Gotha forms the large central power that anchors its empire together, and is the founding power of the Throne of God on Earth. Dotted with thriving hamlets and large elaborate churches and monasteries, Gotha is a vast land that dwarfs the other countries of the Throne, though much of it is an unclaimed wilderness of forest and mountains.
As the central power of the Throne, the power of the Emperor and the Church of Holy Benalus are both at their peak. Churches form the central figure in each settlement, and the Emperor’s knight orders are ever present to see his will be done and keep Gotha secure and strong. Neither languishes upon their power, however, as no where else in the Throne is heresy so strong. For all its might and wealth, Gotha holds many untapped places and many dark shadows in the night of its forests and mountain caves. It was here that the Church was born and here that the three apostasies of the Triumvirate of Thorns took their first blasphemies. As hard as humanity struggles, and as far as the Throne extends, the cancer of heresy seems somehow just as much a part of its makeup as all of its virtues.
A sheathed sword in the face of evil is tantamount to evil itself.
Victor von Herkheist, after reportedly receiving a vision from God, declared that he would follow in the steps that Benalus once walked and unite mankind through conquest. Humanity was coming out of the darkness of the Age of Witchkings which had devastated all existing political structure. In the power vacuum left as the Witchkings destroyed one another over time, or were deposed and killed by the resistance movement Ordo Croix, mankind had backslid to tribal-based societies or ones that occupied city-states in the ruins of the divorced holdings of the Witchkings.
The Ordo Croix was a natural ally for the young Prince of Fenristadt, the strongest surviving city-state in the central region that would come to be known as Gotha. As the Ordo Croix had spent the last decades toppling the regimes of the Witchkings one by one, they were both heroes of humanity and the only international force of armed veterans that existed all throughout human holdings. There was no organized church in these early days of the Lion Age, and the Ordo Croix, while famous and powerful, were having trouble transitioning from their role as subversive insurrectionists, to openly armed military force, to a now peace-time army of soldiers with no war left to fight. Individual cells of the Ordo Croix were engaged in various humanitarian efforts but those efforts were disorganized and lacked a strong future ideal. Von Herkheist provided a vision for the future that benefited both groups.
As the armies of Fenristadt began to conquer outward from the city-state, existing local groups of Ordo Croix would be asked to remain in conquered territories as occupiers and rebuilders, in charge of maintaining both the security of the region with their armed presence by preventing revolt or reconquest, as well as minister to the people the message of Benalus and the mission of unification that Von Herkheist imagined. Permanent fortress monasteries were erected in each region that Von Herkheist or his vassals took, and the repurposed Ordo Croix that remained behind to defend and educate the people were renamed The Most Vigilant Order of Templars.
Von Herkheist’s pragmatic system of locking down all of his conquests with occupational forces meant to both secure the region and re-educate the populace formed an iron-hard lattice of provinces that continued to grow and grow. The existence of Ordo Croix cells in each area to be conquered made doing so easy as the people themselves were often as likely to rebel against their current kings or chiefs as not when called upon by the heroes that defeated the Witchkings only years before. The nascent Order of Templars began to reorganize itself into both a military branch and clerical branch at this time, and the beginnings of the Church of Benalus began to take shape, finally completing the transformation with then Emperor Victor von Herkheists taking of Holy Lethia, the city of Benalus’ birth and eventual kingship. Lethia became a stronghold for the Templar Order and the Church of Benalus, and the city grew with tremendous speed only rivaled by Fenristadt itself.
THE GOTHIC PEOPLE
Act with wisdom, but act.
Gothics are above all conservative and temperate people who value caution as much as courage. In all things, the Gothic way is to be unbending and uncompromising. Gothic people would rather do something slowly and carefully than make a costly error, but one should not mistake this as a reluctance to act. In fact, inaction is considered to be one of the most destructive forms of unworthiness that a man can do, believing that through inaction do all sins begin. While essentially all of the citizens of the Throne of God on Earth are religious and faithful, to the Gothic the Holy Church is the pillar of daily life and their religious belief factors strongly into all decisions that they make.
From birth, Gothic children spend their days at church with their family. When they are old enough to speak and listen, they are taught the liturgy of the church. By convention as much as protocol, every child is groomed for a life of direct service to the church, whether or not that ends up their road later in life. All adults can speak Aldersabin, the traditional language of Holy Lethia, and convocations are traditionally spoken in that language in Gotha. Intelligent children are taught to read by the priests, while other children are taught soldiery by Templar knights. If the settlement is near a fortress monastery, the monks there regularly attempt academic study to improve farming techniques, construction, and other aspects of daily life. Each monastery acts as a specialist research center for one ongoing problem of daily life in the Throne, be it how to best put down a band of Kuarlite heretics or raising crops that can survive the winter. Windmill construction practices pioneered at the Melandahim Fortress Monastery of St. Gunther have spread throughout Gotha and have begun to change the lives of people everywhere, as new mills are springing up away from rivers for the first time.
The Gothic language shares its roots with the tongue of Njordr, and in fact, the two peoples are related on the whole. The great city of Fenristadt that today is the capital of the entire Throne was once a pagan Njorse city where they worshipped wolves as gods. The Njorse people and the Gothic were, in the distant past of the Age of Heroes, part of the same tribes of mankind, the Godi, the Njavahr, and the Kimbra to name a few. In ancient times the Godi chieftain took Fenristadt from the Njorse in a great battle, and the Von Herkheists are the scions of that line. The Gothic alphabet is partly runic in origin, but modern Gothic takes so much of its content and grammar from Aldersabin, which shares no root, that it is a distinct language of its own now.
The Gothic people organize themselves by family units and do not tend to acknowledge greater familiar relationships such as clans or tribes. Part of the dogma of the Church is that all humanity is a single brotherhood, and outside of living relatives who you can actually meet or people remember if deceased, family relations are supplanted by a community oriented feeling that finds people identifying as Gothic, or simply as Men. Even location is rarely mentioned or important, because of the interconnected nature of Gotha and its infrastructure, people tend to have a good idea of their community’s place in the grand scheme of how Gotha or the Throne functions: our community harvests wheat, and theirs mills the wheat, and the next bakes the bread which feeds the Templars at St. Gregor’s Fortress, and those Templars fight the heretics of Blackmire Swamp. The excellent communication between members of the clergy in Gotha means that communities can be carefully purposed and organized to serve the needs of the country at large, or even Humanity at large, and the church does not miss any opportunity to remind people of the stakes they share, even far away from main battlefields.
Gothic children are each given two names at birth. One of their names is common to the Gothic tongue of every day use, and one of their names is given from Aldersabin, sometimes referred to as the High Gothic, and is often named after a saint. This name is treated religiously as their “real” name. The tradition began as a means to hide one’s true name from witches, but has grown largely to be a matter of formality. Their name in Gothic, something like Hans or Ulric, is used in every day parlance and is the name they will give to most everyone they meet. Their second name, something like Veridius or Theodoric, is used on formal occasions of religious significance, and is usually the name used by priests, both personally and professionally. A man once called Ulric might be called Father Theodoric upon swearing his vows as a man of the clergy, and when ministering to his flock, would refer to them in private by their High Gothic name.
Despite this interconnected structure, Gotha is still a huge space of land, and there are circumstances when communication breaks down. A landslide might close a pass which cuts off one village from another, damaging the carefully constructed interconnected nature of the two villages. If one village mills wheat the other grows, and suddenly both villages can no longer communicate and trade, both villages have lost their purpose and all of their workers have no purpose for their work. In these critical situations, the Emperor’s Knights will usually levy relief forces from these same put out workers and organize training and work crews to clear the rubble from the pass, or otherwise resolve whatever issues have arisen. When this works, it works well. When it doesn’t work, such as if the obstruction were simply too difficult to overcome regardless of the manpower, difficult situations arise. Negotiations with the mage guilds can take months or even years in some cases when mundane labor will no longer suffice, and sometimes by the time a village is reconnected with the rest of Gotha, the rot of heresy has already set in.
Cut off from the clergy or the rest of civilization for long periods of time, agents of the Triumverate will often target such settlements for attacks, conversion or experimentation, depending on the heretics involved. Strange things are said to live in the woods and mountain caves, and the influence such monsters might have over the people is feared. Depending on the length of time a village is cut off from the rest of Gotha, and the particular priestly order that might oversee their reclamation once they have returned, the village may be reorganized and refit into the country’s structure, or it may be put under Inquisitorial Ordeal. The Inquisition has sole discretion over which settlements must come under Ordeal, and if they declare such a state of emergency, their authority is indelible. More than one village has been put to the torch and every soul there to the sword after a long period of living alone in the Gothic wilds. That is the only way to be sure.
The average Gothic man is lean, and somewhat muscular, and many wear a beard. Gothic men consider one of their principal virtues to be diligent, and most men work very long hours, usually from dawn til dusk, so perhaps 12 to 16 hours in a day, depending upon the season. As most of the labor that men undertake is physical in nature, this leads to stronger than ordinary men, though also somewhat more lasting injuries. Depending on the profession, some vocations simply do not have 16 hours of work to do during a day. Farming, for instance, has periods of much activity and then periods of less. In these situations, Gothic men generally will attempt to help their neighbors in some way, such as offering to perform maintenance on a leaky roof, help another complete his primary work more quickly, or even perform some sort of incremental improvement such as working to replace a wooden post fence with a mortared stone fence. It is considered in ill taste to do this sort of work for your own land, understanding that if it needs to be done, your own neighbors will quickly volunteer to do the work just as you had on some other occasion. This rule is somewhat suspended when Gothics are out of Gotha and in some other culture, as they know they cannot count on such people to help their neighbor in the same way. If many Gothic men seem somewhat standoffish or arrogant in the presence of other cultures, it is often due to this fundamental difference in how a community is organized in other parts of the Throne.
Gothic women tend toward the lean as well, and have a similar mindset to their men of making sure that their neighbor has all the help they need, though classically the help they offer is of a somewhat more supportive or domestic nature. Gothic women will often watch the children of other women, and children in Gotha tend to rove in great packs as they are so familiar with one another, often with one to seven women walking somewhat after them to make sure they have supervision and assistance. Visitors to Gotha often find Gothic women to be nosy and something of busybodies, and often find the tradition of helping their neighbors to be more annoying than helpful when it comes to their personal business. After all, if one is not used to it, waking up to your neighbor’s wife and her two sons in your kitchen because she let herself in unannounced to cook a meal for you might be disturbing. Add to that the general ideal that one should watch their neighbors, and frankly everyone they may ever encounter, for signs of heresy, and there is little privacy to be had. In Gotha more than anywhere else in the Throne, everyone is in everyone else’s business.
