Red King's Command
The Esserea Primer
The Races of Esserea
The elves, or alfar, are one of the dominant race of Esserea. The elves are divided into many clans, each claiming descent from a particular illustrious ancestor. There are three general types of elves. The Ilfirin are fully immortal and cannot die, except to mischance or murder. The long-lived Ilfirin are highly secretive, and fear being slain; they have largely removed themselves from the mortal world, living in hidden faerie barrows beneath the earth, accessible only at dawn or dusk. The Amynie, by contrast, are not immortal, although they are long-lived and look ageless while their life lasts. Finally, the Pereldar are elves (or more properly, half-elves) who have descended from the union of elves and another race.
The Huldar are related to elves in many ways; but they are a secretive people that prefers to hide in the wilderness, and they are rarely seen even by the elves. Many thus view the huldar as a sort of nature spirit. The male huldar (or huldu) are unusually handsome, while the female huldar (huldra) are exceptionally beautiful. They have a habit of entrancing hunters and foresters, though not always to good ends.
Humans have only entered Esserea within the last thousand years, coming in trickles from their homeworld of Earth, with no-one knowing quite how they arrived. Although shorter-lived than the elves, they have a dynamism that other races find disconcerting. The humans only recently became more numerous than the Amynie. Unlike the elves, the humans tend to form nation-states, and their power was on the rise prior to Ruadhri’s appearance.
The dwarves are short, tough cousins of the elves. Unlike the human legends of Earth, the dwarves are not particularly stocky, nor do they have any particular predilection for beards, axes, and drinking binges. They have a strong affinity for the environment around them, and they are able to feel vibrations through the earth. Excellent farmers and miners, they prefer to stay near the outskirts of elven and human civilization. They can interbreed with both elves and men.
No one knows when the giants first came to Esserea. Looking like humans but often standing nine to eleven feet tall, the giants (sometimes called the Noroth) are physically imposing and incredibly strong. Don’t mistake their large size for a lack of intelligence: they are as clever as humans, and they are arrogant in their strength and knowledge.
There are few dragons in the world, for they are slow to recover from losses, and they are hated by many – though most ferociously by the giants. Many people say the dragons were cursed and cast out of heaven in the beginning of time, to become spirits of destruction and avarice; they have little welcome in the world. Many dragons hope to transcend this reputation, but most continue struggle with their legendary past.
Beneath the seas live the Mera, or merfolk, who have the torso of an elf but the lower extremities are that of a sea creature. They live in family-groups led by patriarchs and matriarchs, with younger mera forming the bulk of the group. Many appear with dolphin-like tails, others with fish, whale, shark, or even sea-serpent tails. Most can breath without difficulty underwater; some live in salt water, while others inhabit fresh water. The mera can be of unstable mood, switching rapidly from murderous to coquettish. Nevertheless, they love gold, and can easily be appeased by it.
Shapechangers are a minority in Esserea and tend to live in remote regions. Most shapechangers tend to have only one or at most two forms which they use almost exclusively; and these forms seem to have a genetic link. Of shapechangers, werewolves are the most feared, though with perhaps less reason than most. Selkies are perhaps the second-most-common type, at least of those groups known.
None know the origin of the Goblins (Sancosi) and Ogres (Sarquendi), but most agree they are twisted imitations of other races. Goblins are short and look like deformed dwarves or elves. They possess a dangerous weapon in their bite, which is poisonous; in the short term it can cause excessive fatigue, while over the long term, the poison will slowly restrict the breathing of the target, causing its eventual suffocation. The Ogres are much larger and stronger, but not quite so large or strong as the Noroth. The ogres have a fearsome temper, however; and are often cannibalistic.
The Three Kingdoms
There are three great kingdoms of Esserea: Starmarch, Alindon, and Alamanche.
Starmarch was once the great homeland of the elven people. From its capital city, Mirilda of the Five Bridges, Starmarch commanded a great swath of land, from the northern marches and the frozen Mer Armdeia to the southern Mer Alamanche. Although powerful, Starmarch often fell under attack from its foes, particularly goblins and ogres who came down from the Far North. Following a successful war, Starmarch’s northeastern frontier was given as a fiefdom to the great elven general Mabon Merano, who created the autonomous kingdom of Rosoneian. Fifty years ago, however, a great rebellion began against Queen Nesta of Starmarch, and the throne was overtaken by the Noroth sorcerer-monk Ruadhri, who became the Red King of Starmarch.
South of Starmarch, across the Mer Alamanche, is the Commonwealth of Alamanche. Alamanche has no monarch; the country is instead ruled by the High Court, which is elected by the citizens of Alamanche’s one hundred and nine cantons. Although surrounded on almost all sides by water – either ocean or lake – Alamanche is well-known for the fine horses and cattle raised in the verdant and hilly countryside. Most cities are generally small market towns, and there are no great cities that dominate the land.
The kingdom of Alindon lies to the east of Starmarch. A traditional ally of Starmarch, Alindon has felt uncreasingly uneasy since the coming of Ruadhri. Ruled by King Adam the Fourth, Alindon’s power has waned as goblins press down on its northern borders. Trouble with the Sea Kings to the south further threatens the realm. Three years ago, King Adam agreed to swear alliance with the Red King, and all know it is merely a matter of time before Alindon belongs to Ruadhri.
The Minor Realms
To the west of Starmarch is Iverindor, a cool and rainy land which has maintained its independence from Starmarch chiefly through their alliance with the The Lady, an Ilfirin sorceress-queen of great power. The Lady lends her power to the humans and half-elves of Iverindor, in exchange for a yearly tribute of twelve great warriors. According to legend, these warriors join The Lady in a war fought in secret against her nemesis, the ancient dragon Whiteteeth.
On the isles in the Mur Tesean south of Alindon, there rule the five Tesean Sea Kings. Their kingdoms are Seos, Ros, Aleos, Marcand, and Allire. The Teseans, largely humans and dwarves, have developed some of the finest ships in all Esserea, and sail hither and yon about the world, exploring, trading, and sometimes raiding. The natives of the Five Isles take great delight in being Tesean, and they cooperate closely between themselves.
The island kingdoms of Lontine and Gornine lie to the northwest of Alamanche. Longtime foes of the Tesean sea kings, these two realms, united in a marriage alliance between the Queen of Lontine and the King of Gornine, still fear the day when the Tesean galleys appear off their coasts. The realm of Elmercina, to the west of Lontine and Gornine, is a colony and grand duchy of Lontine, ruled by the Grand Duchess Candela, the half-sister of Lontine’s Queen Elodia. Elmercina is poor and troubled by pirates who prey on the kingdom’s fishermen. But Grand Duchess Candela, recently come to the Pearl Crown despite her young age, is a noted sorceress, and unlikely to permit this to long continue.
Crossing the Divide: Between Earth and Esserea
No one knows how humans first came to Esserea from Earth. Many elves believe the first to cross between the worlds were in fact the powerful lords of the Ilfirin, who brought humans to Esserea as servants and slaves. The Ilfirin may be the Faeries of Earth legends, sending out their changeling children and setting the Wild Hunt upon the Earth.
It is only in recent years, however, that the people of Esserea have sought to reach Earth. The rise of the Red King in Starmarch has spawned fear in the hearts of many who once supported Queen Nesta’s house. Many of the elves and half-elves have fled to Earth, finding homes in North America and Europe. Most choose to hide amidst the population, posing as humans; but a select few have sought to use Earth to rally against the Red King. Unfortunately, the Red King’s agents have also come to Earth…