As with the last entry, this is meant for my players in The Expeditions in the Northlands campaign for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The group has been meeting regularly for about six months now, and so their characters have learned more about the history of the Northlands…
What Has Happened Before
Some fifty or sixty years ago, Titans came down from the distant mountains and rampaged the Northlands. The Titan Incursion, as it became known, overran the remnants of Virtoaan civilization, which had already been broken by civil war and unrest. Engelhadden, the jewel of the Northlands, surpassing all other settlements, even in this era of decline, was swept away in fire and blood.
Survivors fled southward, beyond Lake Engel, or across the rivers Galena and Reisen. When news of the destruction of Engelhadden reached the settlements here, many abandoned their homes and communities, and fled even farther south, never to return.
Some of these survivors found themselves on the slopes of Darkwald Hill, home to Darkwald family. Baron Darkwald offered what little protection his meager castle could afford, before he ordered everybody to evacuate to the Stone Mountains and perhaps Saint Cuthbert’s on the Rock, a monastery which had stood for centuries there.
Too late. The Titans had crossed southward, cutting off the possibility of safer refuge. The land from Darkwald Hill to the Stone Mountains burned. Those on Darkwald Hill could only wait for the inevitable.
Then the Titans mysteriously withdrew, presumably back to their homeland. The survivors started to rebuild and could only speculate why they were spared. Did the Titans become bored with their spoils? Was there a clash of among their own kind? Did something frighten the Titans?
Some have speculated the monks on St. Cuthbert’s on the Rock used Mohrdeo’s Lance, the relic which killed the Demon General Diminfragt centuries ago, to drive away the Titans. Other simply say the Titans ran out of food. In any case, they left behind naught but wreck, ruin, and death.
What Has Happened Since
Baron Darkwald brought order to the ramshackle community on his doorstep. His was the last of the noble households in the Northlands, or so he claimed, and so the people had to pledge their fealty to him in exchange for protection. All others would be exiled.
He ordered the wall of Darkwald Castle extended to encompass the new town, which the survivors began calling New Engelhadden. Initially, the walls were made of ramparts and wood. Within a decade, however, they built stone walls, complete with towers and a gatehouse.
The population of New Engelhadden grew mostly from natural reproduction. The farmlands to the south were resettled. Later, the numbers of refugees from the South increased, as the general breakdown of the Old Auricken Empire continued, new hamlets and villages pushed back the verge of the wilderness.
This time of relative prosperity would not last.
Always some catastrophe hindered the resettlement of Old Engelhadden those–plague, strange disappearances, even banditry. After the last catastrophe, which seemed to involved poisoned well water, Baron Darkwald declared the ruined city verboten. Over time, the locals started naming New Engelhadden simply Engelhadden, as Old Engelhadden became a reminder of a haunted past only the older generation could remember.
At some point, and nobody is for certain when, the monks on Saint Cuthbert’s on the Rock stopped purchasing supplies from Engelhadden. An expedition sent discovered that the main road up the East Stone Mountain leading to the monastery had collapsed; there was no other known way to reach the mountain top.
In the meantime, more refugees streamed from the south. Engelhadden continually became overcrowded. Areas under the rule of the Baron, which could be settled, already had too many people and not enough harvests to feed them all. More colonies were established, yet few desired to travel more than a day from Engelhadden.
The Rise of the Bandit King
At the turn of the millennium the people of Engelhadden found themselves beset by constant bandit raids. A man, who called himself the Bandit King, had unified the disparate groups of outlaws, hidden communities, and self-proclaimed freeholders in the wilderness to wage a guerrilla war against Engelhadden.
For about five years the Bandit King struck time and again from his hidden fortress somewhere in the Baern Hills. Then, in 2006 I.R., the Baron mustered several hundred men-at-arms and marched into the wilderness. Those lived through the ordeal recall a terrifying journey through deep woods, traps, ambuscades, and hidden bunkers in the ground. The Baron and his small host prevailed. The man who proclaimed to be The Bandit King was captured, taken to Engelhadden’s Punishing Place, and was drawn and quartered.
To this day its rumored that real The Bandit King remains at large. Graffito scrawled at Taver’s Dam and the walls of various ruins proclaim The Bandit King Lives! The Baron, at least once a year, will show the skull of his old enemy to show the people that the Bandit King is dead, and that the new one must be an impostor or copycat, if he truly exists at all.
What’s Happening Now: Year 2019, I.R.
2018 saw with it an influx of refugees from the south, perhaps larger than what’s been seen in previous years.
By 2019, some of these refugees have formed in expedition groups. Once or twice a month they leave Engelhadden and journey into the wilderness, occasionally retrieve treasure from lost ruins. Several of these men and women have disappeared in the wilderness.
These new developments have dredged up something from the recent past. The locals whisper of Mohrdeo Lance. Not the holy relic which, according to scripture in the Word of Virtoaa, slew the Demon General Diminfragt centuries ago, but a group of adventurers or mercenaries of the same name.
A few clues and hints have be sussed from the shadowy corners of The Dragon’s Den or from the shadows of an alleyway:
- They explored far and wide, and reached places like the Kairn-Giphelz badlands, the mysterious lands beyond the Valmirheim Valley, and perhaps as far as the Mountains of the Titans in the far north and west.
- They settled in St. Cuthbert’s on the Rock a decade ago and lived there for 5 or 6 years until the last of them vanished without a trace.
- Their numbers waxed and waned; there were no more than a couple dozen members.
- A paladin or a valkyrie led them.
Unfortunately, the locals of Engelhadden are reluctant to speak of Mohrdeo’s Lance. The Baron, so it is said, had made discussion or mention of them verboten…