The world is set in a Euro-Medieval-esque world sharing many traits with times in our own past. What may differ in this world compared to other fantasy worlds is that life isn't necessarily nice and certainly not fair. In truth, this is actually something the world shares more with our own past rather than many fantasy worlds. One of the biggest differences between Hökaland and our world is that, though rare, magic does exist as does gods. The impact of magic and gods isn't vastly different from that of Medieval times: i.e., it doesn't have much of an impact and it's hard to know the difference between someone who is a real mystic from someone who pretends to be (or thinks they are).
The main realms are the Midrealms, Northrealms and Southrealms. These are more densely populated and 'enjoy' constant struggle which, though certainly violent at times, keeps the power levels between the houses and Kingdoms fairly level. The immense riches that the gigantic city of Capitoleum provides acts as a trading hub, and the power wielded through intrigue or military might relates to Capitoleum in one way or the other throughout the realms. Only the Western Southrealms and the northernmost parts of Northrealm feel truly disconnected from decisions made in the Court of Houses.
Capitoleum is lead by five of the most powerful Houses (Kingdoms) and while these houses and every one else vies for power over Capitoleum. At the same time, it's in no other house's interest for another house to grow a lot stronger, especially the five controlling Capitoleum, so large scale conquest is beaten down hard with mutual effort and in-strife is encouraged.
These realms employ a form of bastard feudalism, which the Family Register keeps track of. One of the notable differences between European medieval times and the Catholic Church's similar position to the Register is that commoners can create peerage for themselves and become nobles through their own actions (usually through war, but though it has happened many times, very few can do it in reality).
Read more about the main factions.
Guide to the Realms
This is a general guide to conceptions of people. For more detailed information, read about the factions here.
Northrealmers live in a slightly harsher climate than Midrealmers, and some typical aspects apply to them such as they speak a bit less, but what they say is what they really feel. They work hard because they always had to and they are fierce warriors. Fortunately, they have little interest in invading others and are mostly occupied with killing marauding orc tribes, kobold attacks or the odd troll. In the Northrealms they drink a LOT, but it's with a few friends in front of a fire and generally doesn't get very rowdy. House Eagle-eye were originally from the North, and some of the characteristics of people of Highview are that of the north. Generally, there is not much problem with crime, and the roads are kept safe through cooperation and mutual trust of the Houses that rule the North.
Midrealmers look at Northrealmers as slightly backwards, uneducated and unable to deal with numbers or letters well. To some degree they are seen as a less capable little brother that may have big muscles, but no lunch money worth stealing.
The people of Midrealm are a little bit hotter under the collar. There is a big drinking culture, and a more overt such than with Northrealmers. The terms "YOLO" is not misplaced as a lot of people waste their lives going to different militias and there is constant strife between the kingdoms. Capitoleum, the largest city on the continent is located here which adds to the power struggle, and hundreds of interest factions vye for power. The most prominent ones are the main Houses, The Sickle (the mage guild), the Chamber of Commerce, the Shadow Chamber (thieve's guild etc), the Stripes (the Capitoleum milita) and many others. Also worth mentioning the Family Register, which keeps track of all noble families in the Realms. Over-all, money and power are things Midrealmers appreciate a lot, and if they don't have much of that they love a rowdy night out.
A few generations ago, Capitoleum and all the near-costal cities were known as the rape capital of the world, so the Court of Houses (a council of all Houses) started girl's schools around the realms to both educate but also teach self-defence. Girls still don't want to go out alone at night, but most residents are also too fond of their bollocks to try anything stupid nowadays. The Stripes may be quite corrupt in the less nicer parts of town, but even the most corrupt has absolutely no tolerance for assault on women. They have been known to beat suspected perpetrators to death in the harbour districts where a lot of southerners come and stay. Of course, this mentality can also be abused...
Over all, the legal system works pretty well for a mideival-style society.
Midrealmers look on themselves as the best people there are. A combination of culture, military prowess and drinking ability. Northerners look on to this opinion with a condescending smile as if saying "there, there, little brother".