Because of the enormous size of the Throne in general and Gotha in particular, as well as the specialization of roles that the settlements have, common foods tend to be those that can travel well or can be preserved easily. Gotha must potentially provide emergency relief food to anywhere in the Throne in the case of a famine or a war, so foods that can last long enough to make it all the way to Cappacionne or Rogalia are treasured. Still, even with such specialization in place, no town or village can be totally specialized and must at least be able to provide the most basic and common functions for its own people, and that includes more perishable foods or more specialty foods that never have any intention to be used for long travel.
Monks in the Abbey of St. Varia unlocked the secrets of crop rotation for most efficient farming. In Gotha, a four stage crop rotation is used, as opposed to a three stage rotation used in the rest of the Throne. Most of the Throne uses summer fields, winter fields, and one field that rests for a year. Monks experimented until they found a better result: Barley fields, clover fields, wheat fields, turnip fields, each planted in rotation through a cycle. Pigs and sheep eat the clover during the summer, which fertilizes the fields, and the pigs eat turnips during the winter. This allows for all available land to stay in use for the entire year, raising the soil quality as they do so, and allowing for farming of pigs in much greater numbers than other countries can manage, as pigs usually eat more than they actually produce as meat. Because of this farming strategy, Gotha can usually manage a food surplus, and often uses pork products as preserved foods such as sausages made through curing.
Common Fruits: Apples, plums, strawberries, cherries
Common Vegetables: Asparagus, carrots, turnips, spinach, peas, beans, broccoli, cabbage, fried onions.
Common Meats: Pork is by far the most popular, but poultry and aurochs beef are also used.
Common Dairy: Cheeses of all kinds and varieties, aurochs milk and butter.
Common Recipes: Spiced sausage, especially using mustard, whole broiler spice marinated chicken, boiled potato with linseed oil or butter, fermented shredded cabbage, bread-like cake with citrus peel, berries, nuts and spices.
It is better to break like the oak than bend like the willow. When you break, you break as you were and preserve all you stood for. When you bend, you betray yourself and all you were before your failure.
Gotha is thought of as a land of dark forests, high mountains, harsh winters and good roads, but the sheer size of the country makes a liar of any description. Gotha could fit any three of the other kingdoms of the Throne within its borders, and that alone makes for significant climate differences depending on the exact region you visit. In truth, the biomes of Gotha have staggering variety, though the traditional description does describe most of it fairly well, while the proportions between the various descriptors change. Some areas, such as the farthest north along the Imperial Crown mountain range, are indeed very mountainous, and even somewhat spare of trees in some parts. Dwarf colonies, or kingdoms – the extent of their holdings have never been made perfectly clear to mankind – are known to exist somewhere in the Imperial Crown, and they do emerge to trade with northern Gothic towns on occasion. Because of this, and because Fenristadt itself and all that brings with it is in the Northern part of Gotha, areas of the North tend to have more emphasis on mechanics and different levels of machinery and industry than those of the South who rarely if ever encounter Dwarves.
The midlands of Gotha are well and thickly forested. Roads of exceptional quality have wended their way through the land and made passable much of the forest, but there are great, dark swaths of land that no human being has ever been known to have explored. Many legends have emerged over the ages about what sort of things might exist in those forests. Spectres, witches and goblins are popular subjects of the legends, and one particular forest called Langrael’s Woods is the subject of a particularly famous story of a lonesome elven warrior who, far separated from his people as some kind of exile, lived in the woods and protected them from any who might trespass there. Overall though, Gothics have no wish to enter cursed woods without cause, and if doing so, only do so to permanently claim the wood for humanity with axe and tinder and in full force. Much of Gothic civilization butts up against such woods, and every community has their own stories about what occurs in the wood at night.
A notable feature of Gotha’s countryside is a remnant from its historical past. Long, ancient stone walls cross the horizon at various points throughout the countryside, a reminder of previous decades or centuries of expansionism. It was the Imperial policy of expansion to scrupulously guard, maintain, reinforce and support every major conquest before moving on to new conquests, and this policy resulted in the creation of enormous walls that marked the outermost expansion of the burgeoning Throne versus a world of untamed tribal warfare and desolation that marked the world after the Age of Witchkings. Each wall is named for the Emperor who was responsible for building it. Victor’s Wall is closest to Fenristadt, an 18 foot wall of mortared stone. No army except that levied by the Knights Fenris, the Order charged with protecting the Imperial Family and the City of Fenristadt, may pass closer to Fenristadt than Victor’s Wall. The only enemy army to ever breach Victor’s Wall was the heretic army of the Kuarlite Vardak, called “The Executioner King,” and an army he had cobbled together of Hestralian peasants and Shariqyn. Clovis’ Wall, near the center of Gotha, shows the difference a century of successful conquest makes, and is 32 feet tall, made of marble and granite brick and hedged in battlements all along its top. Various other walls act something like the rings of a great felled tree, and show the circumstances of the age each ruler built their wall in – some using stone quarried from far places now under Gotha’s control, some in disrepair or fallen thanks to cost-cutting measures needed due to the strife of the age.
The most famous example of this is Gendrick’s Wall, named after Gendrick Selwick, during the two decades that the Von Herkheists lost control of the Imperial Seat and were supplanted as the ruling dynasty. Gendrick, the second of two Selwick Emperors, was in the process of quelling a revolt in newly conquered Hestralia and a particularly long and difficult winter, resulting in a wall that crumbled six years after it was built, in Gendrick’s own lifetime, though he was unable to do anything to fix or repair it. It served as a useful piece of propaganda for Prince Handrick Von Herkheist, in exile in the new state of Hestralia, who, with his new Hestralian allies, retook the Imperial Throne and restored the Von Herkheist dynasty. Many of the walls were built to keep out Orc, not men, depending on the region they stretch across and their disposition during the time of their construction. Orc attack walls entirely different than men do, possessing no siege implements, but instead using their colossal strength to simply batten their way through the walls. Left alone, a single Orc can pound through a ten foot thick stone wall in about a day. Such walls instead rely on carefully planned angles and watchtowers that can see the Orc incursion and dispatch archers to a spot rapidly to shoot the Orc from outside the maximum range of their spears or boulders. Such walls in Gotha see little use against Orc more recently, but the same designs are used on the frontiers of Cappacionne and Njordr even now – Orc do not change their methods; what worked in the time of Victor von Herkheist works today on the beasts.
In the South and East most portions of Gotha the forests and mountains give way to plains and more gentle hills. This land, sharing no external borders of the Throne itself, instead bordering on Hestralia to the South and Cappacionne to the East, sees relatively more peace than those regions which support a border to the Throne, or even those regions closest to Njordr where raids from the northern Rime Clans still occur. As such, many inventions and studious advancement occurs in this region, owing partially to it being the location of Holy Lethia, the seat of the Church of Benalus. These lands demonstrate a much lower failure rate for crops and, within the arm’s reach of Holy Lethia, seem to suffer less from heretics as well. Ironically, though, their success and plenty does lead to the main problem of the region, wolves. The open pastures and fertile fields make excellent grazing land for great herds of sheep and aurochs, and enormous packs Gothic wolves roam the plains hunting them. Once or twice a year, the packs grow in size to huge numbers, some packs having been counted in the two to three hundred range, and usually being whipped into such a great pack by the appearance of a Dire Wolf, a wolf of enormous size and having a low intellect that outstrips its more ordinary cousins. During these times, Lethia or the local Graf usually puts out a large bounty for wolf skins, and huntsmen from Cappacionne, especially accustomed to wolves in their own region, travel to this region and often are able to kill the Dire Wolf using long rifles.
PLANTS AND CLOTHING
Outside of ordinary crops, one specific plant has an unusually large effect on Gothic culture. Native to Gotha, bloodwood, also called logwood, grows wildly and abundantly. From bloodwood a very cheap and effective black dye can be made. This dye is the easiest to make of all other local dyes, and as a consequence the color black is often used in the clothing of Gotha. The Gothic people generally only wear clothes on a spectrum of white, grey, or black, and which color of clothing you wear speaks to what you are saying about yourself and your identity. White clothing is the sign of spiritual purity, and is usually worn only by members of the Clergy, as well as in the traditional armors and armaments of the Paladin order. To wear the white is to say “I am without sin” and is a very bold statement to make, especially among the hyper-critical people of Gotha. No one expects any person to be completely without sin in reality, but to do something that even gives the appearance of impropriety while wearing the color white is asking for it to be taken with extreme harshness.
Black, on the other hand, means quite the opposite. “I am a sinner. I repent,” is the statement made. Anyone who has a reputation to keep generally wears all black, and this substantially includes the nobility. Most nobles garments in Gotha are either totally or predominantly black, perhaps with an accent of color for whatever hues form a house’s heraldic standard. Acknowledging oneself as a repentant sinner has the practical advantage that one can sin while doing so without shocking anyone more than usual. While sinning is sinning regardless of the stripe of your clothes, it at least is not a scandal. Nobles, who often have to make difficult decisions that will come under scrutiny by others, favor the color for obvious reasons.
Some tone of grey clothes form the bulk of the clothes of the peasant, urban trash and merchant classes, though blacks and occasionally whites are not unheard of for various reasons. These clothes simply do not make a statement except to simply acknowledge a sentiment that all devout people, and especially the Gothic understand – no one is perfect, and as we struggle through this life, we do the best that we can with what we can at every turn, failing sometimes, and succeeding others.
Gothics prefer high collared clothing with long, full reaching sleeves and dresses. Showing any skin is considered distasteful and is often shunned. To show humility, much of the population wears deep hoods attached to various shirts, cloaks and dresses. Hoods are an incredibly important part of Gothic clothing, and cannot be ignored as an important feature of the culture. Hoods represent humility, restraint, protection, and also sameness. Obscuring the features of the face with a deep hood is a sign of respect to all other members of humanity, demonstrating an ideal that we are essentially the same, faces and other forms of identity are unnecessary.
The dress of nobles is, as expected, totally different from the dress of the rest of the country. Completely abandoning almost all of the sensibilities of humility that hallmark the rest of the Gothic, Gothic nobles have a subculture all their own that values quiet, contemplative ideals. Gothic nobles, as a rule, are some of the sternest, most serious people in the world, and often have an intellectual fascination with death and the afterlife. Death is seen as the ally of the Emperor, the tool of God’s judgment, and is revered in designs of skulls, bones, or other iconography of clean death. Decay and rot are never used, being then in the domain of the Lazarine cults. Black gowns and lace are often used in the fashion of highborn ladies, and men wear black brocades and black plate mail in formal settings. Black and white cosmetics are also used.
