Enteria

Map of Enteria

Capitol: Entera

Population: 4,000,000 (48% humans, 10% half-elves, 10% halflings, 10% gnomes, 8% dwarves, 7% elves, 5% half-orcs, 2% other)

Exports: Alchemical goods, drugs, dyes, magical items, spices, wood

Imports: Manufactured goods, grain, slaves

Languages: Common, Elven, Halfling, Gnome

The Kingdom of Enteria is a bizarre amalgam of theocracy and monarchy, carved out of the Aureshan Empire 1,000 years ago by the House of the River, an ancient family of half-elves that rose from human-elf intermarriage during the conquests of Terel. Ruthless, ambitious and depraved, the scions of the House of the River have passed a millennium—ten half-elf generations—lording it over the equally ruthless and ambitious nobility of their kingdom. Preceding generations of the royal family serve as guardians and advisors in the palace, visiting their living descendants as apparitions and in dreams to provide counsel. This involvement of the dead in the affairs of the living has led to remarkable stability in Enterian policy over the lifetime of the kingdom, but the resulting lack of flexibility has also exacted its toll: innovation is not a hallmark of the national character, and Enteria is now something of a backwater, an ultra-conservative agrarian enclave under the rule of despotic, inbred aristocrats who consider themselves gods on earth compared to their subjects. It continues to hold its independence from the Aureshan Empire and its neighbors in the Federated River Kingdoms and the Estan Oligarchy because its borders are protected by the tallest mountains of the world, the Weldomak range, with only a few passes to permit land travel, and because the Enterian coast is largely enclosed by barrier reefs that make navigation a deadly peril for invasion fleets.

Inside the nation, the royal predilection for sibling marriages preserved the purity of the House of the River’s bloodline, but has led the great houses of nobility to imitate their example. The results are plagued by hereditary illness, both bodily and mental, and sometimes by stillbirths and deformities. Some noble houses have died out entirely as their members have rendered themselves unable to give birth to viable offspring; others have disappeared as a result of reduced fertility that left them unable to replenish their losses from the endless feuds and intrigues that fill their days. The House of the River has remained vigorous despite its rigorous endogamy; the noble houses under its rule have typically accepted intermarriage as the price to pay for their continued existence.

Protocol in Enteria

The aristocrats of Enteria place great importance on etiquette and fashion, most especially in their dealings with one another and with the nobility of other nations. The complex, ever shifting nature of court manners and fads stems from their continual attempts to display not only their power and refinement, but to trip up their rivals and expose them to ridicule. The entire system is a game to the nobility of this depraved nation, but it is a game that is played in deadly earnest.

Player Characters who either rise to prominence within Enteran society or who venture into Enteria with pre-existing status as foreign aristocrats or nobles are, whether they like it or not, expected to play the game like everyone else. Participation in court life can be a dangerous experience for the unprepared and unwary; even an apparently minor lapse, such as the failure to use the correct title to address a nobleman or noblewoman, can be interpreted as an insult and used as the pretext for a duel. Other mistakes are less likely to prove unhealthy. For example, unsightly table manners will, at worst, arouse ridicule and mark the PC as a jumped-up commoner, and someone who doesn't know the latest dance or card game is merely a something of a bore. It isn't the best impression to make, but it is unlikely to get anyone stabbed to death.

In general, the goal for outsiders dealing with the aristocracy in Enteria is to avoid giving the impression of disrespect. Using the proper title is a good start toward that goal, as is offering the correct social precedence to a given noble.

The Aristocratic Hierarchy

Enteran nobles recognize a strict order of precedence at court. Title to hereditary rank is the primary means by which precedence is determined; higher-ranking nobles are introduced before lower-ranking ones, are served first when dining together, and so forth. Membership in the nobility does not necessarily confer hereditary rank.

For example, say that a duke has a younger brother, as well as two sons, none of whom hold titles of their own. All three still are noblemen. The duke's rank gives him precedence in this family unit; after him comes his heir, and after the heir comes his brother, and then the younger son.

The matter of precedence becomes more complicated if an unrelated marquess is introduced to the gathering. The duke takes precedence over the marquess, who takes precedence over the duke's heir, who takes precedence over the duke's brother, who takes precedence over the duke's second son.

