Poh Tun Kaiunread,
Apr 11, 2015, 8:54:50 PM4/11/15
HEROES OF THULE
Deadly wilderness and wicked foes are only part of what makes Thule savage, O King. The heroes who call this primeval land home are just as distinctive—and dangerous—as the land they live in. This is not a world of chivalrous knights, scholarly wizards, and noble quests. Thule’s champions are made of different stuff, and they often have more self-serving motivations that the shining heroes of less savage lands. The typical warrior in Thule is a hot-tempered barbarian roaming the world in search of loot and glory, or perhaps a steely-eyed mercenary constantly searching for a prize worthy of her ambitions; the wizard is a master of forbidden lore for whom commoners and nobles alike step aside, shaking in dread.
The cruel cities and the deadly wilderness have a thousand tales to tell, but they all begin with a character driven to attempt great things. Thule’s heroes, like those of any land, are unique individuals who have the right combination of fighting skill, a powerful drive or motivation, and the opportunity to excel. You have specifically commanded me to tell you of the heroes and villains of this lost land, Majesty; what follows is a selection of the narratives I have perused.
Atlantean Noble: Throughout Thule’s teeming cities, the oldest and most honored noble houses claim descent from the royalty of vanished Atlantis. Even though the island empire was destroyed more than three hundred years ago, its learning and culture still shape Thulean society today. In fact, nobles without a drop of Atlantean blood often lay claim to this ancient lineage, simply to bask in the respect it brings. Many Atlantean nobles lead lives of pampered luxury, which would seem to be poor preparation for a life of adventure. But long ago, the people of Atlantis were bold and confident explorers. Those in whom the old blood runs true are often driven to seek out new places and new adventures.
Bearer of the Black Book: Arcane magic is not a simple matter of study and practice in Thule. Humans are born with no supernatural powers, of course, and there is no tradition of arcane scholarship among the human cultures of the continent. To master supernatural powers, a human mage or warlock must turn to non-human traditions, which involves seeking out a suitable tutor or deciphering the occult writings of some earlier race...such as the writings found in the Black Book.
The Black Book is a forbidden grimoire of terrible age, passed down through the years from one adept to another. Some say the Book is alive and aware, a demonic entity with a sinister purpose. Others say that the Book exists in many times and places at the same time. Whatever the truth, the mage who possesses it is well on his or her way to becoming one of the most powerful wizards of Thule.
Beastfriend: Thule’s ferocious animals are an everyday threat to a hunter of the tundra or jungle—but for a few warriors with powerful intuition and keen understanding of the natural world, Thule’s beasts are allies, not foes. Beastfriends possess an uncanny ability to communicate with beasts both mighty and small, and frequently befriend the most fearsome predators. A warrior jogging along with a dire wolf or a saber-tooth cat at his side is almost certainly a beastfriend. Beastfriends are extremely self-reliant, but they rarely feel comfortable among other people and do not stay in one place for long.
Dhari Hunter: Natives of Thule’s deepest and most dangerous jungle, the Dhari people are renowned as warriors, guides, trackers, and hunters. Most Dhari hunters are suspicious of civilized folk and have no interest in a softer life, but others are drawn to see the great cities of the coastlands by curiosity or simple wanderlust. Fighting skills and uncanny stealth honed by lethal tribal warfare provide the typical wandering hunter with all he or she needs to earn a living in the city-states.
The Dhari are only one of Thule’s many barbarian tribes, Mighty King, but they are strong, numerous, and respected throughout the continent. They are known to be tough and trustworthy—and fierce enemies when crossed.
Free Blade: Freebooter, mercenary, sellsword—Thule is home to many a bold adventurer looking to earn his fortune with the edge of a sword. The free blade often takes service as an ordinary mercenary if nothing else presents itself, but an adventurer of this stripe is not just a sword for hire. Instead, the true goal of the free blade is to find fame, fortune, or a place in the world, to strike it rich or win a title through some bold masterstroke. Until that opportunity presents itself, the free blade moves from place to place and keeps her nose to the wind.
Golden Sea Corsair: Piracy is all too common in the dangerous waters of Thule. The corsairs of the Kalayan Sea—the great central lake of Thule—are a violent and quarrelsome brotherhood who recognize no law save their own bloody code. It’s not unusual for corsairs to serve as seagoing mercenaries, taking the gold of one city-state to plunder the trade of another. Unfortunately, corsairs are notoriously fickle and untrustworthy, and are quick to change their colors. Individual pirates are free to follow any captain they choose or jump ship when a better opportunity comes along, so a single corsair may over the course of a few months serve as a crewman on half a dozen different galleys; in some ways, the Golden Sea corsairs are a single great horde of marauders who happen to be split up between a score of ships.
Guardian of the Nine: Most people in Thule, both city-dwellers and wilderness tribes, are thankfully ignorant of the alien races and cosmic evils that lurk in the world’s hidden places. The society known as the Guardians of the Nine, however, is not. These priests and scholars constantly shore up the world’s age-old defenses against forces from beyond the Earth, fighting a secret and never-ending war against unthinkable calamity.