GEOGRAPHIC EFFECTS ON CULTURE
One would think that in a country so large as Gotha, the sheer size of the region would prevent it from being or remaining a single culture. Gotha, in fact, represents the actual size of the first real wave of Benalian converts during the time of the First Emperor, even though the area was only secured by walls and the more elaborate fortification. Thanks in part to the strong emphasis on the Holy Benalian religion and in part to the Imperial method of building such close and extensive infrastructure, the culture of Gotha has stayed largely cohesive. This does not come easy, however, and the Church has worked hard at it.
It was in part thanks to the size of Gotha and this original problem that the emphasis on roads first originated. The Church realized immediately that without constant and total vigilance, heresy would set in like an infection in the people. First, the changes were small, an extra verse in prayer, then one left out. Later, the changes would become more pronounced, with the message of the Church being slightly slanted toward or away from certain opinions that did not reflect the attitude of Lethia, and finally perversion would set in, with new ritual practices subsuming the old, and an open invitation to blasphemous heretics to guide the flock down their own path. Constant attention and vigilance was found to be the only solution, and so open travel and communication was a must. To that end, the best road technology the world had yet scene was developed, using at first brick or cobblestone. When this proved to be too labor intensive and resource demanding, Lethia set its abbeys to the problem and a solution was discovered by the now extinct Zurihim order. In studying their holy scriptures, they emerged from seclusion with the means to create opus caementicium. This material, made from quicklime and holy ashes could be transported dry and then poured once water were added then hardening to its permanent shape. Early forms of the opus caementicium would give way under certain kinds of strain, especially in the curses of nightfall, and the Zurihim went back into seclusion until the issue could be resolved. The hair and blood of stallions made the mixture holy enough that it would not crack and break apart under stress or in cold conditions, and the ritual consecration continues to this day of all new roads.
The roads earn much of the credit for Gotha’s ability to stay united, but in truth, it is the attitude behind the roads that helps make the Throne what it is. Achieving a series of systems that can culturally bind people over a massive area makes the entire fundamental idea of a global spanning empire possible. The Church’s draconian attention to orthodoxy in all aspects of Gothic culture is a test-case for a future age when they expect for Humanity to be ten or one hundred times its size, spanning every corner of the world and having long since eradicated all other races from the world by matter of necessity. The Throne has never lost territory, in all the time since it was founded, and this is why.
Gotha is large enough that it has a good smattering of nearly all natural resources, but by far its most important resources are lumber from its great forests, stone quarried from its mountains and food produced in its fields. In short, what Gotha has in abundance is the Gothic. It has the raw materials to have continuous ongoing works projects and the population growth to people new settlements as they are created. Its roads and trade partnerships with Hestralia allow it to purchase what it does not have from other areas like iron-rich Cappaccionne.
GOTHIC TOWNS AND CITIES
Imperial Capital Fenristadt
– The seat of the Emperor and the governing point for the entire Throne
– The highest population center in the known world
– Set at the meeting of two major rivers, it is a commercial and military powerhouse
– The seat of the Pontifix, the clerical orders, the Templar Order, and the Holy Order of the White Lion.
– The oldest human city, it dates back to the earliest records of the Age of Heroes
– The center for learning and innovation throughout the Throne, outside of the Mage Guilds.
– A town that has been developed into a neutral territory for all four magician guilds
– Limited though it may be, any cross-guild treaties, research, or temporary alliances are conducted here
– The town sits only twelve leagues from the ruins of the Castle of Andrughal the Witchking
– A mining town set into the Imperial Crown mountain range
– Built on the ruins of a dwarven settlement, dwarves use this location to trade with humanity.
– Outside of Fenristadt, has the most advanced applications of mechanics, including experimental steam engines.
– A town and region whose legendary ancient kings were said to be related to elves.
– Contains an ancient stone ring in the outline of a large ship where the ancient elves are said to be buried.
– Constantly under observation for heresy, especially for the woods witches that worship Vecatra.
HAZARDS OF TRAVEL
Travel through Gotha is in one sense less dangerous than most of the world and in another more dangerous. The high quality roads make travel relatively simple, but what is simple is not always easy. Despite Gotha’s impressive unity, there are still plenty of desperate people that will attack travelers in the form of banditry, and the roads make the locations of travelers perpetually obvious. Further, with the sheer amount of land to traverse, much of Gotha is to this day unexplored and wild – if one wishes to go off of the roads to any real degree, one is shockingly quickly thrown into a truly wild tangle of wilderness that has not seen human hands since before the Lion Age. It is in these places that the Gothic people believe wickedness lives – witches, goblins, werewolves, elves, and most horrifyingly, heretics. The secret fear in every Goth’s heart is that they will encounter an enclave of Lazarines, a warband of Kuarlites or that one of your own travelling companions might be a Tarrantist.
Thanks to the roads, Gothic towns and villages can be spaced further apart from one another than in other regions. Ordinarily, no one travels more than about a day’s ride from any one settlement, because sleeping on the road is tantamount to suicide, thanks to the Night Malefic, as everyone well knows. The amount of distance a traveler or a rider can move in a day, however, is respectably longer thanks to the long and straight roads, and various roadhouses and roadside shrines have been erected along the major roads to make traveling more easy. Roadhouses and shrines will save you from wolves, bears, and other aggressive animals, but not from bandits, monsters or heretics, so travel remains, as everywhere, a dangerous and limited event, only to be conducted by caravan or army, and likely only once or twice in a lifetime.
Traveling outside of Gotha one has a few more options. The rivers Fenrisulven and Vargen are wide and passable, and see daily traffic from many hundreds of riverboats. Vargen travels all the way to the Hestronne Sea and joins the shipping lanes of Hestralian merchants, often unloading and restocking them at a port such as Nuovo Feneci
GOTHIC PEOPLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Like most visitors, Gothic people in other countries are usually there in an official capacity. The most often case is in service to the Church, either as a member of the Clergy, the Templars or in some other support capacity. Diplomatic errands or matters of international practicality are also common, and thus many travelers from Gotha are also agents of the Emperor, in service to one of his Knight Orders or a Noble House. Since these officials are part of the body that essentially rules their country from afar, even above their own king, many local authorities give Gothic visiting agents a wide berth and a lot of autonomy, but many still resent their presence as meddlesome. To many nobles, the idea that one has their betters is not a foreign concept, but those betters are always from your same country, one’s peers. They find it very difficult to give way to a noble of equivalent rank because he is Gothic or because he serves the Emperor. Still, they almost always do.
Strangely, as Gotha is so large and so much traffic passes through its borders, Gothic is spoken the most often in other counties of any foreign tongue. Add to this that even in other countries, many of the clergy which are invariably in every settlement are Gothic themselves, and Gothic makes a natural choice for an international trade language. Most travelers learn to speak Gothic at some point, to make sure they have a common language with those they meet, even if it were a Rogalian trader traveling to Hestralia.
Art in Gotha is chiefly religious, and considered to be best known as part of their architecture. Gothic churches and cathedrals are places of exquisite dedication and intense emotion. The Gothic architectural style is characterized by its “reaching” design, everything being constructed in such a way as to be as tall and spire-like as possible. Tall, narrow windows reaching a tight point above, towers that stretch up and up and up, and on everything a multitude of extra elaborations and embellishments, always reaching skyward. Many of the cathedrals in Gotha are the famous Vincenzene Cathedrals constructed in the lifetime of Benalus created or the construction overseen by Vincenzo di Copalli in accordance with the principles in the Gospel of Zuriel. These cathedrals are the model for all others. The level of detail on them is unreal, with masterpiece frescoes and carvings in places like under the rear side of staircases, on the rooftops and behind solid marble walls, even though few will ever see them or know they are there. The art is there for God, not for mortals.
Stained glass is also a wonder of these churches, depicting in vivid, deep colored glass specific events and figures from the Testimonium, as well as the gospel of whichever order oversees the church and the patron archangel which governs the congress there. For all of the Vincenzene Cathedrals, these depict Zuriel, the Archangel of Righteousness, and scenes or concepts from the Armory of Sacred Works, the lost gospel of the extinct Zurihim order. Many scholars from throughout the Throne visit these Cathedrals to try to analyze the depictions there for clues of the contents of the lost gospel, along with thousands and thousands of pilgrims from the Throne over.
Gothic jewelry is usually silver or gold with simple work but lacking any kind of precious stones. Leonem icons are a staple of jewelry amongst even the poorest ranks where silver and gold is replaced with wood and tin. It has become common for people to hold such things when in deep prayer or simply to ward off evil.
Traditional Gothic music is religious and ceremonial in nature, usually sung in Aldersabin by a choir. An extensive body of approved choral verses exists, called The Canticorum. For centuries, this kind of music dominated almost all of Gothic music, but more recently the idea of Liebesleid has begun to take hold. Mostly aristocrats, but some peasants and merchants, have begun to sing about personal topics such as love, melancholy, personal tragedy, faith, heroism, death, and other evocative subjects. Traditionalists are appalled by this music because it is usually sung in Gothic instead of Alderasabin, making it so very obviously not the religious choral works that are considered proper. The Church is currently investigating whether the concept of the Liebesleid has worthiness in the Gothic culture or whether its influence is considered too disruptive.
Traditional Gothic music is choir only, with no accompanying instruments, both in the forms of liturgical choir and chanting. The manner of thought was that the human voice is the most perfect instrument and any other instrument was a poor imitation. While this is still a largely pervasive belief, the Church has expanded its stance over time to include that man made creations are also, if not equally as, holy, and they can be given due reverence as well. Since that time, traditional Church music has also included instruments such as the harp, which originates in Dunland, and most importantly, the pipe organ.
The pipe organ holds a special place in Gothic history because the burgeoning study of mechanics, originally learned from the dwarves, was beginning to pose an ideological problem because of its association with another race. Fenrisatadt had welcomed the new technology and had already begun construction of its enormous drawbridge system using the gears systems it was developing, but Lethia and the church were unsure. It is the position of the Church that any invention not originating with humanity is immediately suspect, however useful it might be, because of its potential to lead humanity down a path that is not their own. The most famous figure to speak on the issue, St. Cornelia, a Master of the Order of the White Lion, claimed that the Lord had given her special insight into the destiny of mankind, and that humanity faced an existential danger in adding anything from the culture of other races, such as the elves, dwarves, or God help them, the Orc. Despite the wonders these races might produce, use of their materials and methods made humanity fundamentally less human. A human colony that used elven construction methods was no longer the same culture as the rest of the Throne, and given tolerance and the centuries, could take all of the Throne with it into a path that is not the Lord’s design. Trusting St. Cornelia’s vision, exclusion of non-human technology is the mainstay policy of the church. The only method by which the technology of other races can be made acceptable is if its concept are used and repurposed by human minds to some new format that does not exist in its parent culture. The exact point at which an object is technologically distinct is debatable, but in the case of Dwarven mechanical science, it came at the moment of the invention of the pipe organ, constructed in Nidavell by a Gothic student named Hans Schreiner who had been studying its concepts as a blacksmith’s apprentice. The instrument uses individual pipes set to a specific timbre to be forced through with air by an array of keys positioned at the bottom of the device. The invention of the organ was declared the point that the concepts had been made distinctly human, and the organ became a symbol of humanity’s ability to overcome and surpass non-human technology. Since then, several new forms of various non-human technology have moved through this process, under the supervision of the Inquisition, including cosmetics (elves), plate mail armor (dwarves), firearms and canons (dwarves), fashion (elves), smelting (dwarves), and directed hand-to-hand martial training (elves).
