Adventures of the Adamant Owlbears
Kingdom of Bastion
Bastion is a land of highly valuable, if difficult to attain, natural resources. From the gems mines and stone quarries of the Sculptor’s Fingers, to the hardwood forests of Yesteska, to the whaling opportunities off the Northern coast, everything worth having in Bastion tends to come at immense effort and cost. These resources have kept the nation highly productive and comfortably wealthy since its inception, but recent times have sent it staggering to its knees. With the long war being waged in the North, trade in things like oil, scrimshaw, and pelts have all but vanished. And with the embargo instituted by Thornwall, many other goods sit collecting dust.
For more information on specific members of Bastion’s government, check the Court of Bastion page.
A hereditary monarchy, Bastion is currently lead by King Khursed Wulthrung and his wife Queen Sinmeare Wulthrung. A number of feudalistic vassal lords help to manage their lands, traditionally three dwarven dukes or duchesses with an appropriate number of lesser vassals beneath each of them. (Typically counts, barons, mayors, and church officials, though a duke is well within his rights to assign responsibility for lesser vassals to his counts.) The holdings are split as follows:
- Duchy Nikaer – split into Darm county and the tribal tributary holding of Wyrvarn.
- Duchy Wuglim – split into the counties of Orodum and Yesteska, with an independent religious holding in Pikes Beach.
- Duchy Kadre – A title that is now essentially defunct, the Duke or Duchess of Kadre would typically be the most powerful of the three, responsible for all the lands of present day Thornwall. In earlier times the Count of Southgate would run most local matters and the duke maintained communication with the rest of the Kingdom.
There is also the Duchy of Florumm, traditionally held by the royal family. The dukeship is typically held by the upcoming heir, whether that be a child, grandchild, or sibling of the present King or Queen, and as such tends to change hands with much more frequency than the other duchies. The duchy and the kingdom are both titles inherited by primogeniture, with males and females standing as equals in the line of inheritance.
While the Sculptor’s church enjoys much of the same esteem as it does in the Empire, its influence is only one factor in the governance of Bastion, and priests do not enjoy quite as much legal authority or protection as they might in the empire. Of course any Hands named by the High Father enjoy the universal privilege of their position, and though they are few they are highly influential. (Saint Azrael himself being the pinnacle example.) However the High Father functions mostly as an ambassador of the religion and as a member of the royal family’s council. One voice among many in the king’s ear no doubt, but in the king’s ear nevertheless.
The monarch’s council is comprised of six official positions, which are ultimately responsible for developing the law of the land and maintaining it through their influence. Important matters of war, taxation, imprisonment, etc. are all presented by the king and passed through the council. While all council positions are chosen by the current monarch, and they could certainly choose a panel of sycophants, it is nevertheless a system with a deal more oversight and influence on the ruler’s decisions than in other surrounding nations. The council consists of:
- Chancellor – A diplomatic envoy, in charge of the kingdom’s corp of ambassadors and a primary negotiator with other nations.
- Marshal – A military expert who manages local law enforcement and works as the point of communication between the king and his armies.
- Steward – Responsible for assisting with the finances of the realm, the steward manages tax collection and budgetary concerns, particularly pertaining to infrastructure improvements or construction projects.
- Spymaster – The least seen member of the council, the spymaster serves to protect the royal family by foiling plots and sabotage against them. Furthermore they may enact their own such plots against the family’s enemies.
- Chaplain – A religious representative on the council who has one ear to the king and the other to the high father.
- Adviser – A position of little official responsibility, the adviser serves at the pleasure of the king and offers their input when requested. It’s a position that’s sometimes accused of swinging voting power in the favor of the king’s wishes.
While it is typical for many of these positions to be held by the Dukes or Duchesses, it is by no means a guarantee. In fact, many previous monarchs have shown their displeasure with certain vassals by denying them these seats in favor of those more amicable to their wishes or simply more qualified.
Crime and Legal System
The office of the King’s Marshal employs local law enforcement, and each duchy is expected to maintain a subsidiary representative. Due to the current state of war, these officers tend to be fully trained military personnel, and their mannerisms reflect that. Even minor infractions are punished swiftly and severely in the interests of maintaining order.
