Salt, Gold, Steel and Ghosts (Spellbound Kingdoms)
King: Lucius (I), House Anfield
Doom: 5 (3 in Rithaign, 6 in East Fire, 9 in Hessek)
Economy: In the East, strong textile and smithing (-1 wealth level to fashion and armor, though not weapons due to various kingsmen machinations and regulations). In the West, poor (+1 wealth level to all items).
Spellbound density: 4 countryside, 6 town, 7-15 city.
- Royal: Beauty is fleeting, shallow, cheap, and hateful. Anyone with an Inspiration valuing beauty or art has his maximum Mood lowered by 1 while in the kingdom.
- Royal: Beauty, especially in art, is the highest, most noble pursuit possible in this life. Anyone who does not have a skill valuing beauty or art has his Mood lowered by 1 while in the kingdom. (Yes, the two royal culture lines are selfcontradictory. Lucius has intentionally established a culture that drives people to practice skills in which they find no Inspiration, probably because he is mad, sadistic, or both.
Military: There are eight duchies, five of which field a WL 19 army and a WL 16 navy. There is also a royal army and navy, each WL 20. The remaining three duchies in the western hinterlands are impoverished and field WL 10 armies.
Symbol: Fragments of a stained glass rose
Ceremony: Petals and wine
Akra is one of the most powerful kingdoms in the Claw. Only Marnh, Azenahal, and perhaps Thyre rival it. Lucius I has ruled with an army of kingsmen and the Dryght, his school of wizards, since the Age of Cartonnage. For the last five hundred years, he has been sealed in an ornate box pulsing with the spells that sustain him. The box is a wicked sieve, trapping life but straining out all vigor. Lucius speaks through a gilded grating in a hoarse whisper and cannot, most think, ever again leave his hermitage. The box, bejeweled and elaborately re-decorated on the occasion of the new year, recalls the Age of Cartonnage, especially when Lucius, inside, levitates across his throne room to blast a petitioner into smoking black paste. Physically and geographically, the kingdom has many blessings. The deep harbor in Rithaign on the most important body of water in the word; an easily defended capital atop a tepui; the Harvest road and the Grand Hilt Bay for trade with the north; the Two Kings’ Road for trade with Marnh to the south; and badlands and forests in the west and south that conceal entire villages that are little more than experimental laboratories for the Dryght.
Surveillance. Akra has a two-tiered surveillance organization. The first tier is overt. Actively so, it attempts to be one of the most obvious displays of royal power in the Claw. Uniformed kingsmen march regular routes along city streets and all along country roads. Zeppelins bristling with archers patrol the city skies. Dryght Listeners to the Language of Stars make a spectacle of themselves in villages, riding in and casting Seek Spellbound in the village square. The second tier is covert. It consists of rogues and wizards specializing in Battlecraft and Language of Stars. These people go to great lengths to remain undetected, and some may go for years undercover before taking any action on behalf of the Dryght or the king.
The Dryght. Wizards from the king’s personal school constantly pry into the minds of randomly abducted peasants to intimidate, enthrall, or torture them. Often the wizards are seeking no particular information, but they are happy to act on anything incriminating. Dream projectors have been very helpful in the Dryght’s interrogations. The archmage of the order is Isabella Raixe. She sets a cruel standard of behavior for the order. Many Dryght work covertly, but many also work openly. These obvious Dryght wizards and witches take a haughty pride in flaunting their identity and status while dressed in gold robes, usually with intricate headdresses that trail off down the back into strings of charms.
School and family. Family life in Akra revolves around work. Education is compulsory for children until the age of twelve, though many try to escape it either because they need to help at home or because their families cannot bear to see the love and hope beaten out of them. That is the goal of the schools: to train the students in restraint, to teach them the dangers of magic and love. Whippings, holiday mutilations, and perhaps one mortality per term, often at the hands of the kingsmen or the Dryght, are normal in an Akran school.
Beauty. Akrans fancy themselves the arbiters of beauty for the entire Claw, yet it is considered silly, wrong, and sometimes downright evil to actually feel inspired by Beauty. How can one find meaning in beauty, when there is so much misery in the world? Yet the galleris, most underground, do great business, and the noble whose house is not filled with beautiful objects is considered, at best, a war ape who has learned to not make messes in the house.
Fashion. The fashion of Akra, and especially Rithaign, is elaborate. Tri-corner hats, perukes, velvet brocade breeches with ruffled tails borne up by butlers, manticore wing-bone corsets and basques as outerwear, and satin gowns with a twenty-five foot circumference (and what may seem an equal measure of decolletage) are the norm. Pineapple snuff from Queensport and sun plate from Jakatta are also on trend (1 higher quality than normal for all these items while the trend lasts).
Akra has eight duchies, including the relatively newly conquered city of East Fire across the Grand Hilt Bay.
Hessek is the capital city of Akra, situated on a highly defensible mesa in the scrublands of northwestern Akra. Hessek Duchy has very poor arable land, consisting mostly of dry flatlands and rocky mesas. Hessek itself is the most populous city in Akra and so the trade roads of the duchy are constantly bustling with caravans bringing vast quantities of food to keep the city alive. King Lucius has spent a milennium and a half twisting the environment to his ends and the city itself is a vast, walled edifice bristling with watchtowers and battlements. Scholars mutter to each other that the geography of the area seems unnatural and indeed there are many convenient outcrops of rock around the city that the Crown has built fortresses and redoubts into. Few places in the Old Claw have a Doom higher than Hessek – troops of Dryght, white-masked Kingsmen and soldiers patrol the streets day and night, and House Anfield’s personal guard crush any opposition to the crown. King Lucius’ palace sits in the centre of the city, towering over the surroundings.