The Kingdom of Athral Isle
Government Style: Monarchy (Occupation)
Ruler: King Sigmar Voluspa
Population: 1.7 Million
Alchemy: Illegal, but practiced in secret.
Forge Magic: Common
National Symbol: Currently a bisected field of blue with red lines, a red world tree in the upper left, and a bleeding axe in lower right.
Athral Isle is a land conquered. It is a land with a long history and many legends. Old tales speak of Endeiras, land of the Firstborn and the Humans who lived among them. It is a tale almost lost to history; none know what truly caused the fall of the mighty empire. Some say it was something in the Wasteland that even then troubled them. Some say it was the betrayal of humans or magics of an ancient darkness.
After the fall of Endeiras was a dark time. Many small kingdoms rose and fell. Queen Nillan the Bloody, King Harn the Betrayer, and King Morgo the Bastard were but a few leaders of legend. It was not till the year 701 RE that Good King Auric, the first king of the Couraine dynasty, united the nation under one ruler. The core of his army was a company of archers.
For four centuries, the Couraine kings and queens led Athral Isle in a mostly peaceful existence. In 852 RE, Gauntish forces attacked the island and were turned away by King Theirian's navy. In 880 there was a year of civil war, as Atwin the Younger fought with his sister Nirian for the throne. In her mercy, the victorious Queen Nirian exiled Atwin, but he returned five years later. This time he was imprisoned, but he was killed in an escape attempt. In 903 RE, the Gauntish came in a large raiding fleet once more. They landed and fought a protracted battle for most a year until they were finally defeated at the Battle of Malden Cliffs. It was said their heads were sent back to Gaunt by the boatload as a warning. Despite a few other conflicts here and there, Athral Isle seemed to be a land blessed by good fortune.
That changed in the year 1109 RE, when Gauntish forces simultaneously attacked the northeastern shore and the southern ports. While the attack in the south was repelled, half the Athral Navy was burned in the harbor. The northern assault pushed through the mountains, and unlike previous assaults, the Gauntish raiders stayed. The hard winter and the mountain passes gave them time and space to dig in. While the Athral forces struggled against the weather and terrain, the Gaunts resupplied and increased their numbers twofold. For decades, the forces of Gaunt slowly drove King Mark of the House of Couraine southward, as more and more of their countrymen arrived in longships. This conflict stopped the Athrals from concerning themselves with matters on the continent for many years. Finally King Ardith, the son of King Mark, was captured in the cliffs near Malden, ending the rule of the House of Couraine in 1190 RE. King Drostan was crowned king of all the Athral Isle.
In RE 1197, Prince Auberic sneaked into the country from the Free City of Hulder. Auberic was the son of the last king of the Couraine line's brother, making his claim legitimate. The Redwood Throne ensured his failure, however, by declaring their support for the rule of King Sigmar I, Drostan's successor. While the Prince was brave and charming, he lacked the military acumen of older men. He took his levied army into an open battle in the fields of Conwarashire. His defeat was inevitable, as his force of 500 knights, mercenaries, and untrained peasants faced nearly 2,000 hardened warriors of Gaunt. When he was captured, the King hanged him in a cage from the walls of Exendun until he died of starvation and rotted away.
The Alchemists led the ill-fated Tower of Winter Rebellion in 1205 RE. The fact that many Alchemists escaped the fall of the tower caused even harsher penalties to be levied against the practice. In 1207 RE, the Highsummer Defiance of the Athral townsfolk in county Seresbury ended in blood. Twenty leaders of the uprising in the village of Uethil were hanged. Legend says they sang as the nooses were placed around their necks. The story says that their song did not end till the bodies were cold fruit in the night.
The Athral people are divided. Some are descended from the native Athrals, while many Gauntishmen have known no home other than Athral Isle. The near century of constant fighting and the oppression of Sigmar I is a festering wound upon the land.
The Athral natives (sometimes calling themselves Cuilic) are the descendants of humans that lived in the empire of Endeiras. They are a proud people tied to the land and their traditions. They are farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and tradesmen. They are forbidden by law to carry a blade longer than a dagger into a city, and it is illegal for any of them to own a shield, even nobles. Many native Athral nobles kept their positions in exchange for swearing fealty to Sigmar and paying extra taxes from the revenues of their lands for "reparations".