Ice Reaver: The fiercest and most warlike barbarians of Thule’s wilderness are those who make their homes in the shadow of the encroaching glaciers. Driven from their once-green homelands by the relentless advance of the ice, these hardy warriors frequently turn to a life of raiding and plunder, pillaging the peoples who live in less harsh climes. The sight of their dragon-prowed longships sweeping down on the coastlands is enough to panic all but the strongest and best fortified cities. While the northern reavers are feared and hated with good cause, not every barbarian from the icy realms comes to pillage. Individual ice barbarians often seek work as mercenaries or guards in the rich southern cities and are highly valued for their strength and ferocity.
Initiate of Mysteries: The priesthoods of Thule’s cities represent a wealthy and powerful social class that jealously guards its prerogatives and secrets—especially the secrets of priestly magic. Those individuals who are initiated into the inner circles of a temple hierarchy gain access to powers that few others understand, but in return they are expected to use their status and their command of magic to advance the interests of the priesthood...and, if possible, the deity they profess to serve.
Jungle Trader: Suspicions run deep between the people of the cities and the tribes of the jungle, but a few intrepid merchants set out to make their fortunes by trading for the ivory, hides, gemstones, and other treasures the jungle offers. Part explorer, part diplomat, and part thief, jungle traders have a reputation as sly, double-dealing cheats and scoundrels, but this notoriety is somewhat undeserved. To survive and thrive in their chosen trade, they must carefully cultivate relationships with dozens of potentially hostile tribes. As a consequence, jungle traders are rumormongers of the first degree, and seem to be the first to hear about anything new in the wilds of Thule.
Katagian Pit Fighter: Most cities in Thule host arenas of one kind or another, but none are so pitiless or bloody as the fighting pits of Katagia. Some pit fighters are free men and women who battle for the rich purses offered by the arena owners, but many more are slaves or convicts doomed to die for the entertainment of the masses. Pit fighters who survive their time in the arena are usually highly sought after as bodyguards and enforcers by various underworld figures—there are few people more intimidating than someone who has killed frequently and publicly for sport.
Myrmidon: Loyal soldiers sworn to fight for city or master, myrmidons are the most disciplined and welltrained warriors to be found in Thule. Every city-state (and most noble houses) retains elite formations of myrmidons for defense against the threats of a savage world. Most myrmidons are naturally expected to stay close to their barracks and serve alongside their fellows, but some are trusted with more freedom of action or retained to act as agents or assassins at large for their masters.
Occult Scientist: Thule is a land mired in ignorance and superstition. Most people see magic in the workings of anything they don’t understand, which includes both supernatural and scientific phenomena. The occult scientist brings a reasoned and deliberate approach to the study of all sorts of matter and energy, seeking understanding of the deepest secrets of the universe. The occult scientist often enjoys a somewhat better reputation than most arcane spellcasters in Thule, since he seeks out knowledge for its own sake. In fact, the occult scientist may even attract the support of wealthy patrons interested in his research.
Panjandrum: Most cities are governed by a despot of some kind or another, and any effective despot builds a loyal base of civil servants to enforce his or her rule. A panjandrum might be a military commander, a magistrate, a vizier, or some other important bureaucrat who wields power in the name of the sovereign. Low-ranking panjandrums are often used as spies, investigators, and diplomats, traveling widely and looking after their city’s interests, while high-ranking panjandrums are usually among the most powerful and wealthy figures in the city.
Quodethi Thief: Thieves’ guilds are a fact of life in any major city, but the city of Quodeth is home to guilds numbering hundreds of thieves. These huge organizations are stronger than all but the richest and most powerful noble houses of other cities, and Quodethi guildmasters think nothing of giving orders that will be obeyed by men and women a thousand miles away. To belong to a guild of Quodeth is to belong to an army of vicious, conniving cutthroats, an army in which one can climb through the ranks by one’s wits, daring, and record of success. While guildmembers constantly scheme for influence and position, they are quick to close ranks when some external foe insults the guild or damages its operations.
Sacred Slayer: Temples are rich and politically influential, which means that most priesthoods acquire many powerful enemies. Sacred slayers are the guardians and avengers of Thule’s temple hierarchies. Serving as bodyguards, agents, and assassins of the priesthoods, sacred slayers are expected to be fanatically loyal and obey the orders of their priestly masters or die in the attempt. The most capable sacred slayers are given dispensation to work as free agents, spying on behalf of the temple and acting in its interests wherever they find themselves.
Soothsayer: Thuleans see hidden meaning in many things—the movements of the stars, dreams, prophecies, and scores of everyday omens and signs. Soothsayers serve barbarian chiefs or civilized nobles as advisers, interpreting the will of the gods and offering guidance in supernatural matters. Many soothsayers are capable practitioners of magic, but not all; some are simply wise, insightful advisers valued for their counsel alone.
Star-Lore Adept: Wizards of any sort are rare in Thule; each city is home to only a handful of true mages, and these individuals are regarded with awe and fear by the people around them. Wizards who dabble in the lore of the Great Old Ones and the antediluvian races of the primordial earth are rarer still. There is no doubt that the star-lore adept’s path to power can be shockingly swift, but the risks they accept would make lesser mages blanch in horror. Few dare to meddle in the business of a wizard who masters such dark and dangerous lore.
Tribal Outcast: Many barbarians leave their native tribes to seek their fortunes in the rich city-states. Naturally, warriors who are held in high honor by their people or who are content with tribal life are not likely to seek their fortunes elsewhere, so a large proportion of the barbarians who find their way to the cities are outcasts of one sort of another. Unable or unwilling to fit in with the tribes of their birth, they are wanderers and exiles in search of a new place in the world.