This is the first in a two-part series showcasing the core story of Dead Queens of Morvena. The story tells the history of the Fetherruin and the Kingdom of Morvena, and sets the tone for the adventure setting. The events described here occur centuries before the adventure presented in our upcoming Dead Queens of Morvena product. This story is an elaboration on original concepts developed by Jonathan Jacobs on The Core Mechanic in 2008. Art by Matthew Meyer.
Bordered by civilized nations, yet largely untouched by them, the wild, cursed Fetherruin stretches out in harsh scrublands and broken plains and steppes; it huddles under the shade of brambly forests; it wallows, stagnant, in fetid swamps. Few are the men and women who have breached its borders, fewer those who return, and fewer still those who, against instinct and good sense, strain their wills to tame and civilize Fetherruin.
In centuries past, when merchant caravans desiring more direct routes to far lands passed through Fetherruin, the terrible nature of the area was discovered. Tales came back of living shadows, flesh-eating ghouls, savage ogres and sadistic giants, and swarms of gibbering fiends spilling through the darkness of restless nights. These tales, more than the cargo the merchants carried, became the commodity of the caravans emerging from the Fetherruin. Adolescents and eager, frightened children would gather to hear the tales from those bold enough to relate them. These terrifying experiences became entertainment, and more than a few bards earned their reputations spinning these tragedies into grim caricatures tailored to engage the basest of human desires.
The rise and fall of the Kingdom of Morvena is the story of a civilization touching the Fetherruin, and of the violent rejection of civilization by that savage wilderland.
The Legend of the Ten
Writ large in legend and embellished by bards, the “Tale of the Ten” exists in dozens of versions, most considered by historians to be tall tales. Although the individual personas of the Ten have been the subject of scholarly research in Haberdim1, few historical facts have been definitively established regarding them. An abridged version of the Tale is set down below:
In the ancient days before men came to the Fetherruin, a primordial entity known as Incabus2 was worshipped as a god by degenerate fiends: goblins, ogres, devils, and fireh bolgs—cruel parodies of men. As the power of Incabus grew throughout Fetherruin, the gates of the hells were thrown open, and it is from these hells that not only fiends, but also spirits and undead, spilled into the realm of mortals. Banding together from the Theocracy of Lathis and neighboring regions, a group of mercenaries, soldiers, and faithful servants of the god Lathner breached the borders of Fetherruin. This group, known as the Ten, campaigned for years against the terrors of the wilderland. In time, the Ten stood divided into three groups. In three different regions of the Fetherruin, these groups stood against three demons. From these battles, only four of the Ten returned, and their spirits were broken. Although the demons had all been banished or destroyed, the innumerable lesser fiendish servants of Incabus remained in Fetherruin, rampaging against any imposed order and civilizing influence set down by men.
Not until the days of Erushai Dismas was the power of Incabus challenged again.
The Family Dismas and the Kingdom of Morvena
In the years after the Ten’s attrition, the crawling shades and creeping monsters of Fetherruin resurged. Though many skilled explorers and swordsmen ventured forth into the wilderness, the root ill of Fetherruin, the mythical and primordial Incabus, remained elusive.
Erushai Dismas was a champion of Lathner, the god of Truth and Light. He was an exemplary herald of his faith, and legend holds that he was ritually blessed by the Venerable Lien, one of the surviving Ten and a high priest of Lathner. Erushai was charged by the Will of Lathner3 to go forth into Fetherruin to put an end to the evil that plagued the region. To aid him in his quest, he was granted to carry the Hammer of Lathner, a powerful and ancient artifact of Lathis. In the dead of winter, according to the tales of bards, Dismas set out alone to fulfill the will of Lathner.
Where legends end, the recorded history of Morvena begins. Dismas succeeded in his quest, and the establishment of the Kingdom of Morvena is the testament to that success. Along a trade route through Fetherruin, north of Merchants River, Dismas constructed a shrine to his god. His fame as an exalted Champion of Lathner spread quickly and widely. Though most still thought better of settling in Fetherruin, the priest did attract a staunch body of followers. A village grew around the shrine, and over time the shrine expanded into a proper church where Dismas delivered weekly messages of hope and perseverance in the face of darkness and struggle. The reputation of the village of Morvena as a haven in the wilderness, and of the great beauty of the surrounding region, attracted many settlers in the coming years. Merchants, journeying through Fetherruin, paused to enjoy a hot meal and a comfortable night’s rest there as well. Morvena became a bastion of civility and a beacon of light in the dark Fetherruin.
Dismas married and fathered six children, and his small town grew into the tiny Kingdom of Morvena. His people, devoted to Lathner and His Champion, crowned the elderly Dismas their king with a crown forged from silver mined in the hills to the north. The First King of Morvena lived the rest of his life in his kingdom. Even when, his body compromised by age, he contracted and succumbed to the splotchkin plague, a disease native to Fetherruin, he believed he had fulfilled his mission. Though his heart, tainted by the splotch-poison, failed, he held fast to his faith in the victory of light over darkness.
Erushai’s first born was his son Mindenaron Dismas, who at the age of nineteen assumed the throne after his father’s death. After interring his father’s body and observing a period of grief, the industrious Mindenaron set himself to the task of ushering Morvena into great prosperity. He improved agricultural output by channeling water from the Merchants River into the fields of Morvena. Like his father before him, the second king chose a wife from the common people of his kingdom, a young woman named Avildena.
Years passed and though Morvena flourished and grew under Mindenaron, he and Avildena had no children. Troubled and taking his wife’s advice, Mindenaron took on a second wife, her younger sister Nemala. Two more years passed without a child, and in time, Mindenaron began to suspect that it was he, and not his wives, who was infertile.
Brooding, he withdrew into the central tower of his estate. After some time, Mindenaron emerged to consult the few herbalists, doctors, and seers of the kingdom. None of them produced a cure, and their failed aid confirmed the king’s suspicions. After sequestering himself for long days and neglecting the needs of his kingdom, Mindenaron emerged with an unsettling expression on his face, and a strained light in his eyes.
He met with Avildena in private. She emerged alone, with a written deed stamped with the king’s seal. Within the hour, the magistrate read the document to the assembled people of Morvena. Their king had exiled himself, and placed the kingdom into the hands of his first queen.
1 Haberdim is the center of scholarship and research in the Kingdom of Drimsy
2 Incabus is known variously as a demon, a god, and a primordial being. While the Scriptures of Lathner refer to Incabus as a living entity, no historical records of such an entity exist.
3 The Will of Lathner is the highest priest and official in the Theocracy of Lathis.
Edited by Jonathan Jacobs and Robert Sullivan