crowns from their budget to keep a single bluecloak on retainer, such is the value of their word. It is not uncommon for other places to request the presence of a Pelleaux for a short while; knightly orders that find themselves lagging behind, as well as various guilds in the city, often find themselves requesting the attention of the noble house to improve what they are doing.
The house itself is not without black rumors, however - it is an open secret that many of Pelleaux harbor a disdain for those without sufficient education or knowledge, regardless of whether the individual has the means to acquire it. There are hushed stories of a Pelleaux coming down into the lower districts to teach, only for a single individual to catch their ire - and a significantly more serious lesson being taught to all involved. Public works that Pelleaux often head can lead to additional friction - the destruction of tenements, and gentrification of several areas in Osrona, can be attributed to the inspiration of one from this house, much to the discontent of the poor who lived in those places.
To the day, there are one-hundred and twenty-seven active Noble Houses within Esshar. Some less renowned than others.
- Kalogera: The Kalogera family was ennobled relatively recently, in 1321. The man responsible, Cesare Kalogera, a hitherto unaccomplished knight of the Order of the First Light. Having stopped an assassination attempt on the Queen Consort, he was granted land, a title, and a sizable sum of money as thanks. Setting the precedent for what would become a generation cycle, Cesare enjoyed his newly found status to the fullest, squandering the family's wealth on his vices and suspicious ventures. He died without an heir, passing the title to his brother, a dull but stable merchant. It would not be until the title was inherited by Giorgios cos Kalogera that the family would become notable again; Giorgios had, upon coming of age, quickly came into a fortune. Officially, he owned several silver mines and inherited mills in Hessalia, but rumors sprung up quickly that he had unsavory dealings. He often sold his vote in Parliament to the highest bidder; at the age of fifty-nine, he died under suspicious circumstances, and many whispered that he had been poisoned. Soon thereafter, the title passed to his son, Basil, the oldest of his two twin sons.
- D'Arnette: The D'Arnettes can trace their roots back to the earlier eras of the Kingdom of Esshar. Like many others at the time, its founder, Gannard, briefly served within the ranks of the Order of the First Light. His willingness to partake in activities branded unsavory by even the most battle-hardened of servicemen granted him the attention of the House Grimmore, who went on to make use of his services as as an operative during early contentions fought on behalf of the Petrakis family. Gannard's first son, and his son after that, and every son up until contemporary times have asserted dominance in the private entertainment industry. The lords House D'Arnette used their initial funds to spearhead the founding of a small parlor with exclusive membership for the socialites of Osrona. With every decade it gained more and more infamy, and before long the D'Arnette name was synonymous with the Fraternity of Osrona, an establishment that catered towards the dark and twisted desires of lords looking to partake and observe in gruesome activities to satiate their boredom.
- Tirel: A family of minor nobility, after the family's great great great grandmother, Livia Tirel, impressed the ruling monarch with her service in the Order. Without dying -- Which is an important distinction compared to how the rest of her descendants fared. They are staunchly loyal, following the Great House Astor's lead with joy in their hearts and a love for battle. Every child born into House Tirel is expected not just to serve in the military, but to serve exceptionally. To give one's life in service to Esshar's protection, and to spend every ounce of strength left against her enemies is considered the highest honor. Because of this, the family possesses a high mortality rate, and most do not live past twenty five - or procreate, for that matter. The Head of the House is often considered a fiercely tenacious fighter because of this, as only the toughest - or more likely, the luckiest - tend to live into their thirties.
- Duran: The prominence of this house traces back to the earliest days of the Church's inquest against witches, where does who look back can see the lingering cold touch of House Duran's second son: Solon Duran. Solon instilled a legacy of repression against the arts of Witchcraft & Demonology among the people of the era, and to keep strong and firm service to the church until the status of noble was granted until the House Duran for the services before the Era's end. His descendants would work to build upon this legacy and status, gaining their own names and recognition while giving their lineage tribute in Solon's honor. Even now that the Witch Hunts have long since ended, and the house's fall from grandiose prominence since those times, its name is inextricably linked with the Church's Inquisition and the various points of view people have of it. Oftentimes, all, but the inheriting man of the house is given to the Church's service.
- Salis: The Salis noble family is distantly related to the house of Grimmore by blood, due to a marriage between their two houses in the year 966AC. The Salis family ever after became a Vassal house tied to their more noble cousins, serving them well throughout the ages as well as cementing ties every few years by marrying among themselves again. The Salis, even before their ties to Grimmore became cemented in blood, were close and frequently offered their services. Namely, espionage and of course assisting them in battle tactics when necessary.
The Salis family were skilled in using their brains over their body, and were known as being well versed in the surrounding countries, their customs, and their people - offering an invaluable aid to the very house who needed to keep tabs on those countries. But not only that, they also studied how enemy armies marched, moved, and behaved. During the recent conquest of Rhoynur, it was House Salis who gave the much needed knowledge of not only Rhoynish customs and their army, but also where the King was located within the capital city - allowing Ardes Grimmore the chance to capture the King.