Needless to say, religion is the cornerstone of life in Gotha. It permeates everything, is part of everything. Religion is more than a matter of personal philosophy or spiritual upkeep – it is the central value that precedes all other values, the point of existence. A man exists to work the world into the Throne, then await the day of its final construction in Heaven.
The term orthodoxy does little justice to the Gothic state of affairs. Churches control almost all aspects of daily life for the average Gothic citizen. Every word, every passage of the scriptures is followed to the letter. The Benalian Church disallows the worship of any other Gods and makes short work of even the most benign heathens. It is constant presence of the Inquisition that has bred a culture of paranoia and superstition into the Gothics. At night, doors and windows are barred and locked. During the day, churches are full of worshipers and collection plates never return empty. The Throne’s heart of hearts is the faith of the Gothic people and to serve the Throne is to secure your place in heaven as one of the Lord’s own.
Despite every best intention, unorthodoxy does arise. Ironically, it chiefly arises out of zeal and passion for the church. Administrating the entire culture of Gotha and the Throne at large is a monumental task, and the priests are after and above all, human beings. When their flock looks to them for guidance, they must have an answer, and when those questions are difficult, a priest must answer still. Drawing upon their deep understanding of the liturgy of Benalus, they perhaps at once, perhaps after deliberation, render an answer to their flock as to the right course in some difficult situation, and they must appear absolutely certain in this case. The pressures of having the destiny of everyone they know in their hands can be immense, and when a decision needs to be made, a course must be stuck to. Over time, this leads to ideological drift.
Ideological drift is a major problem for the Church, and clergy who come to substantially disagree with their superiors in the church are offered an opportunity to step away for monastic life. This attitude substantially delays any forward progress gained through intellectual progressiveness, but is fundamentally more sanitary for the purposes of the purity of their mission. Information sanitation is something the church takes more seriously than almost any other issue, and copies of holy gospels and the Testimonium are always created by hand, word for word with a master copy, and checked by a peer for accuracy.
Superstition, otherwise known as the people’s best attempt at understanding the Night Malefic.
Kinderräuber’s Bells – The Church’s main bell is rung in every Gothic town at midnight. It is thought that a specific kind of wicked spirit or creature called the Kinderräuber can only creep into the villages at midnight, during which time it can move freely through walls. The sound of bells are its only weakness, and if the bells are rung, it will not approach and miss its chance. Native Gothics sleep right through this nightly occurrence; visitors are scared out of bed the first few nights and find a good night’s sleep difficult for a long time. One grouchy Hestralian merchant traveling in Gotha once swore he would disable the bells to prove they weren’t needed, but he was found hanged by the ropes of the bell tower soon after.
Never toast with water – To toast with water instead of wine, beer, or another drink is to wish death upon those you toast with.
Knock on stammtisch – The stammtisch, or main table in a bar, is made of hewed oak, and oak is thought to have holy properties. When greeting their arriving friends, Gothic people bang their fists on the table instead of wave – banging their hands on oak proves they are not malefic creatures.
Sign of the Lion – A practice that began in Gotha and has extended to other cultures since then, when meeting a traveler on the road at night, one needs a way to know absolutely whether that person is a human being or a wicked creature in human disguise. Travelers make the sign of the lion, the right hand raised, palm forward, with the fingertips pulled tightly down above the palm in the form of a lion’s paw with retracted claws. No malefic creature could make the holy sign of the lion, so it serves as both greeting and ward against evil.
Cursed Gift – A Gothic villager would never think to give a knife as a gift. An old legend states that a knifemaker once made cursed knives in a pact with Lazarolth, and cursed his victims by giving them these knives. Everyone knows this old story, and thus, giving a knife to a Gothic man or woman is highly insulting. If one truly must give a knife, it is considered acceptable to give a Guild Note redeemable for a knife.
Harrow’s Tooth – If you find a broken harrow’s tooth in the street, carrying it will allow you to see witches.
All old Ladies are witches – It is a fair bet that any old lady you encounter has a strong chance of being a witch. The perception seems to increase with the age of the woman. If you ever pass two old ladies on the road, passing between the two means they can trap you with their magic.
EFFECT ON CULTURE
Religion has arguably more affect on culture in Gotha than in any other place because of the Church’s omnipresence in the region. At large, the Gothic people have completely bought in to the Church and accept their place. There are exceptions, however. While Gotha is indeed the model for perfect service to God, Emperor and Throne, the standards that society pressures them to live by are incredible, and people do reject them on occasion. There are people who want social mobility, or people who value other things above service to the Church and Throne. The Gothic people are as human as any, and with humanity comes diversity. There are people who value money, status, their family or their personal comfort more than other things just as there are anywhere, but the difference is that Gotha has no tolerance for them. This creates an incredibly black and white culture, and a bright line between those who live up to their expectations and those who do not. As a result, people who do not are completely unwelcome and are often shunned or forced from their communities.
These outcasts very rarely stay with the communities that they originated from because those on the other side of the line will not associate with them. It is very difficult to, for instance, have a black market connection with an otherwise legitimate Gothic business man who is still upstanding in the community because of the risks involved. Those with ordinary business connections have the most to lose from dealing with such elements. Instead, shunned people leave society all together. In the best case, these people are hermits, but few who lack the dedication to follow Gothic orthodoxy have the qualities that make living an ascetic life of poverty any more viable. Instead they often form bands of mercenaries or bandits, and these bands become recruitment targets for Kuarlites and other heretical factions. In reality, bandits often make poor examples of heretics, lacking the fervor to follow Gothic orthodoxy doesn’t often beget the fervor to destroy that orthodoxy – instead apathy or more worldly appetites are the focus of their lives, though in these cases, Tarrantists may be more successful than Kuarlites.
The rates of shunning and ostracism are kept in record by the church and moderated carefully. When a certain amount is reached, the Church automatically sends for extra Templars to reinforce the region against banditry and to investigate heresy. This cultural leakage is seen as acceptable by the church so long as the outcasts are not allowed to reach metrics above a certain proportion to the orthodox population. It is better to allow them to leave and keep the flock pure and focused than to struggle to keep them present and waste resources teaching them to behave. If they prove through their next behavior that they represent a threat to ordinary society, the Templar or Mithrihim will correct them and the upkeep process will restart. Not all of the Church is united in this approach, however. Areas whose churches are overseen by Hospitalier or the Mendicant Order of St. Bathier would much rather correct the issue before shunning and ostracism were necessary, and the Cyanihim brothers of the Last Testiment of Decimus have a rather even more complicated approach that takes elements from the two.
While unorthodoxy, shunning and exile banditry are seen as somewhat normal and expected occurrences to minimize and correct for, heresy is another matter entirely. No matter is taken more seriously than heresy in Gotha, and even a single act of suspicion absolutely is grounds for intense investigation by local church authority and if not absolutely proven baseless immediately, the Inquisition will be summoned. The sheer fact that it happens so frequently in Gotha is what prompts such a zealous and immediate response – it is just too believable.
The three cults of the Triumverate of Thorns, as well as the pagan witch goddess Vecatra, all represent existential threats to the Throne. They are the ensorcelled sword, the holly stake, the single mystical bane that can defeat the otherwise invincible foe that the Throne believes it represents in all other matters. When whatever laxity or scarcity creates circumstances that allow heresy to occur happen, it spreads like a plague faster than many could imagine. In a land so steeped in the influence of the Holy Church, it may seem unimaginable to find whole villages and communities turned to the worship of the wicked powers, but it happens more frequently than anyone outside the halls of the Inquisition are allowed to know. It becomes especially likely if the resident priests and their staff are somehow converted because false or misleading information to the rest of the church may delay action for long enough for the problem to fester out of hand. For this reason is it of paramount importance that all members of the clergy are kept to the most rigorous of standards, and why the Cyanihim are allowed to oversee and investigate members of the clergy with impunity.
If a community does turn, it often begins to act against its neighboring communities. The same Gothic ideals of infrastructure and place in the plan are inverted to damage the Throne instead. It becomes obvious that if the wheat is farmed here, and milled in the next town,
next bakes the bread which feeds the Templars at St. Gregor’s Fortress, and those Templars fight the heretics of Blackmire Swamp, that this becomes a direct chain to enjoin with the Blackmire cult and destroy the soldiers that pin them there. Poisoned or even cursed produce here can derail the entire machine and start great bands of heretics to flow through Gotha’s blood like venom. Nightmares like this are what prompt the church to be vigilant before this is allowed to occur, to save lives later with harshness now rather than risk the deceptively frail aspects of the Throne’s internal machinery to heretical sabotage.
Warbands of Kuarlites are some of the most direct and obvious threats, often raised from empowered bandits or on at least one occasion, a disgraced order of knights. When this happens, it is a matter of slaying them in battle, though such combats are always extremely costly. Kuarl favors murder, and Kuarlite bands try to kill as many as they can. Fighting a Kuarlite in a battle or war situation is not the same as other armies, which fight for resources, land, and are often satisfied with a route if it exposes some other objective. For Kuarlites, battle is the objective, and while this can make them somewhat predictable, there have been many, many Kuarlites who were as cunning as they were bloodthirsty, arranging brilliant military defeats to ensure the maximum amount of combatants killed, including citizens and other non-combatants on occasion, which can draw the nobles into even more combat situations, and even amongst themselves in some situations. Underestimating a Kuarlite is the surest way to become their next offering – an fate that is doubly abhorrent to a Gothic Templar.
Lazarines tend to work alone or in very small groups, and if they do attack martially, are much more likely than Kuarlites to attack the soft spots in Gotha’s defenses. Lazarines too value death, but in so far that they need raw materials to perform their experimentation and muster their forces. Lazarines are also drawn to areas of Night Malefic infestation, and are even known to stir the Night Malefic to act. Thus, they can sit in or near a community like a spider for a very long time planting misery there and growing fat with corpses at the center of their web, luring knights or Templars to the area to fight and die, creating misfortunes that are liable to leave behind ghosts or other automatically occurring monstrosities, and waiting, perhaps forever, for the moment when their most masterful of plans is ready to proceed.
