This is a sneak preview of the country of Belaingarde. 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.
While the Ieronym, or the Serpent’s Eye, cannot be seen from the shores of Belaingarde, its threat is always present. Although the strange lights and colored lightning that dances above the maelstrom can often be seen at night, the real threats are the creatures that spawn from its depths. Within those depths, it is said, dwell the Tyrdau; mysterious serpent overlords that control the Sea Serpents, create the Scaled Ones, and call to the Drowned Elves of House Niemar in the constant war against the shores closest to the Serpent’s Eye.
Belaingarde is respected first for its formidable military, discipline, and ability to stave off the uncertain dangers that lurk in the Ieronym. To live in Belaingarde is to live perilously close to the dangers of the Ieronym: even the grimmest of Kyrzenwolders will, begrudgingly, acknowledge the mettle of the Belaingarde military. The navy of Belaingarde must be particularly well trained, for their job– sailing into the turbulent seas around the maelstrom of Ieronym to hunt Sea Serpents and fight the servants of the Tyrdau– is perhaps the most dangerous task in all of Aerune.
Belaingarde is under constant siege from the sea; even the turbulent sea waters can rise up against the kingdom in the form of storms, sudden tides, and even tidal waves if the Ieronym is particularly violent. Sea serpents have been known rise from the ocean and pull themselves onto the shore, and Scaled Ones often come in waves against the Belaingarde defenses. The stalwart knights and soldiers are not the only defense Belaingarde employs against the threat of the Tyrdau; the shore line is also protected by the magic of the Beacons of Belaingarde.
Belaingarde is often described as a nation so brightly polished as to be shining. Cities and military fortifications built into the white schist of the Ieronym Cliffs include spiraling towers, lofty walls, and the manicured self-assurance of a beautiful nation. The cliffside cities of Belaingarde, closely networked together, serve as balustrades against the creeping threat of the Ieronym. Along the cliffs, Belaingarder architects- some of the best in the world- have constructed a gilded fortress: so close to the Ieronym sea, Belaingarde is built to be a luminous garrison. Raphael Leon, Master Architect to the Prince, wrote on the city, saying: “We live in a prison- this we cannot deny; the ocean beyond us is a merciless place: a vast expanse of constant danger. Somewhere, deep in our history, we skulked out of that chasm. And now? We wait for it to retake us. It will, but, in the meantime, we ought dull ourselves with the strange beauty of arrogant survival.” While the palisades and turrets of Belaingarde are beautifully conceived, there can be no mistake that the entire nation’s function is militaristic.
Belaingarde’s employment of armed forces and fortifications is of obvious import. In a nation constantly on the precipice of sudden invasion, barricade and offensive posturing against the outside is crucial. The walls of Belaingarde are the nation’s most obvious forms of defense: the Lucent Heights, Upper Reach, and Lower Reach are delimited by stonework walls; these walls, of seemingly unnatural durability, are in fact arcanically enhanced. The Eurvein Runeforgers of the Academy have spent the last several centuries perfecting the art of bolstering the populace against Ieronymite threats. The lowest tier of Belaingarde, the Coast- home to military personnel and the Scrims- offers no such physical walls. They are, however, guarded by something all the more impressive: the Beacons.
The history of the Beacons of Belaingarde is unknown. Some say they were created by master arcanists; others maintain they simply came into being. In any case, the Beacons of Belaingarde, and the light-walls they create, are essential to the protection of Belaingarde. The line of Beacons follows the coastline and forms an arc of light around all of Belaingarde. The Beacons, attended by the Beaconiers of the military, serve as the first and foremost defense against the depths of the Ieronym. Maintained by Academy arcanists, and the diligence of the Scrims, the Beacons are a mystery unto themselves: the fables and legends surrounding them are almost as enormous as the protection they provide.