For matters requiring more resources and investigation, law enforcement tends to lean on the Sculptor’s Hands. They too tend to be severe in the justice they mete out. The country has little money and less food for the maintenance of prisoners. Ill doers tend to meet their doom or – if they’re lucky – conscription when faced with trial. Only the highest profile cases are brought before the Monarch’s Council.
Some leniency has been instated for foreign military forces and mercenaries – due to Bastion’s desperate need of their soldiers and supplies. These are some of the few people you might see out after curfew – and unfortunately some of them have a reputation for being up to no good – making noise, looting abandoned homes, or causing other problems for the populace.
Bastion has always maintained a civil and positive relationship with the Holy Empire, though the general feeling in the Kingdom is that perhaps their opinion of the Empire is less than the Empire’s opinion of the Kingdom. Though they are allies in faith, the dwarven kingdom was founded on a somewhat different interpretation of the Sculptor’s word – and has banished the practice of slavery in its entirety. It is also a nation with a far more sympathetic view of elves – though – as has been witnessed in the unraveling drama with Thornwall – that relationship is far from good. Negotiations with Thornwall have all but reached a stalemate – with neither side having the resources to force their own agenda.
While official relations between Bastion and the Dominion have amounted to little but quiet indifference since the conclusion of the God Coast War – some brave refugees have since made their way toward Ramloft – in hopes of perhaps seeking aid for their homeland. There has been no official word of their success or failure.
Bastion has experienced at least one full scale war every century since its inception, a fact that does not escape certain long lived dwarves. Very shortly after its founding the kingdom went to war with the elves, a hundred years later was the God Coast War, and now there are Griel’s forces to contend with. These wars, combined with the bravado of dwarven culture, has lead to a somewhat quicker succession of heirs than might be expected from a dwarven kingdom only two centuries old.
Because of its history, Bastion is militaristically the most experienced and organized of the surrounding nations. A combination of standing retinues, vassal levies, and local conscripts makes up the kingdom’s forces, and experienced tactical minds from previous wars are available to train and lead them. Traditionally armies tend to be consolidated into a handful of massive units in order to best utilize these individuals, but supplying armies of this size has proven to be a huge issue due to the embargo and the fleeing general populace. Many have had to resort to stripping abandoned farmland just to feed their troops.
For what they’re lacking in food, however, they may just make up for in the quality arms and armor. The army favors blunt weapons for crushing the bones of the undead, and dwarven hammers have long been regarded as the best in the world.
Because of the unholy nature of the threats being faced presently, clerics have become more valuable than ever in combat, and churches are frequently found abandoned on account of full scale conscription.
Bastion is a land containing several climate zones, divided fairly neatly by the immense mountains of the Sculptor’s Fingers. The channel running between Bastion and Thornwall runs cold on account of the glacial presence in Wyrvarn, leaving much of the western coast with a cooler maritime climate. The soil is sandy and ill suited for farming across much of this coast, and the rain seems to nearly never stop, a feature that many would blame on the martyrdom of Saint Caleah.
Closer to the mountains the land grows more fertile and more hostile in equal parts. The vast forests of Yesteska, having gone mostly untouched for years, have grown even more wild and verdant since the war they endured centuries ago. This dense forest, combined with the high granite peaks of the Sculptor’s Fingers, provide huge natural boundaries for anyone who might think of assailing the dwarven kingdom.
The easier way to approach would be from the valley side of the mountains, where Ade’arna and Hamstow lay amid an area of sprawling meadows and farmland. Despite the productivity of this quaint patch of countryside, it accounts for only a fraction of the overall agricultural power of Thornwall in terms of production and sheer acreage – particularly considering its shorter growing season.
Finally to the North is the region of Wyrvarn, which progresses from coniferous forest to tundra to a glacial lake of unnatural cold. This is a place few tend to venture to and possibly none truly understand.
Much like the Empire, the population of Bastion tends to be highly concentrated in areas where the geography has allowed cities to be built. With the climate being particularly more hospitable than Hell’s Hearth, however, there is relatively more dispersal.
Bastion is perhaps more thoroughly mixed than any other nation besides the Dominion, boasting the largest population of dwarves in the world, putting dwarves and humans at an equal majority. The dwarves tend toward the center of the continent, primarily settling in the valley city of Ade’arna and spreading slowly out toward Hamstow. Humans, ever adventurous, have had more of a part to play in settling the extremes of the land, though much of this land has now been rumored to have been claimed by the Devourer.
