"The human spirit may be warped and bent, but it will never be broken." -Leopold
Titled Ruler: Avvar King
Governance: Hereditary Monarchy
Law: Warrior Code
Economy: Professional Army
Common Folk: Humans
Mortals interested in commerce are attracted to Avathar, which makes for an interesting mix of occupations and races in the kingdom. Avathar has numerous towns in which order is maintained by the Church of Torm and their representatives. It has busy trade routes with caravans of merchants and townsfolk milling between the cities. And it has the ever-present Nebelgast, the so-called 'Breath of the Sleepless,' that rolls in and out with the tide, bringing with it a host of spirits.
In Avathar, blood mages and necromancers alike can find out-of-the-way places in which to practice and further their art with little or no interference from suspicious townsfolk or Church authority. Both must remain highly secretive, as their trade is still feared within the general human populace, but the vampires and Avathar's merchants see money to be made, so their arcane trinkets and dark services are tolerated as long as they remain only rumors at the local taverns. The merchants, known as the metzalar, are the glue that binds Avathar together. They keep every separate party joined together by the exchange of goods and services and, of course, coin.
Avathar has always been lightly forested, but in the last century its few trees have been cut down or destroyed due to the vampires' fear of them being turned on them as stakes and other weapons. Early on, using their sizeable fortunes, they turned the human populace into artisans, supporting their efforts in building fine cities, proud ships, and a vigorous, provincial commerce—all based around wood. Prosperous and plentiful humans are good business for the vampires, so they became the secret Avvar patrons, supporting master craftsmen and commissioning buildings, towers, and ships, while funding any vampire-friendly efforts by artificers and wizards. Out of this, Avathar has become widely known for its masterful crafting and artistry with wood. Avvar buildings, ships, chapels, and houses all bear a distinct and inspired art that sets it apart from the other kingdoms.
This kingdom is defined by water—by its access to the ocean, the easiest of any kingdom, by its many rivers that lead deep inland, and by its deltas, marshes, and lakes. Water enables commerce here but also gives Avathar a silvery, mystical character; the clouds and the moon seem to be both above and below in most places.
Avathar's coastline consists of the Silver Beach, which stretches countless miles, interrupted by rocks, sea caves, and occasional large promontories. The sands of the beach are rich in granular silver, giving them an unearthly shimmer that dazzles visitors from other provinces. This is no vacation spot, however. Threats are far too numerous, and the ocean too dangerous, to invite beachcombers. Only experienced Avvar sailors know the spells and the land well enough to venture out into the sea and return with fish, trade goods, or treasure.
Avathar has three main port towns along the coast: Havengul, Drunau, and Selhoff. The largest of the three cities, Havengul, stands at the mouth of the Silburlind River. The population consists of human craftworkers, shipbuilders, smiths, and traders. The Church of Torm has a strong presence here to take part in the burgeoning trade and marketplace, but many Avvar are wary of the priesthood and watch them like hawks. As long as the church brings trade to and from Paliano, they are given a pass from the key players in Avathar.
A contingent of the Church of Torm long ago established a small fort here known as the Elgaud Grounds where new Knights of the Chalice are trained to spread the word of Torm and protect the people. Once trained, these knights are sent out in small groups of two or three to neighboring towns to establish an outpost. They attempt to strengthen trust in the Church under the offer of protection and security. Many townsfolk are wary or outright untrusting of these knights and would rather protect themselves with their own blood, sweat, traditional folklore, and superstitions.
Even with the presence of the Knights of the Chalice, there is money to be made in corpses. Havengul, having the largest human population, is rife with bodysnatchers who disinter corpses and then shuttle them off using the network of underground passageways, known as the Erdwal, for high-paying blood mages or necromancers. Drunau is where the vampires have established their ancestral manor and their center of commerce outside of Istan. If it is blood you want, Drunau is the place to get it. Humans who possess especially delicious blood are treated like the most precious livestock, knowing a life of pampered bondage but being protected from all the other dangers of the Mortal Realm. All this takes place within the elegant ballrooms and mahogany studies of Drunau manors.
In Avathar, when vampires must walk among humans, they use illusions to disguise themselves so as not to drive away their human neighbors. Occasionally, a newly sired vampire leaves the family fold of civilized decorum and goes on a blood-soaked frenzy of feeding. Often the vampires deal with this as swiftly and as quietly as possible, especially if the vampire is a rogue from outside of the bloodline.
The Fauchard are not Knights of the Chalice, but are a distinct order of human vampire hunters. Some have come to Drunau especially to destroy the undead and possibly sever the bloodline. They are a secretive group that recognizes one another through an elaborate, symbolic code, either worn, written, or gestured. The vampires know of them and tolerate them to some degree, as the Fauchard can be manipulated into resolving disputes between bloodlines. That said, the vampires will relentlessly pursue and destroy any Fauchard who becomes known to them. The metzalar here deal in the usual fare of ships, handcrafted goods, wares from other kingdoms, such as holy symbols and weapons. The foggy, quiet port of Selhoff is where the Nebelgast, the spirit-mist, is most active. The mist almost perpetually covers the town and the nearby Morkrut Swamp. Because of the spirit activity here, it has repelled some humans, but it has attracted others—namely the blood mages and necromancers who experiment with spirit energy. The elite of Selhoff dwell within towers and spires that set this town apart from others of Avathar, which is why the phrase 'the spires of Selhoff' is often used when Avvar talk of their southernmost town.
Here in Selhoff and all along the Avvar coastline, spirits come and go with the tide, but that isn't to say that when the tide is out, spirits are absent—there are just far fewer. Because the tide is connected to the moon, the pull of the moon brings the spirits into the world of the living to haunt. The Nebelgast consists mainly of the marei, drowned sailors and shipwreck victims, and the niblis, frost phantoms, but there are a host of other spirits that are pulled by the moon.
Selhoff lies on a small river delta where the river Ospid empties out into the Bay of Vustrow. This creates a sizeable marsh known as the Morkrut. Few set foot within the Morkrut other than necromancers, and even they can become lost in its mists. The Morkrut has been a dumping place for murder victims and unclaimed bodies for which no one will pay for proper burial. Because of this, the Morkrut is filled with vengeful undead.
Colloquially known as 'The Ditch,' the network of underground passageways and crevasses called the Erdwal originated as trenches created by Avvar in each of the major cities of Havengul, Drunau, and Selhoff for resisting undead and werewolf attacks. Over the years, the trenches between the three cities were connected into a network of defensible walkways for transporting goods and continuing trade even while wandering zombie hordes, infernal fiends, or hungry spirits wander about looking for victims. Major merchants of Avathar have paid special attention to the uses of the Erdwal and have put serious resources into making it a legitimate artery of trade, thus it has developed a bustling underground economy of its own dealing in all manner of grey- and black-market goods: human blood, assassinations, counterfeit silver, necromancy, curses, and bloodsport.
Near the larger towns, the Erdwal becomes a trench marketplace of colorful rogues, seedy merchants, filthy sailors and gaunt strangers, all doing business in dark alleyways and roughly hewn tunnels branching off the main trench. Along the clandestine nooks, the blood mages and necromancers ply their trade and human blood is bought and sold by the flagon. Abominations are created and experiments in transmuting base metals into pure silver are carried out. Blood mages stitch together hideous monstrosities, some of which get loose and cause havoc throughout the Ditch. As long as these dark dealings do not make it above ground level, the Church of Torm and its Knights of the Chalice do not intervene. Avathar is a province of 'understandings,' and this is one of those uneasy truces that, if maintained, benefits all parties concerned.