No one could argue that Belaingarde is a nation of plain tastes: however, the fashion reflects the militaristic and utilitarian necessity of the country. Clothing reflects this, and even the most artistocratic of fashionistas prize elegant simplicity. Trousers, high boots, and loose fitting shirts, accented by belts and jewelry, are common among all genders. Men, and many women, favour plain, well-cut coats, brightly colored linens, and delicately knotted cravats. Gowns in Belaingarde embrace refined elegance: one-piece dresses with high waists and flowing skirts, accented by flowers and pearls, are common.
While lines are simple in typical Belaingarde fashion, materials and patterns are not: vivid blues, greens, and purples are common, and many Belaingarders attempt to use fashion to emulate the beauty of the natural world around them. It is not uncommon, for instance, to see an Eurvein gentleman dressed in daywear that typifies the colors of the sunset over the Ieronym. To accessorize the simple, unstructured lines of clothing, individuals often incorporate pearl jewelry, silken scarves, and ornate leatherwork into their costumes. Unsurprisingly, glasswork jewelry, particularly mosaics, are common.
In the military, clothing is of course standardized. The universal garb of the military follows: tight fitting trousers (of plain color), a smartly pressed shirt, tall boots (with good grips), and a bolero jacket (of color matching the trousers), emblazoned with the insignia of the individual’s naval unit. Belaingarde is not terribly picky about specifics, but asks that individuals prioritize practicality over fashion. For whatever reason, the military style- particularly the cropped jacket and boots- are popular with non-military civilians, and the military style has invaded many corners of Belaingarder fashion.
In both the military and among the civilians, long, high-collared jackets (often made of wool or a similarly thick fabric) guard against the cold. Gloves and hats are often tight-fitting and well-made for the bitter chill of the sea.
While straight, simple, and colorful lines are the norm, Belaingarde is a nation of trade and exchange, and, within reason, most things go; afterall, Belaingarders prize aesthetical innovation and experimentation above most other things.
~ Life could end at any moment. Cherish those around you, and appreciate adversity as a chance to thrive.
~ Innovation and creativity are at the heart of success. There is no such thing as a bad idea, only an idea that needs refinement. And, afterall, most ideas need refinement.
~ Beauty is important and constantly evolving. Those who don’t appreciate beauty, even in its strangest forms, have never seen true ugliness.
~ Nation and loyalty to the nation comes before most things. Military service and progress for the nation is a thing to be taken seriously, and military personnel are to be respected.
~ The Sea is dangerous. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t seen its true horrors.
Religious worship is freely practiced and encouraged in Belaingarde. There is no formal state religion in Belaingarde, and the Prince has dictated that, in matters of religion, the state should stay uninvolved. Religion, particularly worship of the Pale connected to the Sea, is common, and serves as the inspiration for many great works of art. Throughout Belaingarde, and particularly in the upper reach, there are many shamans of noble birth who practice a sort of urban shamanism, heavily influenced by the sea, seemingly unique to Belaingarde.
In many ways, magic in Belaingarde is defined by its military Academy. In theory, most spheres of magic are taught at the Academy. In practice, however, the Academy and the Eurvein who teach there are some of the strongest Primal mages in Aerune. The Primal mages of Belaingarde rival even the Guild Arcana in sheer power. Runeforging is also favored among the Eurvein, and the Eurvein of Belaingarde are especially adept at runes of water. As a result, the elite of the Belaingarde Navy often have runes to supplement their training.
The Belaingarde arcanists that keep the Beacons are unique to this kingdom, though their magical focus is the maintenance, strengthening, and controlling the Beacons themselves.
The population of Belaingarde is divided between, mostly, human and Eurvein. About a third of the population is Eurvein, and occupies the upper echelons of society. Humans, and smatterings of other races, occupy all rungs of the social ladder. To be Eurvein, within Belaingarde, is to be steeped in a history of noble tradition and perseverance; the be human is to be complementary, and, at times, supplementary, to this history. While Eurvein and other races live in considerable harmony, among the malcontent, there are murmurs that decry, however quietly, the imparity.