Tarrantists in Gotha are, as always, the most difficult to find and remove because they look so much like ordinary people. It is with unorthodoxy that Tarrantists first leave their mark – able to push a crowd to passion, able to influence the local priest to more extreme acts of harsh judgment, able to slowly work the village inch by inch away from the norm and toward a new path without them even knowing it. Even a routine inspection by an upper ranking member of the Church often does not know that town’s moral center has shifted or been compromised unless they are especially trained for the task, and as such, when the final pushes come toward revolution, secession, subversion or sedition, they often come as a surprise, or the town simply goes dark and stops responding. Playing with the passions of others and rebalancing where the focus of their hearts are is the mark of the Tarrantist. When sword and fire finally does come, many go to their burning death swearing that they have done no wrong, committed no sin, and it is the corrupt Church that has sinned in martyring them. Even in bright Gotha, it is sometimes hard to know true evil even when looking upon it, and more than one execution has been ordered with a heavy and unsure heart.
The woods witches of the Vecatra faith are almost impossible to actually find, even when many know they are there. For all of Gotha’s power and influence, it has little control over the deep forests and the true wilderness of the land is vast. No one knows exactly what is out there more than a few days travel into the great forests, and those who try rarely come back. Earth Mages have done it, and of course the heretics themselves, but Mages, even the Unbreakable Eye, are not seen as trustworthy enough to be tasked with a campaign to remove them when the results are so difficult to verify. In the end, little is even truly known about the druid witches and what they do out there, but the Church knows enough to know they do not worship Benalus, the Lord God, or serve the needs and ideals of the Throne of God on Earth, and for this reason they need to be forever removed from inside the Throne’s borders and the world at large. Some communities tolerate their presence on the outskirts of their settlements so long as they do not harm anyone, for they are often people of wisdom and great worldly knowledge. There are many reports of them even providing assistance with community issues, or medicines. Tarrantists, too, have been known to help ordinary people, but with wicked intentions which only later become obvious. The official message is that they are heretics and witches just as the Triumverate are, and their existence should be reported immediately for investigation by the Inquisitorial authority.
Gotha is perhaps the most traditional of all of the cultures in the Throne, or at least take their traditions the most seriously. The church maintains a series of holidays which are considered to be holy and must be observed. The Nobility, too, have the right to make holidays and gatherings, so as many state holidays exist, often in celebration of more occasional matters such as the anniversary of their current ruler’s ascension, the remembrance of an important victory, or even just a faire to share the ruling nobles love of horses with the community. Other nobles have more practical matters in mind, arranging fairs and celebrations in their regions in order to stimulate commerce or to entice people to move into their land and increase their fold of peasant workers.
Gotha’s nobles observe an annual holiday in the early winter called Parität Tag, or Parity Day, which celebrates a sort of social egalitarianism. On this holiday, a land’s ruling noble must divest themselves of every and all worldly possessions and give them to his people. He may have no possessions that he owns by the end of the day, often deeding great swaths of items in masse, such as “all my lands” or “all my horses.” For the next day, the ordinary peasants may live in his palace or house, may eat his food, or may simply take a pretty bauble they find they like from the premises. For this day, the noble and his family sleeps at the mercy of others, usually in the home of one of the common people as a guest. At the end of that day, traditionally all of the items are given back to the ruling noble, and while it is not strictly and officially required by the holiday, this usually happens in full, minus one or two relatively unimportant luxuries. This holiday is meant to keep the nobility humble and accountable to their people – after all, a tyrant may be quite vulnerable on this occasion. In reality, it isn’t wise to be overly rude to the man who can have your head a day from now, and nothing too groundbreaking usually happens on Parität, but instead the holiday acts as a giant trust fall exercise, and serves to remind both the noble and his people that they are part of a whole unit and that the trappings of nobility are only that. Nobles have mixed feelings about this ritual, though those who go into it with the full spirit tend to find that their peasants are extremely loyal.
Following the tradition that any extra time and effort is spent helping others, and that your neighbors work is your own, in a Gothic village when a man and a woman are married, the entire community gets together to construct a house for them. Most villages are approximately 200 to 500 people, so the work is done in short order. Everyone in the village gives the new family something they own to get them started, a tool, some firewood, a piece of handmade artwork. The effort is coordinated by the bride’s family, and by the end of the week, the bride and groom have a rather wonderful home to start a life with.
Not all Gothic traditions are celebratory in the ordinary sense of the word, and even the Gothic people do not look forward to this day. Gute Arbeit, or the Good Work Day is a day in early Spring when people literally work until they drop. It is a marathon work day where people challenge themselves to work for the longest possible time without rest, putting to shame the average Gothic work day of ten to sixteen hours Often this takes a bit of preparation as under normal circumstances one would run out of things to do before long, so people tend to line things up ahead of time to make sure they will have plenty to do. Traditionally only men use the holiday for truly hard work, while women’s and children’s role is to keep them fed and supported, bringing new logs to chop while the man does the chopping itself, changing out the axe and sharpening the blade while he continues to cut. It is discouraged from thinking of this day as a competition with anyone but one’s self, but people still do have a fair share of one-upsmanship on exactly how long they can work for. There is no official reward for being the last person in the village to stop, other than the undying respect of your peers – at least until next year.
Tressertag is an ancient holiday, taking place in the last days of winter, and dating back to the oldest traditions, and is a holiday shared with their cousins the Njords. On this day, a game is made of “capturing” a wife for one’s own. The first man to place a woven cuff on the wrist of a maiden can make her his bride for the day. What exactly that role constitutes in the nature of the holiday is somewhat ambiguous. In some towns it means the capturing man might be entitled to a kiss. In other towns, a blind eye is turned to whatever might happen. This is the most popular day of the year for a man to declare his love for a woman and give his marriage proposal. Popular, pretty and wealthy girls are often hidden on this day by their families behind walls of their brothers or their father and not allowed to come out that day. In some cases competition for a given woman might be rather fierce, and more than one rivalry has become deadly serious. It isn’t unheard of for young men to scale the outside walls of a girl’s home to make it into their windows on such a day, or other far fetched schemes.
While the entire Throne celebrates the day that Victor von Herkheist declared himself Emperor, in Gotha an additional holiday relating to the man is also celebrated. In the first days of Summer the day in which Von Herkheist is said to have received his vision from God and made the decision to strike out from Fenristadt on a mission of conquest as Benalus once did. On this day, the man himself is celebrated rather than the Throne itself. Every village celebrates it in its own way, though most versions involve building and decorating a giant effigy of Von Herkheist, replete with banners and streamers, and culminating with a giant feast in the town center before the statue. No work may occur on the Emperor’s Day, instead people engage in games of martial prowess and other physical skill. Women, too, engage in these games, doing archery, boxing, and even sword fighting.
In Fenrsitadt this holiday is no small affair. The entire city is bent toward the holiday, and an enormous tournament is held. The Emperor himself will ride in a parade through the city which ends at the site of the tournament. Unusually, any person, even women, may compete in the tournament’s events – not only noblemen. Commoners begin in another bracket for martial events, but they are allowed to face the champion of the noblemen’s bracket in the finals. By tradition, the winner of the tournament may ask a favor of the Emperor. This tradition brings men and women from all over the Throne to Fenristadt for the tournament, all traveling with a precious dream to fulfill.
Unlike most folk of the Throne, the people of Gotha do not fear death. They are generally devout and know that upon their death they will go to be with the Lord. Moreover, death is in no way seen as a negative under nearly any circumstance in Gotha. Death is the Emperor’s weapon – a human power to shape the world. It is those things which do not die that are wicked – the undead, Lazarines, elves. Death is the road to salvation and to destiny, and it is respected and even worshipped as an aspect of the Archangel Lurian, who in turn serves the Lord God Himself. On the Day of Death, which takes place in mid Autumn, the people of Gotha visit their boneyards and tombs of their deceased loved ones. At the tombs, they say prayers for guidance and for protection, and look for signs from their holy ancestors about the will of God. Such sacred dead are with God in Heaven, and as such have special insights into the world and the progress the living make through it.
Not all deceased loved ones reside in tombs, however, as some never received proper burial rites and final confessions. Any person that is remembered alive by at least one living person may have that person visit a priest of the Nuranahim on that day, who may pray for the soul of the loved one. For each such Day of Death that an avowed Priest of Nuraniel prays for a lost soul, it is believed that they can lift one sin from their heart and move them closer to being at peace. This is the general practice for any who were lost and never came home, assumed to have never received proper consecration. It is hard for any to imagine a loved one as a restless monster on some lonely road, so this day has a special significance for those who have lost. The elderly are often sought out on this day to beg the Nuranahhim to pray for all those people that they still remember.
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE
Courtship in Gotha is a rather dry affair, especially compared to the courtly love rituals of Hestralia or Cappacionne. A man visits the father of the woman he would like to marry and asks for her hand. There is sometimes a short but intense interview where the father will test the humility, work ethic, piety, courage or whatever other quality of the suitor he might be unsure of. If the father of the bride to be assents, the marriage can proceed. It is not considered the norm for the bride to have a particular say in the arrangement, though she generally has some idea that the proposal is coming before it happens and may give her opinion to her father, who may adjust the rigors of his interrogation.
Marriages always happen in the town church, performed by the local father of highest rank available, and are performed to the letter of the Testimonium with no additions or substitutions.
Education is done almost exclusively by the Church, and is heavily focused on the matter of specialty for the village. For the most part, occupation is decided by family lineage, or if unsuitable for whatever reason, is then reassigned by the local church who then take the burden of vocational retraining on the person. When acting with the interest of the church, it is some of the most effective education in the world.
Like every other country, however, Gotha has the mage guilds. The mage guilds accept applicants who wish to learn the arcane arts, but as many people join the guilds for the education as the sorcery. The mage guilds are the only source of higher learning outside of the church or fortress monasteries, and the only way for those who are not members of the clergy to come across higher education. Furthermore, it is the only place that women can reliably find such education as well, as the mage guilds do not discriminate by gender. For women who feel stifled by the somewhat extreme expectations put on women in general and Gothic women in specific, the mage guilds represent an irresistible opportunity. Their acceptance rates, however, have always been very limited.
As the church does not officially endorse the merchant class, and in truth, does what they can to undermine them at every turn, mercantile training is also difficult to come by except again by family line and through training provided in one of the Trade Guilds through apprenticeship programs, though the purely artisan training of those programs seldom prepares people for the rigors of business management and commerce.