Even more volotile than Midrealmers, the southerners seem to spend every waking moment shouting at each other, and it frequently gets violent over how burnt the toast is in the local pub. Their society is significantly more religious (with all gods) and breeds a heavy set of double standards as well as a society where women are not valued even near as much as men in practical terms while at the same time deifying women of their own kin. Southerners can get beaten to death in Midrealm cities even for lewd talk to a women, as there is plenty of intolerance there.
Though there are less armed conflicts, every day is more alive than in the Midrealms or Northrealms. Though loud the people are loving and friendly and besides some unwanted sexual advances, they are also some of the more romantic people around. The women are known for keeping on their honour and being wildcats if you do land one. The highly illegal brothels you find in their port districts (usually owned by local thieves' guilds) are talked about throughout the world.
Despite a hot temper, the Southrealmers are among the most open to other cultures. They have very little racism, though you shouldn't mention that you missed the church service two weeks ago! This doesn't stop North- and Midrealmers from strongly disliking them. Though some of their sailors are a little bit too happy to be with a woman regardless of what she wants, most of the men are more known for their ability to woe and catch their hearts as well as their underpants.
There are extremely few elves in the Midrealms, and though there are a few more in the Northrealms, most people have never seen one as they almost exclusively move in the higher echelons of society. The elves that do not either disguise themselves as humans or (in the few cases they can use magic) magically alter their appearance. Elves are a little taller than humans and with seemingly a frail shape, though they are actually far more flexible and dexterious than they seem. They love all things posh including fine dining and philosophical debates, and "frequently" visits human realms. Frequently means several times per century...
Cold and alluring, but sometimes just seen as cold, elves do have good hearts for the most part, but humans rarely get an insight into this unless they befriend one. They live in the northern tops of the Lofty Peaks in castles that look like icicles from afar. Made in pure marble, they are near to indisdinguishable from the rest of the surrounding nature. They enjoy 6 months a year of reliable snow and ice, and a brief but very enjoyable summer. It is known for some elves to meditate through an entire winter.
For humans, most don't like the idea of elves much. They are considered extremely snobby (wha's wrong wih' ma beer?!) and uncaring (as they have seen many important human conflicts and seemingly ignored them). Most elves you'd meet, if so lucky, will be elf nobles travelling for either business or for cultural exchange. Though it IS possible that the rowdiest person in a bar really was an elf enjoying his guilty pleasure of hanging out with the lower echelons of humanity...
Northrealmers have a slightly more positive view of elves, but regardless of what any commoner or noble would want to be friends with one or have one as a contact because of the prestige. Though some would say that is not true, it's true in 99% of the cases.
Seen as just other humans of a particular breed, simply shorter and stockier (but not as a midget!), dwarves are quite accepted in the human realms. There are plenty of fables and stories including dwarves as a mythical race, but since they can be found a little bit everywhere, it is thought these may simply be stories or stories about mighty anscestors of the dwarves. Most humans don't see anything strange about them.
Though they have a homeland, they never speak of it, and even human scholars don't know much about it. Rumour has it the homeland was destroyed in the Dragon Wars or simply full or something in between.
Dwarves like the Northrealmers in particular for many traits, but also Midrealmers a lot for their openness and rich lifestyle. They are happy to join in a pub brawl and are seldom the guys needing much medical attention when it's over.
They are known for their craftsmanship and the rumour even says they make magical items if you pay well enough. Though several inquries have been done by the Sickle, and no traces of magic have been found (according to Sickle reports, anyway) in their workshops, shops homes or on their persons. The Sickle takes any report of magic seriously.
The dwarves do like the southerners as well as a nice cultural exchange, but they are not too fond of the climate and are quite uncommon in the south. The ones you do find there are treated well and seem a little bit like 'freaks' by their kin.
Different people see halflings differently. Some are sickened by the thought that a person the size of a child is an adult and has adult interests (such as drinking and sex), others are fascinated by this idea (though they are in a minority (and I'm not talking about deviants)). Halfling culture is a transient one and they travel a lot, making great merchants as well as indulding in some types of crafts.
