This is a sneak preview of the Kyrzenwold. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.
Kyrzenwold, the Forest of Candles
Travelers in Kyrzenwold find themselves tiny figures traversing a landscape at once majestic and sinister. The forests in particular hide all manner of nightmarish enemies that delight in hunting the Gifted Races, and those who travel these lands are often visited by nightmares as they sleep. Some claim that the creatures of Kyrzenwold stalk both the waking and the dreaming realms. Indeed, the creeping fear of beasts that go bump in the night is often real when darkness falls. Nevertheless, a uniquely dedicated group of people have, for hundreds of years, called Kyrzenwold their home. The ambitious and aloof Kyrzenwolders are a group particularly adapted to the difficulties of life in these forested lands.
Everyday life in Kyrzenwold is difficult. The lands are full of dangers, particularly when night descends. The forests often defy attempts to clear them, and their treacherous borders can advance dozens or even hundreds of feet overnight. The creatures that creep out of the woods are difficult to kill; they seem at least somewhat resilient to both weapon strikes and most magical spells. They carry with them a dread that can weaken and panic travelers.
Although spells of Chimera can be effective against the lesser creatures, the salvation of the Kyrzenwolders comes from the very magic that permeates the land. The land is particularly rich with the magical flora and fauna used in alchemy. While some nightmarish creatures seem, at least partially, resilient to many spells and weapon blows used against them, the Kyrzenwolders have found that these creatures have less protection against substances created by alchemists. This has led to not only a higher number of Kyrzenwold alchemists, but a habit among the people of carrying substances to protect and restore themselves.
Although folk from Kyrzenwold follow all manner of occupations, the most iconic, and perhaps important, groups are the Vogel and the Lyrikers. The Vogel are the candle bearing rangers of Kyrzenwold. These rangers travel the paths and roads and visit even remote towns and villages to offer support and council while they hunt the dark creatures that roam the forests. The Lyrikers are leaders and scholars, often alchemists, who gather knowledge and build the library in Ashveil.
Any individual, regardless of background, may attempt to follow these paths, though the trials are rigorous. In general, those of a scholastic pursuit, particularly those with a penchant for alchemy, pursue the path of the Lyriker. Those suited to adventuring in dangerous areas, and coming to know the woods, choose the path of the Vogel. Confining individuals to either “bookish Lyriker” or “Vogel errant” would be a misstep, however: there are tremendously adventurous, action-oriented Lyrikers, and master academic Vogel throughout the recruits. Moreover, while much lauded by the general populace, these occupations are not the only pursuits within Kyrzenwold. After all, the establishment of the Vogel and the Lyrikers is symptomatic of the dangers of Kyrzenwold itself.
The most prominent and oldest of the settlements of this land is Ashveil, the great Library of Kyrzenwold. Hundreds of years ago, the archives of Ashveil held secrets – in tomes, scrolls, and upon stones, knowledge was scribed and stored. For many years this knowledge was gathered from the ruins and forests and hidden places in Kyrzenwold itself, but in time the search for knowledge extended beyond the borders to other lands. The librarians of Ashveil, called Lyrikers, were a quiet and studied people. Highly trained in magical arts, they prided themselves on their dedication to the procurement and storage of all sorts of knowledge. This knowledge, it is said, was kept in the deep labyrinths of Ashveil.
While these labyrinths still exist in Ashveil, the archives do not. It is said that almost the entire library of Ashveil was destroyed hundreds of years ago – an event which is now referred to, in both histories and folktales, as The First Fire. Fables paint this fire as the rageful act of a nightmarish monster; histories, slightly more conservative, detail the First Fire as the maniacal paranoia of a monstrous tyrant. No stories exist, however, that offer much more in the way of detail. Like the ancient magical secrets of Ashveil, the story of the destruction of the Old Archive is long lost.
Nonetheless, Ashveil, and with it Kyrzenwold, has persisted. Some four hundred years ago the Lyrikers joined together once again, and, with a determination born of reflective desperation, began the reconstruction of the knowledge of the destroyed archives. Starting humbly at first, the Lyrikers began collecting all the information they could. They found the ruins of the library itself was infested by nightmarish creatures, but despite the danger they searched its depths for the knowledge that was lost. Seeking to correct what they saw as mistakes of the past, the Lyrikers avoided books and tomes that could easily be destroyed and instead created a series of conjurations within the passages of the Labyrinth to store the knowledge they gathered. To this day the task to reclaim the library is difficult, for the more magic and skill they bring to bear on the creatures that roam these halls, the more resilient those dark creatures become. Many of the deepest halls, and with them the secrets they contain, remain unclaimed.