Most families who would have offered this aid would be expected repayment, fame, or fortune and glory. But not the house of Salis - no. The most they wish for is to see Esshar continue to shine a glorious light across the world, and to provide value to their cousins and the singular Noble House they follow - the Grimmore.
- Morneau: The surname Morneau has evidence of dating back to the early days of Esshar as humble scholars, historically a family of low to middle class. Their rise to nobility was something that occurred relatively recently, after a Morneau married a woman who belonged to a branch of the major house Pelleaux in 1600 AC. The couple had five children, all sons, which inherited the relatively unknown name of Morneau rather than the much more prestigious and great noble bloodline of scholars. These distant cousins of the Bluecloaks are known for academics, although their focus is a bit more specialized. Their claim to fame is in their runescribing. Having amassed a knowledge of the art over the generations, the Morneau bloodline has used their recent rise to high class in order to further push the art. However, House Morneau didn't enjoy only benefits from their marriage into one of the major houses. Many families; including some of the Pelleaux themselves, look upon them with scorn for what they believe was snaking their way into the aristocracy. Nonetheless, House Morneau has enjoyed nobility for the past three generations as of 1660 AC.
- Brienne: The noble family of Brienne is one of admirable warriors who, time and time again, have proved their steadfast loyalty to the Kingdom of Esshar and its Crown. Their known beginnings date back to the War of the Dragon, where they were among the first to meet the overly ambitious Kingdom of Sluthia's forces in combat. Members of the house, following their head of house, Aurele Brienne I, fought with fearlessness, tenacity, and effectiveness that riled up their allies and struck fear into the heart of their enemies. With energy and sword did they play a large role in pushing into the enemy's kingdom, before the eventual slaying of the draconic King Myndrerrag which ended the war. They live by a code of loyalty, courage, and righteousness.
- Moralis: Once a travelling troupe of Metaphysical magicians and alchemists, the Moralis family was ennobled under the watch of Montgomre Moralis during the 1200s for supposedly providing the Crown with a Potion of Youth and for stifling the rumors of unrest involving the current Monarch's ailing health. Those that came after Montgomre Moralis would become obsessed with the legend of their ennobling, thus causing the family to focus inwards on Alchemical Magic. Because of this many of the present day Moralis family members know little beyond the basics of combative spell-casting, and are instead practiced magical alchemists whom rely on Champions or Hired Hands for protection and disputes. They manage to retain their Noble status through masterful alchemical tinctures, tunics, potions and elixirs. Most of which are given directly to the crown, and rumored to be of dubious morality. The Eldest and next in line for the Patriarchal or Matriarchal title of the family, and the Matriarch or Patriarch of the family themselves are shun-ins focused solely upon creating brews for the Monarchy, whereas the younger generation is known to socialize and employ those of the working or lower class. Supposedly, many of these workers are reformed after being hired on, with those that are not being sent to work on the plantations outside of the city walls. Perhaps their employing of the middle to low classes is due to the younger generation of the Moralis family being situated within Caelfall after their sixteenth birthday, whereas the head of the family and the chosen successor remain within Aerandale.
Essharan marriages mostly begin late into the evening, on a cloudless night where the couple can swear their eternal vow 'under the stars', ordained by a priest or priestess of The Faith. The constellation of Leonaus is the brightest and the closest in the region, and it's customary for a couple to give their first child a middle name selected from one of the eighteen stars. The festivities continue until dawn, with the bride and groom present. After the sun rises, they are expected to leave to commemorate their partnership.
Marital bonds between the same sexes is commonplace and does not carry the social stigma that it might in other countries. It is rarer among nobles as there is more pressure to maintain their bloodlines, but does occur occasionally.
Throwing multi-colored confetti up into the air and towards other people is customary during celebrations.
Festival of The Eclipse
A commemoration that's held for the dead during a solar eclipse, where fragments and wisps of the spirits can be seen dancing down from the sky. On average, it happens once every thirty years in Esshar, and while this varies, astronomers have developed the means to predict the day with certainty. Citizens will wear elaborate masks or paint themselves with skull imagery.
Priests and priestesses of the church will join hands in prayer, performing the 'Song of the Soul', a ritual where their spirits reach out and sooth the passing dead. Not forgetting the fallen and acknowledging them on a personal basis is an important tradition within Esshar.
This celebrates the founders of Astya after they migrated from their destroyed homeland to begin life anew in Esshar. Eggs are painted and hidden to be hunted and found, with some given special markings that are rewarded with prizes. Theatre plays of these historical events are acted out on stage for all to watch - known Magi are also encouraged to join in, practice, and take a role.
The Grand Bout
A nation wide tournament that began at the turn of the millennia, a week long event of feasting and games. Great beasts will be captured from the shadow lands for participants to face off against, though the true highlight is the tournament of magi, where riches await the fortunate. Those who show promise in their showings might even be offered tutelage under a renowned figure.