Unfortunately, they have gotten a reputation of stealing and general mischief in the Northrealms and Midrealms (and to a smaller extent in the Southrealms) and are often looked upon with a suspicious eye and a hand on your purse. This reputation is probably mostly wrong and because they sometimes travel with the Travellers.
Despite this, halflings often have little problem actually melding with human society if people let themselves get to know one. They have small cultural centres in most towns and if you have a back an neck that can withstand bending for a whole night (they build for their own sizes), awesome fun will be had in the halfling districts of the realms. Dwarves often end up friends with halflings for many reasons beyond height.
Anyone who is "a Wizard" (the general term by the populace) is feared by everyone else. Nobles have a well placed respect for Wizards and many Wizards have aspirations of power. The only reason the whole world is not taken over by these often quite corrupt individuals is that they are so few and far between that they can't muster that force, and when their spells run out, they are often weak bookworms with no combat ability whatsoever.
Instead, a lot of the influence they have comes from intrigue and manipulation. Magic items are exceedingly rare and costs the equivalence of hundreds of yearly salaries for common people. Nobody except nobles would spend the same amount of money on a sword as is the price for a decent apartment in Capitoleum.
The Sickle, which is the mage guild of all the Realms, has its seat in the Spire in Capitoleum (what's with Wizards and their love for towers, ey?). It's maintained by Wizards, where the highest circle are called the "Administrators". Their titles have created a problem with the rest of the city's administrations of different kinds as they do not want to be confused with wizards.
There is a rumoured "black faction" within the Sickle called the Scythe. No evidence has been provided for the existence of this faction and the truth is that the corruption of individual Wizards is often so great anyway so there seems to be no need for it. However, people do like to gossip, especially about Wizards. The rumour has it that some of them are unhappy with even being with humans so they summon demons and do dirty acts with, or sends up animals to their rooms and have their ways with them. They start this as Apprentices and that's why they never have children. Other rumours include these being surviving Warlocks from the Warlock Wars. Naturally, some believe ALL wizards are fornicating with demons, so rumours about the Scythe are silly by comparison.
Regardless of what you believe, the Sickle has a tight rein of magic users in the Realms, and have people in most cities looking out for magic users. Just as well because often parents are so afraid of their child, if they develop magic potential, they will turn their kids in themselves. When a Wizard returns to his home town, he has often changed massively, which is thought to be because the Sickle brainwashes young children with demonic magic to make them more like them.
That's better than hiding the child though, because there are lots of stories where that happened and the child charged up magic so much until she or he literally exploded and killed not only himself but his family and sometimes the neighbours as well.
Magic items are ironically highly sought after and a massive status symbol, but the people feel they have many reasons to report magic behaviour if they notice it.
The Court of Houses
The Court consists of all the Houses that have some sort of recognised standing in the Realms. The Court is the social hub where talks are made and treaties signed. Since it's located in Capitoleum, some houses are better placed than others from the start. The Court seldomly all agree on one course of action, and is seldom a major player in any political intrigue, though it's frequently USED in political intrigue.
The Court is also the juridical centre of the Realms. Many laws are agreed upon through the Court of Houses, and they are upheld through "lawyers" working in it.
The Court of Houses support the Stripes economically which in turn ensures road safety on the Coins. The in-group of Road Houses are in charge of this support, either by troops directly or by money. The troopse dispatched leave the ownership of the individual house and is administered directly from Capitoleum, so some houses prefer to just supply with monetary support. On the other hand, it is great to have loyal soldiers in the Stripes, so there is a mix. In all instances, the Road Houses agrees to let Stripes patrol their roads without being seen as an act of agression.
The five most powerful Houses in the Realms are members of the group called the Governors, which is the ruling body of Capitoleum and thus has a significant influence on all the Realms. Neither is strong enough to rule alone and the Governors are under constant pressure on both military and intrigue in order to stay in power. Considering they have to maneuver their own territories as well as their standing in court, these are some of the sharpest minds of humanity. The Houses of the Governor are: the Menthells, the Haldeans, the Artipellins, the Wynys and the Edmyrs.