As the Lyrikers work to restore Ashveil, the halls of lore slowly grow in size. They gradually unfurl into winding expanses of collections, alchemical laboratories, gardens, studies, and conservatories. The once ruined and lonely under halls have become the home to many conjurations that remember all manner of knowledge: theories of the earth and sky, the quiet language of plants, and the properties of the seemingly invisible.
The land itself is named after the Vogel and their efforts to protect the citizenry. The rangers make a habit of using alchemical candles that serve to keep nightmares at bay, both the creatures the stalk the night and the troubling dreams they bring. They are often seen setting out candles along paths, around camps, or in windows to protect those who have been plagued by dangers of the land. The rangers are not trained as guardians, but rather as stalkers and their typical strategy is to protect with candles, and lie in wait to counter strike anything that tries to approach and overcome the wards provided by the alchemical flames. Perhaps the most impressive feat of the Vogel is maintaining the Kyrzenlicht; a winding series of roadways lit by candles that connect the heart of the country.
Kyrzenwolder fashion is practical in nature. Fabric is usually dark, and black or rich browns, accented by deep reds, greens, and plums, are common. Such dark materials are practical; they allow individuals to move in the dark easily, and, somewhat more uniquely, are likely to survive discoloration by the random happenings of Ashen Rain.
There is a classic “Kyrzenwold look” that many, Kyrzenwolder or outsider, will readily identify. In traveling gear, long boots, cloaks or greatcoats, tight-fitting trousers, and wide-brimmed hats are very common. Accessories are well-made; leatherware, finely made brooches or necklaces, and personally significant insignia are all frequent. Since many Kyrzenwolders are alchemists, ways to carry flasks and components, such as leather belts and pouches, are often the focal points of an outfit. Women occasionally affix decorative veils to the brims of their hats, so that their faces are fully or partially covered. (However, this is, it’s said, rooted in ancient historical superstition rather than practicality.)
The Lyrikers wear high-necked, longsleeved black robes. Though simple, these close-fitting garments are made of luxuriously soft fabrics; over the top of these robes, the Lyrikers wear sleeveless surcoats, of a deep burgundy, embroidered in silver. Similarly, the Vogel – the candle-bearing rangers of Kyrzenwold – exemplify Kyrzenwold adventuring gear. Dressed simply in greens, browns, and blacks, they are known primarily by their wide-shouldered, nearly architectural cloaks, wide-brimmed black hats, and black-boots. At their necks, simple but obvious, hangs a pendant with the heraldry of their order.
With the introduction of foreign presences, particularly the vibrant colors of Belaingarde, the look of Kyrzenwold clothing is changing slowly but surely. There is, indeed, much more variation among the general population, and a trend towards freewheeling experimentation. In earlier times, full skirts, which are cumbersome in the laboratory, library, and woods equally, were unpopular. Skirts flaring away from the body catch fire, knock over carefully stacked books, and catch snags. With the introduction of Belaingarde fashion, however, more people are wearing full skirts and dresses, but many still prefer narrower garments fitted relatively close to the body, and cut to provide mobility and coverage.
~ Knowledge should be understood carefully and shared openly. History has shown that an ignorant population is more dangerous than information in the wrong hands. With that being said, everyone has secrets, and, sometimes, those secrets are to be kept.
~ Life is difficult, and that is, more or less, an absolute. In order to deal with this absolute, constant self-improvement is essential.
~ Even in gritty, unthinkable situations, grace, poise, and respect for others are to be considered virtues. It is, however, no shame to be straightforward in your speech: whilst some may think it abrupt, it is often the way to be most efficient in communication.
~ The world, in nature and magic, is telling a story, and you are a part of it. Record things you observe with humility and diligence.
~ There is no such thing as a stupid question: curiosity leads to discovery, and discovery to knowledge. Oftentimes, outsiders find Kyrzenwolders dogged pursuit of information somewhat eccentric; Kyrzenwolders argue that this eccentricity is a gift. Even the newest adventurer has insight to offer to a complicated problem, and Kyrzenwolders will often invite those with “less experience” to share their thoughts on an issue.
