The King is Dead: This Grim, Unpleasant Land Part 2


Sownfield Palace -- the residence of King Wilhelm the Everlasting, vampire monarch of Malleus – sits just outside Hammerstadt.  The king’s body has been changing over the last two hundred years -- he has lost all his hair, his eyes have sunken while his talons have grown, and the smell of putrescence clings to him – and so ashamed he ordered the construction of a new court removed from the prying eyes of mortals.  The innocent-sounding name is in fact a grim reference to the six hundred and sixty-six prisoners who were offered as human sacrifice to Sathaniel for the king‘s protection and were buried beneath the foundations and lush gardens of the palace when construction began last century.  Sownfield Palace has no indoor plumbing.

North of Hammerstadt sits the ominous edifice of the Steinheng, a prehistoric circle of standing stones whose origins have been lost to the ages.  There has been a great deal of interest in the ancient Kimmerian ancestors of the Malleans in recent times – due in no small part to the recent discovery and publication of the poems of the Kimmerian bard Osean – and certain mystically-inclined supporters of the Glorious Revolt wonder whether Steinheng’s mystic powers could be used against the vampires. 

Beyond the Pale to the north lies Brustlager, the most industrialized city in Malleus, home to coal mining, shipping, and textiles.  The city exists in a strange middleground between progress and squalor; gaslamps illuminate the streets but that only serves to shine a light on the mangled factory workers in their slums.  The threat of new mechanical looms taking jobs away from skilled workers has sparked protests and sabotage.  Captain Redbreast, a charismatic highwayman, has raised a band that destroys looms and harrasses industrialists; her actions have sparked debate between those factions of the Glorious Revolt that favor the free market or the social contract.
Beyond the Pale to the west lies the Nachtwald, a dense and ancient forest feared by mortal and vampire alike.  While a few highways have been cut through the wood and villages have grown up along the roads and the forest’s edges, little attempt has been made to clear the woods or settle further in.  Vampires fear that the ash tree still grows in the depths, much to their peril, and deputize fire wardens to seek out and burn its groves.  Mortals, though, fear the bandits who lurk in the Nachtwald’s depths and plague travelers (as well as the ancient bogeys of fairies and monsters).  Noble-minded highwaymen act as couriers and recruiters for the Revolt, while poachers venture into the forest’s depths to hunt for ash wood.  At least one laboratory of the Zunft von Hohenheim is hidden in the Nachtwald as well.

to be continued...

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