Officially called the 'Capitoleum Milita', the Stripes are so called because their striped shoulderpads. They are generally well trained and of a decently low corruption level (though that depends on where you are in the capitol). They are also in charge of patrolling the Coins: the main trade highway roads. Most of the patrols are people from Capitoleum itself, but each House which has a stretch of the Coins under its control (a Road House) has a duty to supply men or monetary support for the local bits in order for the Stripes to be effective. Since the Stripes is limited in power, no current owner of trade highway is against this notion (). In order to facilitate neutral guardianship, soldiers from different houses are frequently placed in other kingdoms than their own.
In the view of the commoners, fhe Stripes can be seen as a helping hand or an oppressive facist force, depending on where you live. Almost everyone likes the Stripes that patrol the Coins, but many districts of Capitoleum has more corrupt guardmen, unfortunately.
There are rumours of a seat of power starting to develop in the command of the Stripes, but because of how the system is built, that is very unlikely.
The guild for guilds. The Chamber of Commerce is the biggest economical power in Capitoleum (and thus the Realms) after the Governors, and they also supply the Stripes with resources and sometimes men. The Chamber of Commerce includes the artisans of masons, thatchers, blacksmiths, shoemakers and just about any profession you can find. However, the organisations power ends by the walls of Capitoleum, which doesn't stop the officials trying to spread this influence to every town in the Realms. This in turn is often not very popular with local guilds, as they see an oppressive force and a second "tax" hole rather than protection and cooperation. Local lords are also unhappy with the idea of another source of power near them, so they do what they can to empower this sort of qualms among craftsmen, or outlaw it all together.
If you are a member you have a lot of perks for it, but there are rules on how many members each guild can have and all members pay in to the Chamber. The craftsmen who are not in a guild are ofen pushed out to less profitable areas, or outright bad ones.
People of Capitoleum know a lot more about the Shadow Chamber than they let on. Most people know a representative, or at least "know of" one. This thieves' guild was originally so called as a joke on the Chamber of Commerce, and originally was just a 'clan' of criminals, but it's now it has out-competed all other "shady" guilds and is an all-inclusive enclave of everything that the Stripes do not like. Not to say that individual stripes don't enjoy a lot of the services offered in the shade, but officially they don't.
The Shadow Chamber includes the Thieves' Guild, the Assassin's Guild, the Beggar's Guild and many others. It's almost impossible to have a career in Capitoleum as a pickpocket without paying your dues to the Thieves' Duild, and adhere to its strict rules. Trust the administrative culture to turn thieving into a honest 8-5 profession...
These people work in symbiosis with the Stripes in many parts of town. In some parts there are hardly a single Stripe, and there the Shadow Chamber makes sure that the populace isn't too taxed by theft and make sure that nobody dies that had not a large (enough) sum on his head first.
Among the guilds that makes up the Shadow Chamber, the Thieves' Guild is by far the most important and the Shadow Council is often synonymous with the Thieve's Guild. Though they don't themselves do forgeries, the Thieves' Guild has influence is most other shady guilds. Nobody messes with the Assassins though (the only reason they are part of the Shadow Chamber is because they are so few that it's beneficial to outsource the administration).
Any Stripes commander who tried to significantly alter the arrangement with the Shadow Chamber have turned up dying from some freak accident, so not much has changed in the last 20 years.
The Family Register
The Register has a lot of power as it has the authority to list and cataloging all Houses' major actions and family lines. Its employees are called Adepts. Though they have not much of a lust for power other than what corrupt individuals inside the Register might have, they are important and part of the foundation of this society. They have chapters in any major castle city and town with copies of the most prominent books available as well as some originals (though most originals are in Capitoleum).
Many a career in politics started in the Register, and some Wizards even have positions there out of interest (or search for power). The fact that some Adepts within the Register are Wizards is of great pride to the Register. Adepts are among few people in the city that are not afraid of magic wielders.
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