Many of the invaders have lived their entire lives on the Athral Isle. While many of them think of themselves as primarily Gauntish and continue Gauntish traditions, a growing number of the younger members of their society think of themselves less as the proud raiders and more as the entitled ruling class of Athral Isle. Nevertheless, Sigmar requires all males of age and Gauntish descent to "learn the ways of axe, shield and war." The large number of well-trained Gauntish warriors keeps the Athral peasants in line most of the time.
Faith and Religion
The people of Athral Isle generally follow the Redwood Throne, which has many churches spread throughout the nation. Following their backing of the Gauntish during the invasion, the native people of Athral Isle felt betrayed by the Redwood Throne, burning or otherwise dismantling churches in the outlying areas. In the intervening years, loyalty to the Throne has been slowly recovering, as the people realize that they need the Redwood Throne, and that they are stuck with the Gauntish for years to come. There is still mutual distrust in the region, but overall support of the Redwood Throne is trending up. In some areas where faith and belief is very low, the Left Hand has been called in to root out the source of the displeasure and remove the malcontents.
What makes the Athral Isle great?
The Athral Isle is a land with a long and proud history. Despite being occupied by the Gauntish forces, the Athral people are not conquered, not really. They keep their history alive in tales. They keep their traditions alive in secret. They keep their hope alive in rebellion and tales of lost heirs. Secret Alchemists keep their practices alive. Bandit leaders, Displaced Hand masters, and simple peasants all conspire to keep alive the nation, the dreams of who they were, and of what they can be again. Even some of those born of the Gauntish occupiers find the Athral Isle's history compelling, and consider this land their true home.
What makes the Athral Isle less than desirable?
Athral Isle is a land in turmoil. The oppressive reign of King Sigmar is not forgiving. The native Athral subject cannot speak their mind in a land where "justice" is decided by the Gauntish Lord with his axe and shield. The natives are takes cruelly, Resistance leaders are imprisoned and killed. Writing the wrong thing can result in arrest and execution. Practicing the wrong magic is a capital crime. Many Athrals have turned to banditry and thievery just to survive. All the while, Sigmar outlaws a little more of what it means to be Athral every year.
Further, the first ethnically Gauntish youths born under their parents' occupation in the Athral Isle are just coming to their adulthood in 1211 RE. These children face the awkward position of being hated in what is technically their homeland, and yet somewhat alienated from their Gauntish ancestry. The obligations of their clans back in Gaunt must be balanced with the obligations of country lordship, and many of the traditions of their ancestral people seem a bit backwards and out of place in the more hospitable Isle to some of them. It is thus a strong temptation for ethnically Gauntish, Athral-born children to become more Athral in attitude than Gauntish. Their Gauntish parents do not tend to approve of this weakening of their bloodline, opposing it with varying degrees of severity.
Theme & Costuming
The theme in Athral Isle is one of the oppressed natives resisting foreign oppression, at least for the Athral natives. The young of Gauntish descent are generally trying to find their place in the world, being neither the same as the Gauntish who claimed this land, nor the natives. The sources you might draw on start with books or movies of Robin Hood (pretty much any of the ones not starring Kevin Costner), Ivanhoe, and and maybe a touch of King Arthur (the one with Clive Owen). Add in some real-world tales of King Cnut or the Anglo-Saxon and Danish occupation of Britain and more fantastical tales (like the TV show Robin Hood) and you have the right mix. This is a land of folklore, archers, hidden alchemists and bandit heroes. There are hidden heirs and wicked kings.
Athral Isle is the most basic “fantasy genre” style. If you own any Ren Faire clothing, you can probably dress in this style. Athrals prefer Hunter Green, and Pale or Bright Blue (for their flag) in their clothes. Touches of Blood or Crimson Red are not uncommon, but it doesn’t tend to be the predominant color. The peasantry also sports a lot of brown because it is cheap. Most Athral fabrics are of a coarse weave, the fabric textures prized as a mark of the weaver (much as different tartans signify different clans in Sctoland, each weaver on the Isle seems to have their own texture to their fabric). Most Athrals wear corduroy and rough wool; Carved wood and horn are often seen as buttons and bead accents. Tooled leather accents most bags, belts, bracelets, shoes, and hair pieces. The most frequent images in Athral adornment is the world tree and oak leaves. Hoods are most often in the long-tailed liripipe style, and those with long hair of either gender often wear their hair up or back in leather-worked holders.
Athral PCs spend 2 fewer points for Healing Ways, Bow, Crossbow, and Thrown Weapon. They may only recieve this price break once.