Mysterious Places12/07/2004

Haven of the Sun

Ever since the Scarlet Brotherhood blockade of the Tilva Straits severed trade with the Azure Sea, the realms of the Solnor Coast have energetically sought new lands, markets and opportunities to the east and south. Tales of lands across the Solnor and the riches of Hepmonaland have stoked the imagination, avarice and ambitions of mariners from Dullstrand to Krakenheim.

Though this spirit of exploration has fired the imagination of many, few among this new generation of explorers know that they follow in the footsteps of their long-forgotten forefathers. The mid-second century of the Common Years saw the Great Kingdom of Aerdy at the height of its glory. With the western frontiers of the empire constrained by the Yatil Mountains and the marches of Keoland, the attention of many young Aerdi nobles turned east and south. Led by the famed admiral Aedorich Atirr, the House of Atirr were in the forefront of the exploration rush, underwriting voyages to chart the eastern shores of Hepmonaland. How far the Atirr voyages of discovery reached can now only be guessed at, for all known records and charts of their expeditions were lost during the Turmoil Between the Crowns.

For all their energy and brilliance however, the Atirrs and their grand vision of overseas colonies came to naught. Movanich Atirr, the last known scion of that house, died in mysterious circumstances in 223 CY, one of the first victims of the ambitions of the fiend-seeing House of Naelax. As the Great Kingdom entered the Age of Great Sorrow and began its long decline, the Aerdi nobility became more absorbed in conspiring against their rivals than funding expensive and risky sea voyages. History records that the last Atirr fleet departed the shores of Hepmonaland in the late spring of 224 CY, never to return.

What history does not record however, is the outpost of Aerdi soldiers and settlers who watched the sails of that fleet disappear over the northern horizon. Early in their explorations, the Atirrs established an outpost on the eastern coast of Hepmonaland. Called Solhabenn (Old Oeridian: Haven of the Sun), the port provided supplies, running repairs and cargos of exotic spices and fruits for vessels making the run between Aerdy and the south. Though tropical diseases and the hostile flora and fauna ensured that few settlers survived their first year in Solhabenn, the arrival of the Atirr fleets each winter brought a regular influx of replacements and much needed supplies. When the ships departed in spring 224 CY, none of those watching from the shore suspected that anything was amiss. They returned to the difficult business of survival and counted the days until the arrival of the next fleet.

As the seasons passed, the settlers scanned the northern horizon in vain for the sails that would mean their salvation. Meanwhile, disease and skirmishes with hostile natives decimated their numbers. The local Olman tribes, initially cowed by the might and magic of the northerners, began launching raids on Solhaben’s small redoubt. The Aerdi governor, Kaldrich Atirr, recognizing the threat to the settlement’s survival, energetically and cunningly forged alliances with many of the natives. Using a policy of divide and rule, Kaldrich defeated the most powerful local Olman chief and united the local tribes under his rule.

Closer contact with the natives inevitably led to intermarriage between the Aerdi and the Olmans. Though many of the highborn Aerdi disdained such unions, the Aerdi-Olman offspring proved more resistant to the diseases that decimated the pure-blood settlers. Among the dwindling highborn, only Kaldrich and his descendants seemed to be immune to the agues, fluxes and fevers. Still perhaps expecting the fleets to save them all from their tropical hell, Kaldrich decreed that his line would remain pure, no matter the cost. As the pool of pure-blood Oerids shrank, the Atirr line became increasingly inbred, with sibling marriages rapidly becoming not only the norm, but accepted ritual. Today most of the population is almost indistinguishable from the native Olmans with a prevalence of gray and green eyes being the only obvious legacy of their Aerdi ancestry.

With inbreeding and the passage of the generations came eccentricity and madness. In his declining years, Kaldrich declared himself Great All Father of Solhaben, with the attendant right of droit de seigneur over the local women. His descendants inherit the title and privileges to this day. Memories and stories of Aerdy quickly became garbled in the minds of the subsequent generations of Solhabeners. Their descendents now consider their old homeland to be the dwelling place of the Gods and themselves as fallen angels, cast out for their sins into a pestilent purgatory. They believe that once they have atoned for their crimes, salvation will come on white wings from the north and they will be re-admitted to their heavenly abode.

A curious form of cargo cult has arisen among the Solhabeners. Every morning, noon and night, they prostrate themselves before The Holy – a magical banner, bearing the arms of the old Great Kingdom (a crowned golden sunburst on an azure field) and the personal blazon of Aedorich Atirr, which they hold sacred. The current leader of the cult is Kalxed Atirr, (CN [CE] male human Ftr4/Sor6), the current Great AllFather of Solhaben. Like generations of his ancestors before him, Kalxed is congenitally insane. However, his cunning, charisma and considerable sorcerous ability ensure that his authority is unchallenged.

DMs Notes: Though the Solhabeners have been praying for it for centuries, contact with the outside world is likely to come as a shock to all concerned. The Solhabeners will initially be in awe of any outsiders, especially if they are Oeridians and/or from one of the successor states to the Great Kingdom. Arms bearing the blazon of the Sun of Aerdy, such as those of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, become objects or worship. Kalxed greet the newcomers with great ceremony and feasts are held in their honor.

Outsiders quickly come to realize that life in Solhaben is far from idyllic. One of the most obvious hints is the relationship between Kalxed and Aedora, his “SisterWife”, who is pregnant with their first child. Another hint is the blood sacrifices that the Solhabeners make to The Holy. Every Godsday, each family offers a cup of their blood to the banner. If misfortune, such as a severe storm, sickness or a poor hunt, strikes the settlement, Kalxed chooses a human sacrifice to appease The Holy. The Great AllFather often uses these sacrifices to eliminate potential rivals or those who have displeased him.

Kalxed is as ruthless as he is insane and accustomed to having things his own way. He rapidly comes to see outsiders as a threat to his authority, which needs to be eliminated. The revelation that the Great Kingdom is no more is greeted with shock, disbelief, and anger. Equally, criticism of the Holy Order of Things in Solhaben is not taken kindly and is likely to enrage the natives.

If the Great AllFather chooses to act against outsiders, he uses cunning and stealth, striking first at their ship, attempting to set it ablaze and stranding the outsiders in Solhaben. His followers attempt to poison the visitors’ food to incapacitate them, resorting to violence if this fails. Kalxed can call upon the Solhabeners, as well as three allied Olman tribes from the surrounding jungle. All are armed with bow, spear, and blowpipe, and they are well versed in the use of incapacitating poisons. A small band of fanatically loyal bodyguards armed with a handful of ancient magical weapons protects the Great AllFather. Kalxed himself wields Firannxear (Old Oeridian: Flame upon the Waves), a +2 flaming burst bastard sword and a +1 buckler of water walking.Firannxear is a lost heirloom of the House of Atirr and was once the personal blade of Aedorich Atirr himself. The AllFather wishes to take the outsiders alive, intending to sacrifice male Oerids and all non Oerids to appease “The Holy.” Females of Oeridian descent are destined to become the Great AllFather’s new consorts.

The Holy is a powerful magical item and likely to attract the attention of any outsiders. A fine silken banner embroidered with gold thread, bearing the arms of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy and the personal blazon of Aedorich Atirr it is perhaps the most beautiful object in Solhaben. Any attempt to steal it is met with lethal force by the natives. Of greater import however, is Kalxed’s heritage. The House of Atirr is thought extinct. The discovery of a living, albeit insane, heir to this noble line has a profound effect on the politics of the North Kingdom, where the Atirr’s ancestral lands passed to the Houses of Torquann and Naelax.

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