Nobles train their own, and have tutors from both the church, and often from the mage guilds as well. The Mage guilds are nothing if not pragmatic and nobles pay excellent fees to train their rulers-to-be in higher mathematics, sciences, astrology, philosophy and other arts. As well, the mages are always happy to place an agent of their guild in the household of the ruling families to better be in a position for important contracts, intrigue and to earn the trust and ear of the powerful.
The Holy Church has a plan for Gotha and its culture, and merchants are not a part of it. Merchants are seen as parasitic, profiting on the labors of other while contributing nothing. The fact that they are clever, wealthy, well-connected and well supported by their Trade Guild monopolies has prevented them from being dislodged, and their power continues to grow, even in Gotha and even in Holy Lethia. If the church had its way, all goods would be transported by caravan for ordinary distribution, rather than resale or arbitrage. Unfortunately for them, Gotha is just too vast of a system to have every resource perfectly placed, and done so just in time, and this creates opportunities.
Gotha’s system of extreme specialization of outputs has one obvious flaw – if everyone is making horse saddles, who will make the other things? There is always a limited amount of support programs making sure a town is fed, clothed, and other necessities, but these are usually handled by generalists. There are certainly occasions where someone may want to purchase some well made durable boots made by an actual cobbler when no such professional exists, and merchants fill this need. The church maintains that its programs account for all needs, and this is technically true, but sometimes people want something beyond the basic need and have tastes for something more or better. If it weren’t true, the merchants would all be out of business, but the church can neither admit the fault in its program or openly consent to spending money on unnecessary luxuries and comforts. For as long as that continues, merchants will be there making coin.
The church objects to the existence of the merchant class primarily because they represent a desire for social mobility that doesn’t serve the long term interests of the Throne, as far as the Church sees it. For humanity to inherit the entire world, they need peasant workers to be the bulk of the population, and for that to happen on such a large scale, people need to be satisfied and content with their role as peasants and not look jealously at their neighbor’s possessions or dream of a life of leisure. The entire idea of the merchant class is seen by the church as synonymous with cultural drift and erosion of morality in favor of laziness and covetousness. Left unchecked, they will eventually push society toward commercial enterprise and powerful financial interests instead of spiritual and state related interests. The exporting of the idea of the merchant class from its birthplace in the trade companies of Hestralia is still relatively new, and the Church is still searching for ways to correct their influence carefully.
One human brotherhood is the message of the Holy Church, and the message is received in Gotha. Any member of a community can expect aid from any other, but it goes farther than that. Any visitor as well, and any stranger arriving by day. There are cases where this goes wrong and strangers take advantage of the kindness of others, but those cases are rarer than one might think, and personal losses in these cases are replaced in total by the Church. It is seen as more important to trust other people and offer them your aid than to be suspicious of other’s motives. The Church wants to make it as easy as possible to practice that preaching. In cases when serious harm such as rape, murder or kidnapping occurs, the matter is almost always presided over by a Spiritual Judge and judgments are extremely harsh. It is a poor career move for a bandit to rob people in this way, as the retaliation is disproportionately brutal. This courtesy notably does not extend to travelers who arrive at night. Humans are one brotherhood, but monsters can take on human disguise to fool the unwary.
Military issues are usually solved by professional armies of Templar or by Knight Orders in service to the Emperor or a Noble house, as befits the situation. Civil war is relatively rare in Gotha, and as such is seen as a military emergency when something does occur as the threat is usually an external one and thus unacceptable. If the matter is related to heresy or unorthodoxy, Templar oversee the operation. If the matter is with an Orc penetration, raiding Njord slavers, banditry, or some other large scale threat, the Emperor will call one of his Orders such as the Stormguard or the Knights Defector to resolve the problem. Knights have the power to levy peasants into their forces in any area where they have jurisdiction. Knight orders that serve noble houses only have jurisdiction in the domain of that house, but those orders which serve the Emperor directly have international mandates and may do so anywhere, even outside of Gotha. Since Gotha, either by way of Fenristadt of the various fortresses which dot the land, is the home base of many of those orders, Gotha both sees and has grown used to their use more than other countries have, however.
The Mage guilds and the church do not get along, as a rule. No one has forgotten the Age of Witchkings, least of all the Holy Church or the Vigilant Order of Templars who succeeded the Ordo Croix. The relationship between the mage guilds and the church is ever a tense one, but the Emperor allows them to exist under controlled circumstances. The fact is that magic is too useful to shun completely, and the world is full of terrors that need to be slain and problems that need to be solved. Thus, magic is tolerated in the form of the four mage guilds, which operate under a special part of the commerce code called the Ministirium Arcanorum. This body of law puts immense restrictions on the legal use of magic while at the same time extending legal protections over the mages as a legitimate commercial institution. As a trade guild, they have the right to fix their prices, protect their monopoly, oversee training of apprentices, keep professional secrets and forbid the use of magic by non guild members.
Outside of Scrow, the guilds do not focus heavily on Gotha for their industrial aims. The omnipresence of the Church makes doing business expensive, and they would much rather base their operations out of areas like Rogalia or Hestralia which have more need of their services or favorable commercial circumstances, respectively. By the people, mages are feared, and in some cases shunned and driven out, but this usually doesn’t happen unless a magician uses their powers publically to alarm people. Mages travel through Gotha every day, but they do so with a low profile.
Only the fire mages are the exception to this. Dextera Inflamatio has been trying to make a partnership with Lethia for ages, and over time has made a lot of progress. With the fire guild’s focus on military campaigns and the empowerment of public figures, their arts are a natural compliment to the church’s needs. With the current progress, fire mages indeed walk openly inside the walls of Holy Lethia and there have been Templar campaigns that have requisitioned the use of a fire mage. Especially useful in cases where there are amassed heretics, such as a warband of Kuarlites or cases when they need to follow the enemy into the dark woods of Gotha (though an Earth Mage would serve them better here), the trust that the Fire Mages have built with the Church has put them in a position to get these contracts. The mages, on the other hand, see the Church has a functionally unlimited supply of revenue and a way to lift some of the restrictive bans on how they do business and operations. If possible, they hope to have the restrictions lifted on the fire mages alone, giving them a crisp advantage over their competition. This is no secret to the others, however. Some believe they are simply allowing the fire guild to assume the costs of developing that relationship so that they can all come in and make the same deals once the hard work and risk is over.
The office of Emperor is actually not hereditary, legally speaking. Since ancient times, the King of the Goths has been decided upon by election. The decided heir cannot legally call himself the Emperor without being personally elected by the Elector. Since the start of the Lion Age, the title has passed de facto to the eldest surviving son of the Emperor, but there have been a few notable exceptions during the time. Those with the power of Elector hold enormous power in the Throne, just under the power of the Emperor. The role of Elector is extremely prestigious, and is held in addition to other titles of nobility. Before the Lion Age began in earnest and for the first two hundred years, there were seven Electors. The seven Herzogs originally each descended from different tribes of early Gothic ancestry, before the Age of Witchkings, though by now the title has passed into and out of those ancient relationships, and the records have become suitably muddy. In the third century of the Lion Age, the Pontifex also became an Elector position, and as the crowns of nearby countries began to bend to the King of the Goths, the kneeling Kings of each of the other countries of the Throne became Electors as well. There are now twelve Electors – the seven Herzogs (one of which is the Emperor himself), the Pontifex, and the Kings of Hestralia, Capaccionne, Rogalia, and Njordr.
Gotha itself is divided into seven regions, each governed by a Herzog. Outside of the business of electing the Emperor, and all of the power and influence that brings in the meantime, these highest lords of Gotha’s issues are mostly military in nature. Due to the sheer size of the land that they govern, at least some proportion of their power is always engaged putting out metaphorical fires such as natural disasters, organized brigandry, sedition, revolt, or some other localized issue. Aside from that, power must be spent either expanding the outer borders of the Throne or supporting a recent conquest by installing walls and infrastructure.
By the very nature of the expansion, it usually occurs outside of Gotha, as the only border Gotha maintains of the Throne is to the North, butted against the Imperial Crown mountains. While the mountains do have land to take, and there are theoretically lands behind the mountains, the cold and conditions have thus far driven scouts back. Further, the matter of the Dwarves who claim it as their kingdom has complicated matters to the point that if expansion over those mountains is inevitable, it at least need not be immediate. Thus, most of the conquest is to the East in the land past Cappacionne, either in the lands of the Shariqyn heathens or in the Orc badlands, though some efforts are still made to sort out the matter of the Rime Clans that reject the Throne in the northernmost places of Njordr.
This facilitates an ongoing relationship with the other regions outside of Gotha, especially Hestralia and Cappacionne, and that means moving forces through their countries, levying soldiers in their lands, taxing their resources and starting new conflicts for them to participate in. This requires a careful diplomatic hand to remind everyone that the mission is shared by all humanity. The struggles go two ways, as well – local lords who have a good relationship with the Herzogs prosecuting the Throne’s war through their land with their combined armies make excellent allies politically – the power of their Electoral vote itself as well as the favors and relationship that lodestone has brought them over the years.
The matter of the Electoral votes occasionally is a hot one. The fact that 8 of the 12 Electors reside in Gotha isn’t lost on the rest of the Kings of the Throne, nor is the fact that they have but a single vote. In reality, this isn’t a very big issue – the other Kings are part of the Throne’s suzerainty, and are technically still the conquests of Gotha, even though they are allowed their internal autonomy. The fact that they get a vote at all is a show of faith in their companionship for the human mission that is the Throne. However, the issue is more one of respect. No king enjoys being made to feel small, and when people complain about Gotha, the Electorate always comes up, and someone always questions the dignity of Rogalia, or Hestralia, or whichever. Eventually the matter always cools again, as in the election is more of a formality to ratify the Emperor’s heir than a true election as there are no real alternatives for Emperor. The power of the Election is more of a traditional honor than a true power of state, and once cooler heads prevail, the matter is put away again to await another opportunity.
RULING HOUSES AND NOBLE BLOOD
IMPERIAL HOUSE HURKHEIST
Coat of Arms: A golden lion’s head, roaring, on a black field
Maxim: Never Break, Never Falter, Never Fail.
Keep: The Imperial Palace of Fenristadt
Victor von Hurkheist founded the Throne, begining the Lion Age five hundred years ago. His descendants inherited his legacy forming the Hurkheist Dynasty over the Throne until two hundred years ago when Jörden von Hurkheist ceded the throne to the Pontifex Emperor Invictus III. The Throne returned to the Hurkheist’s hands fourth years later after wresting it from the Church. They currently control the Imperial Capital of Fenristadt, the heart of the Throne, and House Herkheist’s official domain is all of the Earth, though its practical domain is the entire Throne.