Formal honor duels are legally enshrined in Essharan culture, and can be approved and overseen by a Radiant of the Order. There are usually specific terms and requests, but the duel rarely goes beyond first blood or to the yield. This will occur in the arena, at an arranged date, with an audience, but a more private affair can also be requested.
Duels to the death are permitted, although they've largely fallen out of practice and are seen as dishonorable. Killing an opponent in an honor duel where it was not officially declared as such is considered murder under the law and tried as such.
Nobles can select a champion to fight in their stead. Other classes aren't granted the same privilege.
Children born out of wedlock do not inherit nobility and are not considered the rightful heir to any lands or belongings. This law was put in place following the Rebellion of 690AC.
Some of the main organizations that act in support of the kingdom and are directly funded by them, as a public service, or are protected by their laws as a registered entity.
Order of The First Light
The military is headed by the prestigious Order of The First Light. They are the elite knights of the military force. Members of the First Light may act as soldiers, as well as everyday law enforcers. Their banner is the constellation of Leonaus, gold stars alight set on a backdrop of midnight blue.
- Lightbringer: There are exactly three Lightbringers, and they head the military. A Lightbringer is a knight that's unparalleled in battle skill and accomplishments, sometimes to a legendary standard.
- Radiant: The Radiants are the generals of the Order - they oversee large-scale operations, often commanding multiple legions.
- Paladin: At the level of Paladin, a knight is expected to be one of the finest combatants in the country, serving the Order as a commander.
- Exarch Knight: An Exarch Knight leads a team of magi, acting as a mentor and a leader.
- Knight: Completing their training as an Initate, the Knight has been inducted into the Order and is an official member.
- Cadet: A knight-in-training, a magi. It usually takes around three years before an Initiate graduates into knighthood. This induction phase may also occur as a programme in the academy.
- Soldier: A non-magi serving the military, or alternatively, a guild member that's not an official member but has volunteered. There are no more than 10,000 core members in the Order of the First Light, but there are roughly 80,000 soldiers that make up various less prestigious groups.
The official religion of Esshar, serving on multiple fronts, as much priests as they are scholars of magic and philosophers. They are tasked with documenting and preserving the details of history, as well as the day to day of missionary work, such as working to improve the community.
- There are a number of Startowers that are synchronised with the Constellation of Leonaus. A more advanced practice, for example, involves an act of prayer within an isolation chamber, a pitch-black, noise proof room, where the learner seeks to attune with the cosmos.
- A common affinity within their ranks is holy magic. Their members are natural bastions against the dark forces of the world.
- It is expected - though not mandatory - of a knight of the Order of The First Light to also support the church.
The center of learning for the entire peninsula, the Academy is a prestigious place of both magical knowledge and terrible secrets. Students from all walks of life pass through its doors every day. Here, anyone should be able to find a teacher for their choice of study.. if they can afford it.
Currently, the grounds are closed for renovations.
An official, recognized group of magi that typically work as freelancers, or serve a particular purpose. It is an attractive prospect for those who want to put their magic to use in combat but aren't necessarily keen on the rigorous schedule and self-discipline expected in the military.
These groups are known for their illicit dealings.
A group of highly dangerous terrorists with seemingly nefarious motives in mind. While initially dismissed by the government, it has rose to the forefront of the political scene in the last year, bolstered by the remnants of Rhoynur. Many are said to be a part of it as a result of the Conquest of Rhoynur While the Order continues to investigate the organization, a large following has sprung up primarily in the Slums.
Large bounties lay atop the leaders of the organization, hearsay leading to mostly inaccurate descriptions of the figures. The Order of the First Light has failed to uncover any further information.
- Boss: There is one Boss above all the others, one who sits among the darkest shadows of Osrona's depths. Their identity is unknown, but their legend isn't. Someone is pulling all of the strings, someone who makes even the bravest of the First Light think twice about wandering alone at night.
- Underboss: Answering directly to the Boss, the Underbosses exist as faces that actually come out and into the light, at least long enough to pass off their orders. As far as the rest of the Syndicate goes, those of this rank are looked to as the final say, if only because the Boss doesn't waste time with anyone other than those they deem worthy.
- Enforcer: The movers and shakers of the Syndicate, while the Boss is the Brain and the Underbosses are the mouth, the Enforcers are the eyes and the arms. Their identities, if they aren't careful, are more likely to be known by the public, and given the difficulty it takes to reach those above this rank, the Enforcers suffer from the most turnover.
- Agent: These members move through the streets themselves and operate in sunlight if the times call for it. The agents aren't the fodder of the Syndicate, and achieving this title means you've actually made something of yourself among a rougher crowd.
- Ratling: The lowest of the totem pole, usually people who have fallen onto harder times and have to turn to illegal activities just to stay alive. The ratlings aren't shown any respect and usually have to follow any and all orders they are given or suffer consequences that generally leave them injured and maimed, if not floating lifeless in the river.