Precedence could become much more complicated if, for example, the duke's brother held a title on his own merits, or if the duke were simultaneously a count.

The ranks of aristocracy in the Kingdom of Enteria are, in order of highest precedence to least:

Duke: Of the hereditary ranks of the Enteran nobility, dukes are the highest-ranking. They cede precedence only to the God-King and God-Queen, and to the appointed ministers of these sovereigns. Dukes often command sizable territories in the kingdom, with commensurately large armies that bear them personal allegiance. A female duke, or the wife of a duke, is a duchess. The lands entailed in the title of duke are a duchy. Dukes and duchesses are addressed as "Your Grace."

Marquess: Ranking below dukes, marquesses are high noblemen, traditionally holding title to lands near the borders of Enteria, which they are charged to defend against invasion. Like dukes, their lands usually are expansive, and in wartime their feudal retinues usually are quite large. A female marquess, or the wife of a marquess is a marchioness, and the lands entailed to the title of marquess are called a march. Marquesses and marchionesses are addressed as, "My Lord" or "Your Lordship," or "Your Ladyship" respectively.

Count: Holders of the title of count are middle-ranked noblemen. Unlike the higher ranks of duke and marquess, the rank of count does not necessarily carry an entailed estate (a county, in this case) with it, although it can. Landless counts usually are created by the God-King and God-Queen to reward good service by elevating a commoner to the nobility. In these cases, it is customer for the title to be associated to a stipend. Landed counts are similar to marquesses and dukes, excepting that their estates and armies are smaller. A female count is a countess, as is the wife of a count. Counts and countesses are addressed as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship," and "Your Ladyship."

Viscount: A step behind a count in the order of precedence is the viscount. Like a count, a holder of this rank may or may not gain an entailed estate with his title, because it is frequently used by Enteria's sovereigns as a means of ennobling meritorious commoners. When the title includes entailed lands, they are called a viscounty. The usual pattern applies in that any lands, income and military forces associated with this title can be expected to be less than those of a higher rank. A viscountess is a female viscount or the wife of a viscount. Viscounts and viscountesses are addressed as, "My Lord" or "Your Lordship," and "Your Ladyship."

Baron: The hereditary rank of baron is the lowest rank of the nobility proper. Like viscounts and counts, barons may be created as landless, stipended titles rather than as entailed titles. A landed baron's estate is called a barony, and a female baron is a baroness. Barons and Baronesses are addressed as, "My Lord" or "Your Lordship," and "Your Ladyship."

Baronet: Although they are considered members of the aristocracy,  and although the title is hereditary, baronets are not nobles. As with the titles of nobility discussed above, the title of baronet may be created as a stipended title rather than an entailed title. In either case, a female baronet is a baronetess. The wife of a baronet is not a baronetess, and is merely referred to as a lady. Baronets are addressed as "Sir," and baronetesses are addressed as "Dame." Entailed lands associated with the title of baronet are a baronetcy.

Knight: The honor of knighthood is similar to a baronetcy in that it does not confer nobility. It never carries an estate with it, and it differs further from a baronetcy in that a knighthood is not hereditary. Knights are the very lowest degree of aristocrat in the kingdom of Enteria. Male knights are addressed as "Sir." Lady knights are addressed as "Dame." The title confers no special order of address or distinction upon a spouse.

Complicating matters still further, it is possible for high nobility, like marquesses and dukes, to attract vassals of their own by alienating portions of their estate holdings to lesser nobles. For example, Marchioness of Zeno Belda Grimilion has created several baronetcies to reward her most accomplished military advisors. In theory, any nobleman has the ability to subinfeudinate vassals from his own fiefdom. But in practice, only the greatest nobles have the resources to create attractive fiefdoms for their vassals without compromising their ability to meet their feudal obligations to the House of the River.

In theory, the crown of Enteria or the tenant-in-chief who grants a title and estate may revoke said grant, reverting an estate back to his own possession instead of allowing it to pass on to the holder's heir, and may even strip a tenant of his titles and estates entirely. In practice, it often is politically infeasible even in cases of treason. It is almost always more expedient for a feudal lord to execute a traitor than to strip him of his lands and status as nobility, because the latter course suggests to other vassals that their heirs might also be similarly disenfranchised.