Other races are all represented in some form or fashion, and are welcome by society at large, with the general exception of elves. Due to the nation’s history over the past couple of centuries, elves are looked at with some combination of awe, fear, distrust, and/or pity. Some even blame the nation’s current predicament on elven curses, or vengeful spirits from Yesteska selling their services to the Devourer’s cause. Half elves tend to face marginally less stigma, but that’s only if the person judging them is capable of discerning that they’re not pure blooded. Full elves have become enough of a rarity in Bastion that many outside of the nobility have forgotten what they look like.
The country was founded in the area of present day Caleah, which is easily the nation’s most integrated and lively area in terms of trade, technology, and culture. Unfortunately the exodus of much of the population has left the once thriving city feeling more like a ghost town.
Bastion’s intense geographical features make immense stretches of farmland like that seen in Thornwall an impossibility. While sustenance can certainly be foraged from the forests and surrounding seas, the intense, year round cold in the North and the sandy and rocky soil leave very little of the land amenable to agriculture. In the past this was addressed through feudal taxation and then trade with the area of Thornwall, but when the embargo hit the country quickly found its population unsustainable. The issue resolved itself to an extent as refugees poured out of the country, soldiers lost their lives fighting the undead, and population growth took a staggering fall backward, but there are now questions as to how to feed the armies of allies that are soon to arrive.
The only truly productive agricultural area in the country is the valleys between Ade’arna and Hamstow. Unfortunately even their productivity has seen a sharp decline, as many people in the Hamstow area have taken advantage of their proximity to the coast and fled the country before the front advances right to their front door. It’s not uncommon now to see fields overgrown and livestock running wild.
Cities in Bastion tend to all follow the same patterns in terms of city planning and construction, which is all of very high quality. They are extremely organized and well planned out – and the architecture is built to last millennia. Every major settlement in Bastion is walled and defensible – and primarily built of stone. In Caleah you may see somewhat more wood being used for building due to the logging of nearby Yesteska, but this tends to be used more often for shipbuilding.
The exception to all these rules is, of course, the tribal holdings near Wyrvarn, which tends to buck all conventions regardless.
Society and Culture
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
Current events have left the people of Bastion with a very dour disposition, but there are still those among them who would dedicate themselves to the beauty and entertainment of the world. The University of Caleah has a very well loved and respected arts program, and while students may find their audiences smaller than they once were, they are doubly as grateful for the distraction. Great playwrights in particular seem to have found endless inspiration from the horror around them, composing tragedies to provide historical context or current events to the public. Meanwhile visual artists have taken it upon themselves to use the staggering number of newly abandoned buildings as their canvases.
In terms of recreation, what has traditionally been most popular is activities that take advantage of the natural features of the country. Climbing the Sculptor’s Fingers, fishing off the beaches, or hiking through Yesteska are a few examples. However with the way the country is at the moment, those who remain are reticent to leave their homes, much less to go on an excursion into untamed wilderness.
While it was once a place as diverse as the Empire, recent events have left many of the people of Bastion with a highly suspicious character. There is a strong sense of mistrust toward anybody exhibiting traits or behaviors outside the norm – whether they be religious, racial, or cultural.
Social mobility is a complex and highly limited issue in Bastion. The majority of the ruling class: the monarchs, dukes, and counts have their titles passed down hereditarily. Where the common man might be able to rise is more often into positions of council for these respective nobles. Nevertheless, these positions are all at the nobility’s digression to appoint.
In terms of physical characteristics, people in Bastion are somewhat distinct from their neighbors in Thornwall and relatives in the Empire. Dwarves in particular are significantly different in appearances from those in the Empire, with pallid, sometimes slightly greyish tinged skin. The general lack of elven blood over the past couple of centuries has also left the general populace somewhat courser and ruddier in appearance than that of Thornwall.
The typical diet in Bastion has changed significantly since Thornwall’s embargo. The valley region is incapable of generating enough produce for the entire country, and so what is most plentiful must be foraged or hunted. Needless to say, food has grown simple and practical.