~ Fear is a form of respect, and it is wise to fear the dark. Similarly, wariness of outsiders and the unknown is prudent, and communicates your acknowledgment of things you do not understand.
Many Kyrzenwolders look upon religion with some curiosity and a bit of distance. While they do not doubt its power, they pride themselves on their ability to provide for themselves, and are often wary of those who rely entirely on faith. In ages past, the Pale religion was common and druids used their magic to protect the Gifted Races that traveled here. As the greater creatures of the forests became more and more resilient to their magic, however, that religion began to wane. There are, despite this, followers of the Woven Faith and Wild Ways of the Pale in Kyrzenwold – a small surprise given the dangers of the woods, and the tenacious presence of the Gnorren. There are also a small number of shamans, though the number has declined in recent years. While the majority of the population is less religious than the rest of Aerune, there is a good deal of superstition- folk tales, mundane rituals, and proverbs rule many households. Some cults, secretive in nature, maintain a rather gnarly grasp on some clutches of Kyrzenwold, though pose no danger to themselves nor anyone else.
Within Kyrzenwold there are four distinct regions; travelers moving between the regions follow the snaking, multi-headed Kerzenlicht – an ephemeral roadway of lighted lanterns, placed by the Vogel.
“Kyrzenwold” is both the name of the country, as well as the name of the huge tract of woods within that region. Kyrzenwolders often refer to the general woods as “The Kyrzenwold,” affording it, perhaps, the vague mystery that it deserves.
The first, and oldest, region is Ashveil, the library and capital city of Kyrzenwold. While those of more urban regions might gape that Ashveil is called an urban center, within Kyrzenwold, it is both densely populated and architecturally built up. Built along the Ashveil Lake, the walled campus of Ashveil contains all the knowledge and learning of Kyrzenwold: headed by the Lyrikers, it is open to any who request and obtain access. It is also the seat of alchemical learning; the sprawling gardens are not merely beautiful sanctuaries, but also experiments in the growth of alchemically useful plants.
Houndfall, a much smaller but equally important region, lies to the north of Ashveil. Houndfall serves as the headquarters for the Vogel. The two main towns of Kyrzenwold, Katzen in the East and Corbynshire in the West, house the majority of the “common” population of Kyrzenwold. Katzen is a bustling, almost cozy town known for its bakeries, leatherworks, fine books, and candle makers. Katzen a town of industry and hospitality, it is often where visitors to Kyrzenwold stay. Corbynshire, the farming center of woodsy Kyrzenwold, is a quieter, somewhat more austere place. The ways of life in Corbynshire, named for the impressive ravens that roost in the trees, are cyclical, guarded, and diligent. Throughout the woods, of course, tiny hamlets cluster: as they are of importance to the larger nation, the Vogel regularly visit these hamlets, checking in on the two or three families that call them home.
Finally, though out of the purview of the Ashveil Lyrikers and the Vogel, is Bruchmoor, the southern swamps. Amidst the murky swampland and gnarled, rotting trees, the wicked Gnorren make their homes. Only the most daring of Vogel enter these lands: the Gnorren, barely human, make travel sure to be deadly.
Both the vast landscape that spreads and divides settlements in Kyrzenwold, and the fact that the people of Kyrzenwold pride themselves on their self-reliance and often resent outside interference, make the region difficult to govern. Settlements are usually governed by a Lord-Mayor or Meister who is bolstered by a Sheriff and their guard. This makes travel difficult, as the fervor in which the various laws are enforced can vary greatly from settlement to settlement.
Despite this, the Lyrikers and the Vogel play in important part in the government of Kyrzenwold. The Lyrikers provide and disseminate a common set of laws which the settlements, for the most part, respect and abide. The Lyrikers will sometimes travel to even remote settlements to bring news and written law to the lords and sheriffs, teach citizenry lore and other knowledge, and offer council to those important members of the town or settlement. The Vogel travel the lands to help keep settlements safe, and they offer additional forces if some area is besieged by the Gnorr or other servants of nightmare.
The Vogel also have the unpleasant task of visiting settlements that have gone rogue. There have been instances when some undesirable or violent force has taken leadership of a remote settlement. Worse, in rare cases settlements have been known to fall entirely to nightmare. When a township or settlement of Kyrzenwold no longer follows or upholds the common law it is left to the Vogel to rectify the situation; even when diplomacy fails.