It is also important to note that, although vassalage creates a close bond between the grantor of a fief and his tenant, all feudal tenants in Enteria also swear personal fealty to the monarchs.

The shrinkage of the kingdom’s hereditary aristocracy has given rise a growing power vacuum, encouraging miscreants of all kinds to move into the largely unpoliced areas that once belonged to the defunct noble houses. The seclusion offered by Enteria’s dense rainforests was attractive not only to bandits and cultists, but also to mages who wished to conduct experiments that would not have been countenanced even in the permissive, amoral society of the houses. These and other villains petty and not-so-petty, lurk in the ruined manor houses of the vanished gentry.

As capricious, cruel and wicked as many of the nobility could be, the isolated commoners of the kingdom were easy prey for the renegade sorcerers and wizards. Without the protection of their vanished overlords, entire villages could disappear, taken as subjects for their new neighbors’ horrific research. Those villagers who were unfortunate enough to survive now live on as aberrations or sentient undead; the least fortunate of all breed true as new species or go on to spawn more of their kind.

The humanoid inhabitants of defunct houses’ territories are not the only victims of these experiments; the fauna of these regions were subject to similar outrages, and at least one new species of magic-infused plant—the bleak banyan tree—also festers in the rainforest. With the advent of this species, the course of Enterian history was altered forever. Brewing a heady, addictive wine from the fruit of the bleak banyans, the necromancers of the Enterian hinterlands slowly banded together into cartels, transforming local peasants into zombies and using them as labor to cultivate plantations and operate wineries.

Almost immediately after the results of the necromancers’ efforts were exported to other nations for sale, bleak banyan wine was outlawed in those nations. These measures have done little to quell the demand for the potent potable, and it is still smuggled throughout the world to the enormous profit of the necromancers. They have used their new wealth to establish themselves as rivals to the aristocrats of the old guard.

The use of corporeal undead, raised from the unwilling ranks of the peasantry of their nation, inspires dread in the ancient noble houses, all of whom share the royal family’s reliance on the counsels of bygone ancestors’ ghosts. To the upper crust of Enterian society, there is nothing more offensive than the notion of being deprived of one’s opportunity to join the ranks of one’s progenitors.

Nevertheless, the necromancers have met with a warmer reception than might be suggested by the opprobrium with which their business practices are viewed. Money and power can buy forgiveness for a multitude of sins, and the luminaries of the bleak banyan trade have begun to intermarry with the lesser nobility. The greatest of the noble houses, including the House of the River, can afford to sneer. But outside observers, as well as those whose lesser wealth, prestige and military prowess makes them feel vulnerable before the darkling affluence of this emergent middle class, are deeply unsettled.

Commoners in the Kingdom of Enteria live a precarious, fearful existence. Skilled tradesmen are rare, and the value of their skills shields them from the worst depredations of aristocrat and cartelist alike. Farmers and herdsmen toil endlessly, turning over the bulk of their produce and livestock for the use of the nobility in exchange for the dubious protection they offer from the necromancers. Warriors are best-off of all the lower orders, since they can be assured of a steady supply of food at their lords’ hands. For the professional military who attend the households of the great and powerful, death is still an ever-present threat, but it is, at least, likely to come hard upon the edge of a blade or the point of a spear or arrow instead of by famine, illness, or at the claws of some beast from the darkness of a rainforest or a necromancer’s laboratory.

Culture

The Kingdom of Enteria is rich in natural resources, but its ruling class’s lack of interest in developing the means to exploit them has held it back from prominence as a great exporter of either raw materials or finished goods. Instead of making a concerted effort to enrich the entire nation, the fractious nobility of the kingdom spend their energy jockeying for advantage against each other.

Enterian nobles enjoy luxury, and this is enough to ensure that the most accessible resources of the kingdom do furnish a steady income of trade money; spices, wood, and vivid dyes are wrested from the forests at their command, and in return the great and powerful of the kingdom clothe themselves in silks and velvets. The overwhelming density of the forests prevents large-scale agriculture, and much of the nation’s food supply is imported in the form of grain—wheat bread is a luxury item reserved for the tables of the gentry. Peasants consider themselves lucky to augment the output of their kitchen gardens with a bowl of millet gruel.