Military service is a compulsory part of life in Belaingarde. Because of the constant menace of the Ieronym almost all Belaingarders see military service as a dangerous necessity. The military is considered the great leveler of Belaingarde. As the Tower Council of Sages has decreed, “it is a time when children of Nauarchs serve alongside children of shepherds.” If an individual deserts the military during the compulsory tour, or fails to present, the government levies heavy and exponential taxes against the individual’s family.
The Prince’s Navy serves as the heart and exploratory arm of Belaingarde. Despite the glory that is the Prince’s Navy, most soldiers fail to step aboard a boat prior to their final year of service. At the end of the tour, individuals are, dependent on their service records, able to continue as volunteers in the Prince’s Navy. While many, disenchanted with the mundane reality of military life, re-enter civilian activities, some excited few continue their service.
The Prince’s Navy consists of four distinct units, led by the Nauarchs. In Belaingarde, “Nauarch” is the fourth highest rank an individual can achieve after, respectively, Prince, Speaker, and Sage. Each of the units serves a distinct purpose.
The first, and most lauded, of the naval units is that of The Scrims. The Scrims are the elite unit of Belaingarde: they are responsible for exploration of the Ieronym, defense against Ieronym creatures, and resource reclamation for the Beacons. The Scrims are well-trained units, and very few individuals join.
After the Scrims, and the largest unit within the Navy, are the Boatswain. The Boatswain consist of the defensive arm of the Navy- they are the grunt forces who patrol the walls, ensure civilian protection, and, when needed, engage in offensive movements along the coast. The Boatswain count among their number some of the finest Corsairs in Aerune.
Following the Scrims and Boatswain are the Beaconiers: a relatively small unit, the Beaconiers are a group of dedicated mages and tacticians committed to maintenance of the lightwalls and their corresponding beacons. While not as exalted as the Scrims nor as omnipresent as the Lords, the Beaconiers are the unit most integral to Belaingarde’s defense; their use of highly advanced arcanics, additionally, provides them an undeniable air of mystery.
Finally, there are the Privateers. Many Privateers chafe under the notion that the Scrims are the explorers of the Prince’s Navy- the Privateers argue that, since their focus is not militaristic, but, instead, diplomatic, they are undervalued. Indeed, the Privateers are the diplomats and traders of Belaingarde: they are responsible for Belaingarde’s relationship to the rest of the world. Of the four units, they also have the most individual freedom, and, therefore, are rumored to engage in many and varied not-quite-savory dealings.
Some, hearing of the Nauarchs, the Scrims, and the Prince’s Navy, may ask of the Prince himself. For most of Belaingarde, this is not a question easily answered. The Prince- or whomever holds the title- does not appear before even the highest ranking Belaingarders. Reasons for this are vague, though steeped in no small amount of pomp and circumstance. A few things of the Prince, however, are known: he is of Eurvein birth, and, like all Princes before him, one in a very ancient Eurvein family line. There are no records, currently, of the Prince ever appearing in public. He lives in the central part of the Lucent Heights, within the Lucent Tower itself.
While the Prince himself remains unseen, his directions and guidance do not. The Prince rules Belaingarde through a council of Eurvein: the Sages and the Speaker. The Sages, though seldom seen in public, are considered the most brilliant thinkers, strategists, and mages in all of Belaingarde- all of noble birth, the Sages, acting on the commands of the Prince, oversee the major governance of Belaingarde. They work closely with the four Nauarchs to determine military strategy; they manage the internal workings of Belaingarde itself with little assistance from the Nauarchs.
The Speaker plays a somewhat different role: the Speaker is an individual selected from the poorest ranks of Eurvein families, usually within the Lower Reach. This individual, always of unusual intelligence and ability, does not serve in the military; instead, at the age of fourteen, this individual trains for six years to serve as the Voice of the Prince. This individual then acts as Prince’s publicly visible proxy; while the role and responsibilities of the Speaker are poorly understood, most assume that the Speaker also functions as the Prince’s confidant and personal advisor. Speakers generally work from the ages of twenty to forty, serving roughly twenty year terms as Speakers. When they retire, they often, though not always, enter the council of Sages.