Kyrzenwold is nothing if not a dangerous place: the entire establishment of the Vogel orients around dealing with the dangers that stalk the woods. The Vogel and Lyrikers are rather quiet about what these dangers specifically are, but any native Kyrzenwolder can speak, if in hushed tones, of the nightmares that wander the woods and the wicked taloned-and-fanged fae that sneak through the twisting dark. While some, unfamiliar with the woods of Kyrzenwold, may shrug these admonitions off as “nothing more than stories,” few can deny the reality of the aberrantly large boar, bear, and stags that threaten hunters and travelers not sure of their footing. Nor can they dismiss the poison plants and sucking mires of the southern swamps that, even passingly, pose a fatal threat to pilgrims. Those who are not native to Kyrzenwold have heard, of course, of the dreadful Gnorren, the fetid Korper, and the fae-blooded Skreig. Only those who have grown up in Kyrzenwold, however, know of their dangers in detail.
The following are people generally familiar to Kyrzenwolders, as well as allies of Kryzenwold:
Meister Lyriker Elisabeth Benedikt: The head of Ashveil, Meister Lyriker Elisabeth is relatively new to her position as Meister Lyriker. She comes from a long-line of Meisters, and, indeed, those who have served before her have been well-respected and much-loved. Known as uncommonly intelligent and unusually innovative, the new Meister carries on her shoulders the burden of an ancient family line. Whether or not she can carry such a burden is yet to be seen. Along with Meister Alchemist Andreas Lothar and Meister Richter Aneke Geert, she oversees the people and institutions of Ashveil and the greater Kyrzenwold district. While Meister Alchemist Andreas and Meister Richter Aneke stay within the confines of Ashveil, Meister Lyriker Elisabeth more frequently travels. She is frequently in Belaingarde.
Meister Vogel Schaeffer Edselhardt: The grim, weathered, and taciturn leader of the Vogel, Meister Vogel Schaeffer is withdrawn, awkward, and interested in little more than his job. Luckily, as the veteran leader of the Vogel, he spends the majority of time thinking of nothing but. Meister Vogel Schaeffer leads the patrols of Kyrzenwold, and is the most experienced in matters concerning the Korper (undead).
Meister Vogel Ulriche Lothar: Meister Vogel Schaeffer’s seeming right hand, Meister Vogel Ulriche is reserved, abrupt, and, when called upon to speak, straightforward. Among the Vogel, she is the most expert in matters concerning the Gnorren and chaos magics, and teaches recruits to hunt them specifically.
Meister Vogel Kasper Lichtsheiner: Somewhat more talkative than his colleagues, Meister Vogel Kasper serves as the liaison between Ashveil and Houndfall. He also oversees new recruits. It is said that, while he talks more than either Ulriche or Schaeffer, his strange temper and aloof manner are just as off-putting. Moreover, Meister Vogel Kasper is a devout follower of the Wild Ways: while not unheard of among the Vogel, it is certainly rare. It is said that, were he not the cousin of Meister Lyriker Elisabeth, he might never have received the position. Nevertheless, Meister Vogel Kasper is gifted when it comes to hunting both beasts and wicked Skreig (fae).
Fritzie Diedrich: Just outside of Katzen, deep enough into the woods that one might live privately, Mr. Fritzie Diedrich has set up a home for himself. Fritzie is something of a legend in Kyrzenwold – a man of many talents, he is considered to be the most knowledgeable Kyrzenwolder on matters of the Skreig. Fritzie has, for the 98 years he’s been alive, collected fables of the Skreig, and his home is an open (if cluttered) library for all who may be interested in such things. Despite his refusal to join the Lyrikers or Vogel, Fritzie maintains close working relationships with their orders. It is widely known that the wunderkind Meister Vogel Kasper spent his teenage years studying under Fritzie. All those interested in the Skreig are suggested to start, first, with a polite visit to this wizened scholar. Fritzie is nothing if not eccentric, and Katzen bakers will often report, for instance, that Fritzie will order “a quadruple dozen or so lizard-shaped cakes,” and will then, unceremoniously, dangle these cakes from the branches of trees near the northern gate of Katzen. It is generally assumed such actions have ample reasoning, though this has never been particularly well examined