Most aristocrats think of commoners, if they think of them at all, as property to be used or discarded at will. Benevolent overlords are the exception, not the rule in Enteria, and as a result there is considerable ill-feeling directed from the lower classes to their masters. Uprisings would result if the common folk were allowed to retain enough food, money or weapons to make them a real threat against the warriors of the noble households, but their poverty and the expectation of horrific reprisals for the merest hint of rebellion cow them into submission.

For those who make the effort to get past the façade of servile obedience to their overlords, the peasants of Enteria are cautious but warm-hearted people. Centuries of abuse at the hands of the gentry and (more recently) predation by creatures of the rainforests have made them fatalistic, and in a time of danger they are unlikely to intervene on behalf of anyone but a close friend or family member . . . . But they are hospitable and generous to strangers who speak politely and offer them no threats.

The third major social grouping in the Kingdom of Enteria, the bleak banyan cartelists, are secretive and dangerous, lacking even the nobility’s haphazard respect for the sanctity of life. The most powerful members of the bleak banyan cartels are wealthy enough to act as laws unto themselves, trusting in their hired guards, fortified residential compounds, and the might of their necromantic studies to protect them from all comers, up to and including the House of the River itself. The methods by which the cartels amass their profits induce the cartel bosses to heights of cruelty and excess limited only by their hunger for more money and power.

Despite their rapacity and decadence, the cartels offer the only path to a life free from the influence of the nobility and royalty of Enteria, attracting ambitious peasants willing to gamble their lives for the prospect of autonomy. The most cunning, skilled and lucky of these underlings rise to power as cartel leaders, often standing on the corpses of their masters; the majority falls prey to the endless dangers of a life of crime or the study of dark magic.

Political Life

The House of the River is the source of law in the Kingdom of Enteria, granting titles and lands in exchange for the all-too-grudging fealty of the noble houses. In turn, the nobles dispense a rough, imperfect justice to their subjects, protecting them from outside threats in order to project a façade of power and wealth to other houses. Those who fail to address an attack on their peasants or lands risk being judged weak, and pulled down by their neighbors.

Most peasant villages have a council of elders, who elect a headman or headwoman to speak for the community before their overlords. The village heads lack authority to make anything happen, but their concerns are generally heard by the aristocrats’ administrators, who rely on them for news of monster attacks, raids by bandits or rival houses, and outbreaks of disease or crop blight.

The bleak banyan cartels have no official voice in national politics, but the wealthiest cartel members have begun to parley their riches into marriages that give them entrance to the least powerful noble houses. These socially mobile cartelists exert subtle influence over policy by bribing officials and aristocrats, either with money or with wine and other goods, selectively underwriting projects to expand and improve the Kingdom of Enteria’s infrastructure. A substantial portion of their money, favors, and patronage also goes to “reform” standing edicts that govern the use of magic, especially necromancy and transmutation, with an eye to legalizing the use of mindless undead for both labor and warfare.

Power Centers

The House of the River: The royalty of Enteria consists of the king and queen, Teoric IV and Teodora IV, and their aunts, uncles, unmarried siblings, nieces and nephews. Because of the habit of sibling marriage between its scions, the House of the River is small, numbering only about a dozen nobles of the royal blood. The small size of the royal family belies its power in more ways than one, however: a strong talent for magic runs in the House of the River, coupled with martial talents of no small extent. The combination of magical and military power has been and remains a major component in the stability of the kingdom’s royal dynasty. Because their word is law, the power of the House of the River is limited only by the royals’ ability to convince or force the aristocracy to obey them.

The Noble Houses: Unsurprisingly, the power of the noble houses is limited only by their ability to resist the royal family’s control—and their ability to fend off the depredations of rival houses. There are dozens of noble houses, with varying degrees of prestige and power. Relations between them are a constantly shifting morass of alliances, feuds, intrigues and betrayals, complicated by intermarriage and fosterage. One of the great prizes in Enteria’s game of houses is the possibility of forcing intermarriage from the House of the River into one’s own lineage. Such an event could open the path for a war of succession by spreading the blood royal into the general population of aristocrats.