The Prince, the Speaker, and the Sages- buoyed by the expertise of the Nauarchs and the Prince’s Navy- maintain the status quo in Belaingarde. Currently, of course, this status quo is in upheaval. The current political climate in Belaingarde is shifting: there is more need for global collaboration, and trade is intensifying. On top of this, the waters of the Ieronym Sea have never been more active- beasts, the Ieronymites, are seeking the land in greater and greater number. The Beaconiers, looking to the illumination of the Beacons, wonder just how long such light will prevail against rising waters.
Belaingarde, in many ways only nominally a nation, is divided into four regions: the Lucent Heights, the Upper Reach, the Lower Reach, and the Coast. Each of these areas is a small city unto itself, and boasts a vibrant culture dependent on its location. The majority of the population lives in one of these cities or its environs, though some individuals may move between Belaingarde and other nations. In general, the Lucent Heights (sometimes shortened to the Heights) are occupied almost exclusively by Eurvein and humans who have married into Eurvein families; the other cities are dominated by humans, though levels of admixture are relatively high. While there is some social turmoil connected to this stratification, the majority of Belaingarders are, in general, content with their lot in life. Afterall, regardless of money, all individuals serve the military, the Nauarchs, and the High Prince: variation in the lower echelons of life is considered a necessity of safeguarding the larger nation.
The capital of Belaingarde is the Lucent Heights, named for the Lucent Tower. The Lucent Heights houses Belaingarde’s elite, as well as the students and faculty of the Seawatch Naval Academy. The Seawatch Academy, the center of Belaingarder intelligensia, serves as the locus of Belaingarde’s considerable arcanical clout: some of the best Primal mages in Aerune are trained at the Academy. Indeed, Runeforging, a staple of old Belaingarde magic, is among the most celebrated of Academy disciplines. Spiraling out of the Academy campus is the Lucent Tower: a decorated tower constructed of polished black marble. The Lucent Tower serves as the home of the Prince, the Speaker, and the Sages’ Council; it is the major landmark of Belaingarde.
The Riverlands lie below the Lucent Heights, and include all the lands surrounding the three great rivers of Belaingarde. Once these were a jewel of the kingdom, for they provided travel and bounty for the Lucent Heights. Now the military maintains camps all along the rivers. When one’s enemies can travel the depths of the ocean, deep running water that provides a hidden passage for them to travel inland is a grave danger to the security of the country.
Far to the west of the Lucent Heights is the beautiful walled city called the Upper Reach. The second-most populous city in Belaingarde, the Upper Reach is home to the upper and middle classes of Belaingarde. Its distance from the sea affords it more warning from attacks, and this allows the city to house some of the most prosperous merchants and lords in Belaingarde. It is also closest to the west road, and this makes it a natural focal point for trade. While the artistry displayed in the Lucent Heights is striking, it is somewhat minimal in comparison to that of the Upper Reach: the Upper Reach is a vibrant parade of color and shapes. White marble arcades, columns garlanded with roses and marigolds, melt into marketplace plazas: goods range from masterwork weapons to aquatic perfumes, though the most prized handiwork are the mosaics and glassworks handblowns by Belaingarder artisans.
In stark contrast to the Upper Reach, the Lower Reach lies far to the east. The Lower Reach houses the majority of Belaingarde’s poor: common laborers and the economically disenfranchised populate these areas. The Lower Reach’s architecture reflects this stratification: buildings are simpler, stonework ruder, and the streets dirtier. However, while illness and hunger are more common in the Lower Reach, the people are proud and patriotic: a robust culture of music and artwork, characterized by a loyalty to the grim plight of the country, has formed, and the bards of the Lower Reach are considered to be unusually poignant. Of course, this is not to say that, in the predominantly human population, dissent does not exist: quiet groups of student, retired military, and workers lament, in creaking taverns, the disease of the elite.