~Angelic Patron: Sepharian
Coat of Arms: A vigilant, white Archangel on a dark red field.
Maxim: God Will Know
Keep: Judgment Hall
The Engels are fervent believers in the church and their doctrines, contributing more than mere gold but soldiers and supplies as well to the eradication of heretics. Many of the second and third sons born to this house end up in service as templar or inquisitors to the Church. House Engel has direct influence over the City of Morgstadt and hangs cultists and other criminals on pikes surrounding the city walls.
~Angelic Patron: Zuriel
Coat of Arms: A white sword with rays of light over a black field
Maxim: Truth is sacred
Keep: The Eternal Fortress
House Sauber can trace its lineage back to the Age of Witchkings, and was quite powerful even when the first Emperor, Victor von Herkheist began his conquest of the other Gothic kingdoms – the Kingdom of Saub was one such kingdom that reluctantly bent the knee in obedience to the new Emperor, by way of the warrior kings that would become House Engel, keeping their ancient capital of Laatzen under the new Throne of God on Earth.
While the swearing of loyalty under von Herkheist was reluctant, for they too were a mighty dynasty, they quickly took to the fervor of belief in Holy Benalus, and they are today famous for their zeal and dedication to Benalus, though with Lethia, they have had some difficulties.
House Sauber maintains in their capital a vault which has original documents and first generation copies of many ancient records, gospels depicting the life of Benalus not included in the Testimonium, accounts of mortal interactions with Archangels, and other works of great theological relevance. House Sauber believes it is their sacred and holy duty to protect these documents, so that they can never be lost or amended.
- An ancient city in western Gotha, with records dating back to the Age of Heroes. There are even cave paintings carefully preserved a few days walk from the city, into the high hills. The Church has built a shrine there to protect the paintings from damage. It is said that Laatzen itself may have cave systems underneath the city, but no one is sure where the entrances might be.
- Laatzen has high walls, and extensive defenses. It is the duty of each ruler of House Sauber to contribute something to the permanent defenses of the city, and over the centuries hundreds of battlements, towers, and secondary keeps within the city have been created. At each, a statue in the likeness of the lord that built it, or at least a plaque dedicating it to God and Benalus in that lord’s name. The city is a warren of fallback points, palisades and sealable gates, mixed charmingly with less militant improvements like fountains and marketplaces.
- Some of the defenses are surplus to the amount of soldiers that can actually man them effectively, and shops and workshops are built into battlements and towers. Those who own the leases to such locations must agree to yield their location and accept any damages in the event of an attack, to which they agree in exchange for cheaper rent.
Guardians of Truth
The Guardians of Truth, the sworn knights of House Sauber, are charged with the simple and straightforward duty of defending the Eternal Keep, the ancient fortress of House Sauber since before the Throne. While this mission is straightforward, the duties of these knights are anything but.
Laatzen comes under attack more than any other city in Gotha. The attempts to take the city come from various sources. This year, a rebellious peasant army. That year, accused of treason by Fafnir in a misunderstanding worked out afterward. Another year, orc rampaging from a mountain range no cavalry caught in time. It is always something, so the Guardians of Truth are as eternally vigilant as the fortress that they guard. It has never been taken.
In order to fulfill their duty and protect the city, the Guardians of Truth maintain an information network that is vast and well-maintained. Informants are paid well for their services, and spies operate everywhere in the region so that the knights can be in position to handle threats from any direction. Knights errant are sent to far off places if the Order believes that a conspiratorial threat can be found there.
Every potential knight is vetted carefully before they are allowed entry to the order, and even for a nobleman of great lineage, it is considered an honor to be allowed into the Order.
Order of Enlightenment
Patron Angel: Sepharian
Patron Saint: St. Erna Dahl
Erna Dahl was a young noblewoman of a minor knight family across the border in Fafnir’s Herzogtum. She reportedly received a dream in the night of standing before a wall of ancient texts depicting the stories of Benalus and his words. She awoke with absolutely certainty that the dream had come from Benalus Himself and that her destiny was to find the real location for the Church. Erna spent years of her life and a fortune performing excavations in the regions near Laatzen, discovering cave systems with ancient writings within – though not the ones she sought, ones far older, from ancient tribal peoples of pre-modern Gotha.
Despite resistance from local authorities within the House of Sauber and its knights, she pressed on. She claimed that she found an entrance to a cave system beneath Laatzen, but she was arrested by House Sauber’s knights and put to death by hanging as as a spy, accused of treasonous acts and fomenting rebellion against the lawful lords of the land. She was lionized as a martyr in Lion Age 391, just four years after her death, which is remarkably rapid.
The Order of Enlightenment is stationed in Laatzen, and works primarily in the field of translation of religious texts. It is their goal to create a copy of the Testimonium in every human language, including those dead languages that are no longer spoken anywhere in the Throne. They believe that every human language is holy, and that by creating the Testimonium in each language, they not only help to preserve those languages, but increase the holiness of the Testimonium as a whole. When they create new versions of the Testimonium, they also include cultural analogies and footnotes in the work, to help the reader better understand the message of Holy Benalus by better relating to the topics. It is said that no heathen who has read a document created by the Order of Enlightenment for their culture with an open heart has ever failed to convert to the word of Holy Lethia.
They even do this for dead cultures, ancient peoples and tribes long past throughout the Throne, so the scholars of the Order also keep studious records of ancient cultures and perform archaeological expeditions and digs everywhere in the Throne. Laatzen’s formidable defenses help protect the ancient knowledge, as well as the works of art that are the carefully curated and personalized gospels that the Order creates.
Coat of Arms: Three red roses over a white field
Maxim: With Fame We Triumph
Keep: Crimson Keep
Rosenberg is ideally stationed for commerce between Gotha and Hestralia, and it collects vast wealth from the trade routes that bring Hestralian goods into Gotha and Gothic food and tools into Hestralia. While most Hestralian trade is conducted by merchant fleets, Rosenberg sits on the only major land route into that country.
House Rosenberg is famous for the wealth they have and how they display it. While some noble houses might receive church admonition for such ostentation, House Rosenberg does not, for it uses its wealth to glorify the Lord and Holy Benalus.
The noble line of Rosenberg pays handsomely for the world’s finest artists to visit its city and contribute to its statue gardens and ornamentations. Some artists spend their entire career in their native Hestralia, Capacionne or elsewhere in the Throne in hopes of one day capstoning their status with a masterpiece in Rosenberg.
- Rosenberg sits on the Gothic side of the Vigil, the mountain range between Hestralia and Gotha. The Crimson Keep was once simply a fort placed there to protect Gotha from invasion by Hestralian armies, before the unification of Hestralia and its addition to the Throne. After that, the peace between the two lands has allowed Rosenberg to flourish into the artistic community that it is, with landscapes of the Vigil hanging in many a noble court throughout the Throne.
- Scenes from Epicus and the gospels adorn the mountainside in carefully curated gardens, each more beautiful than the last in shrines all along the Rosenstraße, the main road up the mountain to the Crimson Keep, with the greatest masterpieces given positions of honor near the cliffside castle.
- Hundreds of statues and paintings reside in places of honor in Rosenberg, but there are 18 great masterpieces that sit in the gardens of the Crimson Keep. The first was made to commemorate Hestralia joining the Throne, and a new one is made by a famous master and added to the Keep’s gardens by law every 10 years.
- The original architect’s intent for Rosenberg and the crimson keep was to create a vista that resembled Heaven itself. The Crimson Keep, which sits overlooking a cliffside, so as to be viewed against the open sky of the valley, is swathed in a carpet of red roses for a quarter mile around the castle. From Rosenberg below, it is said to look like a crimson sea.
- While it may seem that the artist’s community has gone completely away from its militant roots, the Keep is in truth well-defended. The roses themselves, fields of twisted old barbs, are an effective deterrent against infantry invaders, with only a single, steep, well-protected path to the castle.
Knights of the Crimson Rose
Valor Skill: Performance
While they are of course the military wing of House Rosenberg, and as such charged with the protection of the noble family and the lands of the Vigil, the knights themselves express their Valor as a philosophy of beauty. To the Crimson Rose, Rosenberg is a proof of concept of the great ideals of the entire Throne – the idea that the world is embroiled in war and strife by its nature, but through peace and a brotherhood of mankind, swords can be beaten to plowshares and what once was a military outpost to guard man against fellow man can now be made to resemble Heaven and provide enough for its people that they may spend their days in contemplation and expression of beauty.
Even in places where peace has failed or has yet to come, the Knights of the Crimson Rose suggest that people will fight harder for what is precious, what is beautiful and good, and so the greatest military investment is then to have something worth protecting. To this end, the knights spend their time drilling not their swordsmanship, but their artist’s brush, their sculptor’s chisel, and their oratory voice. Swordsmanship, the ability to protect that which is precious, is still valued, but the ability to inspire all people to rise up in defense of what is right and good is more precious still.
Order of the Sacred Glass
Patron Angel: Cyaniel
Patron Saint: St. Joseph Braun
Little is known about the patron saint of the Order of the Sacred Glass. Joseph Braun brought with him to Rosenberg a single large pane of blue glass. Soon after, many swore by the healing powers that touching the glass provided. Joseph Braun claimed the glass was given to him by the Archangel Cyaniel, and the Church was not long to investigate the claim.
During the time that the artifact was being investigated, there were three different attempts to steal it, the final of which saw the pane of glass shattered into thousands of pieces and Joseph Braun himself was killed. The Cyanahim that were contemplating the glass declared that the thieves were heretics attempting to prevent the Church from controlling the relic. In time, Joseph Braun was was lionized as a saint and a new Order was created to protect the shattered remains of the Sacred Glass.
Since then, the Cyanahim Order that watches over the glass has worked the shards into hundreds of breathtaking stained-glass fixtures which hang in Churches all over Gotha, and even some in other countries. It is said that light that shines through the blue glass has the power to heal harms and increase the goodness of those who pray in its light.
The Order of the Sacred Glass remains a cloistered group that rarely ventures from their holy workshops, still protecting the remains of the original pane of glass and distributing them to Churches the world over. The Cyanahim are characteristically silent on the subject of why such a valuable relic is being presented in churches rather than protected in some Lethian vault.
Coat of Arms: White wings tinged with maroon on a black field
Maxim: To the Last Breath
Keep: Mourning Spire
House Trakt are the scions of a distinguished soldier, and have carried their martial tradition from history to the wars of today. A swordsman, simply called Baldwin, rescued the son of the Engel Herzog, the Graf von Woefeldt from being murdered in an ambush by Hestralian raiders, long before Hestralia’s petty duchies were unified. For his service, the Graf made Baldwin one of his men-at-arms at once, and he served served House Engel faithfully for years.