The Bleak Cartel: The largest and most powerful of the cartels controlling Enteria’s supply of bleak banyan wine, the Bleak Cartel, lacks a voice in the political life of the kingdom. It makes up for its lack of political clout through a combination of wealth, indirect influence, and the threat posed by the many zombies that make up the bulk of its complement of laborers. The same is true to a lesser degree for other cartels. At the moment, the cartel’s leadership would prefer to avoid a confrontation with the military power of the royal house and the nobility, but the outcome of a full-blown war with the Enterian crown and its feudal lords would be at least as costly for the gentry as it would for the cartelists. Instead, the Bleak Cartel maneuvers subtly to increase its wealth and social acceptability, putting noble houses in its debt to amass indirect political power.

 

Principal Cities

Entera (Large City, population 21,654): Entera squats on the bank of the river Alrine, amid the damp rainforests of Enteria. It is a city of contrasts; the opulence of the Alrinecast Palace and the nearby walled precinct, known locally as the Alt, is crammed cheek-by-jowl against shanty towns and slums where squalor and disease run unchecked. Merchants, beggars, pickpockets, soldiers and travelers rub shoulders in the gloom of the city’s narrow, crooked streets, hurrying about their business at all hours of the day and night. The only clear space in the press floats around visiting nobles and officials, crime lords, and the wealthiest merchants and courtesans, usually enforced by the cudgels and fists of these worthies’ bodyguards.

Quar (Small Town, population 1,563): An overgrown village situated to supply the garrison of Enteria’s Kusar Citadel on the kingdom’s border with the Federated River Kingdoms, Quar is enormous by Enterian standards. Its overlord, Orosius of House Danemar, is one of a bare handful of dwarves with noble standing in the kingdom. He is an effective, if ruthless administrator, collecting tariffs and taxes with unusual efficiency and without the Enterian nobility’s normal reliance on his retainers to insulate them from reality. As a result, House Danemar is very wealthy.

Zeno (Small Town, population 1,947): The town of Zeno is the second-largest settlement in the Kingdom of Enteria, and the seat of power for House Grimilon, a family of human aristocrats that has remained in alliance with the House of the River since nearly the founding of the kingdom. It exists primarily to serve the Alrinegard citadel, one of the lynchpins of the kingdom’s defense against foreign invasion, but its shipyards provide a majority of the kingdom’s river-borne vessels.

Adventurers in the Kingdom of Enteria

Adventurers find a good deal to keep them occupied in the region. The temperate rainforests of the kingdom are home to a variety of exotic plants and wildlife, both natural and the results of necromantic experimentation and transmutations gone awry. There is money to be made hunting them in the pay of the aristocracy. Alchemists and mages elsewhere in Tolrea may also have uses for samples from the flora and fauna of the region.

Adventuring parties with a humanitarian bent will find a compelling mission in the suffering of the kingdom’s peasantry. The proliferation of undead, the invasive spread of the bleak banyan tree, and the oppressive rule of the nobility and the cartels all rack the common folk with suffering. Do-gooders in search of a cause to champion and wrongs to right will not have to spend long searching, here, and those who meet with even modest success are assured of a warm welcome among the downtrodden masses.

Parties with an interest in the natural world and its health or in the impacts of mortal activity upon the denizens of the Spirit World are likely to feel compelled to oppose the cartels. Acting against the bleak banyan planters is dangerous, but some diplomacy could secure an alliance between a party featuring druids, rangers, barbarians and the local aristocrats. The monstrous progeny of transmutation by other dark mages in the interior also are a threat to the ecology of the region and might prompt a similar alliance of circumstance.

Still other characters might stumble on the adventurer’s path by getting entangled in the schemes of aristocratic intrigue, accidentally disrupting a plot by one noble house against another. Some of the houses make use of foreign mercenaries when the loyalties of native troops are uncertain, providing the DM with an easy way to pull adventurers into Enteria from other lands. Those who heed the call of the upper classes’ wealth and power usually do not have great concern for the peasantry, and rival adventurers could be a major source of opposition if they are willing to obey the cruelest of the nobles’ orders.

Unprincipled or evil parties will find much to recommend them to involvement with the cartels as enforcers and troubleshooters. The bleak banyan cartels include membership from all corners of the world, and some of the luminaries of the industry started as lowly couriers in such far-flung places as the streets of the independent city-state of Port Hope and the farmlands of Adrag Province in the Empire. With the right mix of ruthlessness, cunning, and business sense, gutter scum can come to the sodden forests of Enteria and amass wealth and power to rival princes.

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