Outside of the Lower Reach proper are the Flats; a series of villages and outposts dotting the eastern lands that provide, through fishing and gathering, a majority of the sea bounty for Belaingarde. As more and more of the once great fishing fleet of Belaingarde has been pressed into military service to protect against the Ieronym, it has fallen to the Flatlanders to gather food and net fish from the marshes and shores to the east. Unprotected by city walls, the Flatlanders are entirely dependent on the Beacons and the Naval units of the Lower Reaches to protect them. If those fail, they have only their own wits as protection. As a result, a number of Rangers have risen among the Flatlanders; they roam the marshes, bogs, and eastern shores to hunt down Scaled Ones and Drowned Elves who have managed to break past the Beacons. The Flats also has a surprisingly large number of Undying Ghuls who earn a meager living gathering food from that dangerous place and trading by day in the Lower Reach when their condition is not so obvious.
The Speaker: The physical form and name of the Speaker are kept from the general population: indeed, the speaker wears deep purple robes and veils covering their entire body. It is believed that the individual identity of the Speaker remains unimportant: instead, the Speaker is the mouthpiece of the Prince, and, for this and this alone, must be respected. Still, every single Belaingarder recognizes the impressive uniform of the Speaker, and recognizes, when the Speaker delivers a proclamation, that they speak on behalf of the Prince and the Sages.
Nauarch Milo Alexandre: Nauarch of The Emerald Hazard, the premier Scrim ship in the Prince’s Navy, and, therefore, the premier ship in the Navy itself. Admirable Alexandre is a considerable eccentric, and is given to quietly lurking among rank-and-file soldiers. Nauarch Alexandre handpicks individuals to join the Scrims, and is known for, his blue eyes wild and dangerous, proclaiming that individuals “look ready for death,” and, therefore, ready for service in the Scrims. A heavy drinker and lover of art, while Nauarch Alexandre is nothing if not intimidating, he is a surprising man of the people, and prefer taverns in the Lower Reach (his home) to life in the Lucent Tower.
Captain Zelda Hugo: A distressingly excitable member of the Scrim, Captain Hugo, who also serves aboard the Emerald Hazard, generally careens between controlled mania and exuberant psychosis. She is the foremost authority on the science of the Tyrdau, and, excitedly, is known to rattle off metrics of the great beasts the Tyrdau control. While Captain Hugo’s genius and incomparable knowledge has never been questioned, her uncomfortable fondness for the beasts that threaten Belaingarde raises many an eyebrow.
Headmistress Josephine Cadence: The Headmistress of the Academy, Headmistress Josephine is a woman passion and disciplined. Accepting only the most talented of students, Headmistress Josephine is leading the charge on developing new research methods.
Nauarch Nicolette Absolon: Leader of the Beaconiers, Nauarch Absolon helps to maintain the relative mystery of the Beacons, while, simultaneously, sharing knowledge with she knows are truly invested in their upkeep. She openly recruits from both the common ranks and the Academy. Nauarch Absolon is uniquely committed to defense against the Naimar, who she believes aim to threaten the Beacons.
Sacha Mathis: A relatively low ranking member of the Scrims, Sacha Mathis has, perhaps inspired by his mentor Nauarch Alexandre, become something of a public figure. Recently, despite his low rank and birth, Mathis was appointed as Captain of the survey excursion leading the research charge on the Tyrdau and Gnorren: this has put him in the public eye, and he has been recently celebrated as a people’s hero. Indeed, political upstarts champion him as a potential answer to the lack of mobility for the lower classes.
The Kingfisher: This mysterious figure is sometimes seen along the shore in the eastern reaches of Belaingarde, fishing in the shallow water with either pole or net. Although rarely appearing before military folk or outsiders, it is said that the Flatlanders sometimes seek the advice or aid of the Kingfisher. There are many rumors among the common folk pertaining to what the Kingfisher might be fishing for, and no one has ever seen the Kingfisher draw an ordinary fish from the sea. There are whispers that particularly lucky or cursed individuals have been invited to fish with the Kingfisher, although those tales speak equally of great riches, important lessons, or watery dooms resulting from the ordeal.