When it finally came to war with the armies of Hestralia, Baldwin was given command of a small regiment that was tactically insignificant on the far wing of the battle line due to the presence of more formal Imperial knights on the field. The Hestralian forces proved far more dangerous than anticipated, however, and broke the Gothic line where there were no reinforcements. The Gothic lines broke into chaos, but Baldwin was able to rally his regiment and interpose it to protect the Herzog. His regiment was decimated, but they held. By the time order had been restored, Baldwin had only a broken sword left to fight with. In the aftermath, the Sarmitus von Engel knighted Baldwin, and allowed him to keep his soldiers, the Company of the Broken Sword. Sir Baldwin was granted the Surname Trakt, with the Herzog referring to him as the “Wing of the Angel.”
Trakt became a byword for steadfast loyalty and placing one’s self in the way of danger to fulfill one’s duty. Many other engagements and sacrifices eventually lead to Trakt being granted control over the city of Woefeldt in the South of Engel lands, where the hero Baldwin first made his stand to defend its Graf. The Company of the Broken Sword became the Knights of the Broken Sword, the personal House Guard of the new lords.
Since that time, House Trakt has continued to distinguish itself as valiant warriors under the Engel banners, maintaining a constant and rigorous vigilance over the land under their charge as well as their service to House Engel. Their attitude of aggressive action toward their mission has served them well. If more careful House Sauber is the shield of the land, House Trakt is the shining sword. In many ways they have retained their knightly roots in a way that few other Graf level nobles have – though empowered to high station, they remain loyal servants of their lords, awaiting command as well as proactively working hard to anticipate the needs, and the enemies, of their own lords.
- Woefeldt is an ancient city whose origins, like many Gothic cities, date back to harder times before the Lion Age. It is of strategic importance for its access to fortifying mountains as well as rich pastures and fields, and so over the long centuries that it has existed, it has seen no end of war and changed hands many times. The result is a complex and eclectic style that gives it a unique character, quite unlike most Gothic cities. The city has not been taken since House Trakt was given command of it.
- The keep of House Trakt, the Mourning Spire, was built upon the founding of the House, its stone quarried from the ruins of two other old fortresses in the area to make a new one. The first Lord of Trakt earned that title through tragedy, losing his two eldest sons, Edrick and Locke, who died protecting the Herzog from assassination. The Graf swore to mourn their loss the rest of his life, and built the Mourning Spire as a result. Their ghosts are said to defend House Trakt to this day, and the Sisters of Sorrow have been trying to have the brothers lionized for decades.
- The keep itself is actually a giant mausoleum. Black tapestries hang from every window, and black silks drape every door. It is tradition that every Trakt soldier who dies in the cause of the Throne be given a permanent resting place within the Spire. The halls are lined with the dead, and mourners are allowed permanent entry into the halls of the dead within the sanctuary of the castle.
- There is a special celebration in Woefeldt on Totenstag when priests pray for the lost dead. A procession of veiled priests and nuns walk all throughout the city with great candlesticks, praying for all of the dead of the Throne. Each priest recites one of the rolls of every military record from that year, saying an individual prayer for every soldier who has died.
The Knights of the Broken Sword
Originally the last company to survive a climactic battle against Hestralian forces when the countries were still at war, the Knights of the Broken Sword are considered some of the most steadfast champions of any Gothic house. Their philosophy is one of interdiction – that problems and threats can and should be met head on, before they become lethal. It is the role of the Knight to place himself in harm’s way and throw his sword in the face of danger. He is the sword of his sovereign, and he must aggressively intercept all challenges to that sovereignty.
The Order is most known for taking the most dangerous positions in military conflicts. They often form the head of the spear or take control of the most critical part of a battle line so that they can use their skill, and more importantly, their heroic valor, to not just hope but ensure that the battle will not, cannot be lost, so long as they stand firm. One cannot defeat a force that refuses to acknowledge that it has been beaten.
The Sisters of Sorrow
Patron Angel: Lurian
Patron Saint: Brunhild Trakt
The Sisters of Sorrow were originally formed as convent for women who had lost their husbands and brothers to war, and had no further way to support themselves. Brunhild Trakt, daughter of the Graf, had herself lost her brothers and husband in a devastating military defeat. Desolate, she found solace in using her family’s wealth to help other women who had lost even more than she, their farms burned and their lives upended.
Brunhild saw the deaths of her family and the others, as well as their defeat in battle, as the Lord’s disfavor for not valuing the sanctity of human life. She became more and more angry at the wars that her father continued to engage in on behalf of House Engel and the Throne, and more and more convicted that war was an evil that did not have to endure. She began to promise more and more of her family’s wealth to help the widows of war, even those of other Grafs and lands, as far away as Rogalia, before being ordered to stop by her Father the Graf. Reports differ whether she was banished then or imposed her own exile, but she joined the Hospitalier Order at that time, dedicating the rest of her life to service of the survivors of war. She was lionized in Lion Age 490.
The Sisters of Sorrow were formed around her memory in the city of Woefeldt, where they still tend to injured soldiers, as well as minister in mourning to the widows and loved ones that survive the wars. In memory of St. Brunhild, they observe no borders or political association, and will refuse help to none, especially widows and other female victims of war’s tragedies.
Coat of Arms: White Crossing Oars on a blue field.
Maxim: Turn the Tables
Home: Stromburg, The Floating Crossroads
Keep: Tidebreaker Keep
House Geldstrom owns the mouth of the river Fenrisulven along the Sea of Coils and tolls all who come through to bring goods to the interior from Rogalia, Dunland or Njordr. They are the last ruling family north of Fenristadt and thus are in charge of holding the pass from barbarian and orc invasion. Stromburg is a bustling trade hub and the Geldstroms make a furious profit off of the commerce there.
Angelic Patron: Melandiel
Coat of Arms: A white owl holding two crossed arrows in its talons, wings extended, on a black field.
Maxim: They are the prey and we are the hunter
House Jaeger trains hunters, foresters, rangers, and other men of the wood to be the Emperor’s weapon in the dark of the long, ancient forests of Gotha. The Knights of the Owl, their personal house guard, are said to be the finest survivalists and marksmen anywhere in the Throne. Various lords throughout Rogalia dispute this, but the Jaegers always place highly in the yearly tournament on Emperor’s Day. Fyndhal is strange in that it is truly out in the woods of the Bösewald, the largest forest in Gotha. Its commercial support is found diffused throughout its holdings, and the keep acts more as a remote training ground and fortress than a political or commercial hub.
~Angelic Patron: Cyaniel
Coat of Arms: A green dragon on a dark red field
Maxim: Everything is Ours
House Fafnir are a professional military first and human beings second, if you ask some of their critics. They put all of the high-minded ideals about human brotherhood and salvation of your enemy completely behind them when they enter war, and they are always at war. Fafnir is incredibly wealthy because it is always the first to volunteer for conflict. They have a particular talent for raising militaries from nothing and whipping them into fighting men that share their ideals in the time it takes for other armies to realize they are at war. House Fafnir dislikes military campaigns against the Orc because there is little spoil, but it will happily engage rebellions, bandits, and other human adversaries it may encounter. In the cases when they have been able to go to war against elves, they are entirely committed. Their own realm has never had a peasant revolt or an uprising. They boast this as an example of what good a stern hand does.
~Angelic Patron: Mithriel
Coat of Arms: A white tree with a pair of eyes looking out on a green field
Maxim: Survive til Victorious
Keep: The Hollow Hall
House Walderrick is the most xenophobic and fortified of all the houses in Gotha. So intense is their reclusive nature, they have dwindled their lineage down to the purest membership, refusing most outside marriages. Consequently, they suffer from weak births and a weaker line but adamantly refuse to give open their borders to anyone outside their territory. The Herzog does not appear in person at any public gathering, including to address the Emperor, and this has been the case for a hundred years and generations of Walderricks. While strange, they are permitted their eccentricities because the fief of House Walderrick is far and away the least prone to natural disaster and the least rife with heresy and heretical cults. Whatever they are doing, it seems to work.
~Angelic Patron: Nuraniel
Coat of Arms: The Archangel Lurian, white, before a crescent moon, yellow, on a black field.
Maxim: Ours is Your Sorrow
Keep: The Fortress Tomb
The Selwicks have a close relationship with the Emperor’s Gift, Death. Thought to be morose and unkind, they decorate their halls and land with effigies of clean death, and have an almost obsessive fixation on cleanliness of body and soul. The Sorrowful Order of White Shadows are the house guard of the Selwicks, and they never speak. When they appear upon the Emperor’s battlefield, a hush runs over the crowd, even in the midst of combat, as they have a presence about them that truly resonates with power and confidence. The screams resume soon after they begin their bloody work. Their keep, the Fortress Tomb, is a gigantic cathedral devoted to Lurian, the largest in the Throne, and is the expanded upon and fortified Vincenzine Cathedral where Benalus’ body was taken after he was martyred. It is thought that the bones of Benalus Himself may be laid to rest within the walls of their fortress, but none outside the Selwick bloodline or the Sorrowful Order are ever permitted entry to the sanctums within.
~Angelic Patron: Lurian
Adalheidi – Kind noble
Berta – Bright, famous
Cordula – Heart
Dagmar – Day maid
Elsa – God is an Oath
Frieda – Peace
Greta – Pearl
Hildegard – Battle Fortress
Irma – Whole, entire
Jördis – Sword Goddess
Karla – Warrior
Lutgard – Protection of people
Mitzi – Beloved
Nadja – Hope
Olga – Holy
Petra – Stone
Reinhilde – Battle wisdom
Saskia – To defend
Thora – Thunder
Ursula – She-Bear
Vilma – Will and Desire
Walburga – Rule of the Fortress
Yvon – Yew wood
Ziska – Sister
Adolf – Noble Wolf
Berthold – Bright Ruler
Conrad – Brave Counsel
Dieter – Warrior of the people
Eckhart – Brave Edge
Felix – Lucky
Gerulf – Spear Wolf
Hartmut – Brave of Mind
Ignatz – Fire
Jorg – Farmer, worker of earth
Karl – Warrior
Lambert – Bright land
Manfred – Strength through peace
Niklaus – Victory of the people
Otto – Wealth
Pankraz – All Power
Quirin – War Spear
Reinhard – Good Wisdom
Seigfried – Victory Peace
Traugott – Trust God
Ulrich – Prosperity, Power
Victor – Victory
Wolfgang – Wolves’ Path
Xaver – The New Way
Yvo – Yew wood