With many settlements being coastal, there has been a great reliance on fishing and seaweed gathering. It’s a reliable choice, if somewhat lacking in variety. The colder waters around Bastion are home mostly to a variety of oily whitefish and hardy shellfish.The wilderness is home to a number of large ungulates that could feed a family for a week such as wild horses, goats, oxen, and reindeer. But hunting in Bastion is generally considered an extremely dangerous activity on account of its unique and deadly predators. Big cats unlike any seen elsewhere prowl the mountains and frequently make off with unwary travelers, if the dead don’t get them first.
While there are a number of well documented edible plants scattered throughout Bastion, the food shortage has prompted some from the University of Caleah to journey into Yesteska for the purposes of analyzing presently undocumented plant life in search of more edible varieties.
Unlike most regions, Bastion does have some level of compulsory education, essentially equivalent to a modern grade school level of learning. The Kingdom itself has made this a possibility, sponsoring the building of schools throughout all major counties, and offering incentives to University graduates willing to teach. This has further sparked competition, as in some areas the church or noble sponsors have even opened up alternative facilities, giving parents options in where and for how long they would like their children to be educated. All in all this means that even the lowliest of the people of Bastion are not fools. The nation is literate and values intellectualism.
The peak of education in the country is of course the University of Caleah – an institution with a grand and nefarious reputation. As compared to the University of Queen’s Reach – this school seems to dispense with ethics in favor of results – and the most brilliant inventors and researchers of the age have emerged from its halls.
Fashion is a somewhat frivolous concern in modern Bastion. Clothes are most valued for their utility, comfort, and craftsmanship. Even the nobles simply drag their finery out of trunks from ten years ago.
In general clothing is loose fitting and modest. Dresses and tunics tend to hang straight down from she shoulders, perhaps being cinched by an apron or belt – but there’s no sign of the corsets and leather work that have become so popular in Thornwall. For warmth – vests are a common accessory – as are headscarves or hats. The complexity and value of the clothing here tends to come from the fabric itself. Ornate patterns are often layered one on top of another – though the generally muted colors tend to keep this trend from being too much of an eyesore.
Closer to the Northern coast fur and hide becomes more and more prominent – but the styles still remain of simple construction – with big fur lined robes being a popular item for both sexes.
The official religion of the Kingdom is that of the Sculptor. They participate as allies in faith with the Holy Empire – and their overall religious structure mirrors the empire’s in many ways. Shrines, churches, temples, and monasteries are spread throughout the land for the purposes of worship.
People in the area tend to have widely varying opinions of the church. Some cling to it desperately for salvation – while others blame it for bringing doom upon the world. People are more public about these opinions than they are elsewhere – as there are few enough resources available to the church or law enforcement to add rounding up naysayers to their list.
Alternatives have begun to spring out of this doubt – though they exist mainly in rumor. The most prominent among these is the Cult of Hesiel – for those who wish to embrace the darkness before it devours them.h2. Magic and Science
Bastion tends to share similar policies to those of the empire in terms of its attitude toward spellcasters – based on their mutual religious beliefs. One notable exception might be the attitude toward druids – Bastion is infinitely more suspicious of them than their counterparts – perhaps based on their closer proximity to the werewolves of Lina’fela or their history with the elves in general.
Nevertheless… Official opinion and public practice are rarely one in the same. To combat the dread foe on the horizon, there is talk of strange, forbidden magics being practiced in secret – wizardry unburied from old crypts, and even desperate bids at revitalizing the dead before they can be turned against the living.
While the presence of the church and the university means that there are plenty of qualified healers of varying persuasions scattered throughout the kingdom, unfortunately for the general populace many have been conscripted to the front. Those that remain are stretched thin to assist the rest of the population.
For many – the horrors of the present circumstances are too much to bear – and the number of asylums in the country has doubled in the past decade – nearly every major city in the country has one now.
Transportation and Communication
By boat is easily the quickest and most efficient way to get to and form most locations in Bastion – particularly on account of the treacherous mountains splitting the country in half. Over land there are a mix of choices – with the most popular being sure-footed ponies and cold resistant reindeer.
Bastion is some three-hundred miles from tip to tip, with most roads running parallel to the coast – and one particularly impressive tunnel structure running through the mountains into Ade’arna. The roads are of the absolute highest quality – wide and cobblestoned throughout the entire kingdom.