Kingmaker - As the Ravens Gather
House Surtova – “Ours is the Right” – Their crest is a grey ship against a field of blue below and black above, the upper shield spangled with silver stars.
The most influential house in Brevoy it is also the oldest, established in Issia centuries before Choral’s arrival. The Surtovas were infamous pirates and raiders in those early days and with the Conquerer’s coming were able to parley captured wealth into lands and titles. What started out as a defensible fortress became Port Ice, a settlement that has been the seat of Surtovan power for centuries. Nikos Surtova’s alliance with Choral secured House Surtova’s place at the right hand of the ruling house, and allowed them to move quickly into place after the Vanishing. The Surtovas established a “regency” in the absence of King Urzen, which has quickly become a de facto succession to the crown. King Noleski Surtova sits upon the Dragonscale Throne, while his sister Natala Surtova reigns as unofficial “queen,”
as her brother is as yet unmarried. Rumors say Natala enjoys her role (and her influence over her brother) far too much to embrace the idea of being a proper sister-in-law. Still, there is considerable pressure for Noleski to choose a bride and produce heirs for his new dynasty.
House Surtova’s ancestral lands extend from Port Ice, a settlement that has shifted increasingly inland, like its masters. Although connected to the lakeshore villages by a reasonably well-maintained road, Port Ice is locked behind its walls for much of the cold winter months, visited only by sled and the occasional foolhardy traveler. The rest of the year, the city is open to stockpile all the supplies needed for the next season. The White Manor is the Surtova ancestral seat, currently in the care of King Noleski’s uncle, Domani Surtova.
The Winter Lodge
Oddly enough given its name, this Surtovan summer escape has been traditionally the home of distant relatives, family exiles and a place to entertain and hunt. This large lodge in the woods on the northern foothills of the Golushkin Mountains is a masterpiece of woodworking and sits amid manicured lawns and gardens. The Lodge boasts numerous outbuildings mostly built of local stone with thatched roves whereas the Lodge itself is roofed in slate shingles.
• There is a large stable of finely trained Numerian horses and an adjoining kennel rumored to possess the finest mastiffs in Brevoy.
• A short distance away up a laid stone path and stair is a stone building called the Bath that covers a natural cave. Within, behind a strong steel barred gate, is a natural mineral hot spring fills an adjoining steam room with vapors and the outflow enters into a stone soaking pool that is only just cool enough for enjoying and a reservoir above the building feeds a yet larger pool with cold water for a bracing rinse. The water is mineral rich and white with air that stinks of sulpher. The building itself houses a changing room and it’s construction suggests that it either can be used to enter the cave for defense or that the cave may lead deeper and the building is for keeping possible incursions in. There are smaller bathrooms within the Lodge that serve as privies as well and this building is also far less used than it used to be in days past.
• The Barrel Room: A large warehouse that houses many barrels of wine and spirits from the local vineyards and stills. It has two levels, a cellar for wines and finished product and an aging room above. The aging room is quite large and the center is kept empty with three large firepits that can heat the center well enough for mid-winter feasts yet cannot but keep the aging barrels from freezing.
• A large stone kitchen called the Fire House housing fire pits and ovens for the bulk of the cooking and can accommodate large feasts when necessary. There is a smaller kitchen in the Lodge itself that often holds prepared meals from the kitchen or can serve small meals. Servants eat here and in the depth of winter tend to sleep here as well.
• The Shed is a large storage building for the groundskeeper’s tools and seed storage as well as the grange for the year’s supply of hay. It is also where many find nooks and corners for privacy.
• The Granary is a tall stone tower that is actually two structures in one: an interior granary that stores the Lodge’s wheat and food cellar and a second overlapping tower with an interior spiral stair that leads to the watchtower above. It, and the
Small two-room cabins house the few staff who service the Lodge and grounds the only exception being the kennel/stable master who has rooms above the kennel next to the stables and the castellan who has rooms in the Lodge and oversees the grounds and lands year round.
The lodge provided income to House Surtova through lumber, serf tended fields a day away, a vineyard nearby, and game tended by a gamesman who lives higher up the Golushkins.
Who’s Who is House Surtova
• Domani Surtova, Duke of the Dragonscale Throne, Royal Defender of Port Ice, Primogen of House Surtova, Holder of Gorum’s Rage
The oldest member of the house after his older brother Brovloski succumbed to a wasting disease that resisted curatives and holy blessings until the priests of Pharasma finally laid their hands upon him and pronounced Brovloski in the Grey Lady’s care. Domani assumed the leadership of the house and fostership of his niece and nephew until they came of age a couple of years later. Four years later the Vanishing occurred and his nephew Noleski became “Regent”.
Domani is often described as a cold man but the truth is that Domani has always understood that there is a proper time for everything, emotion included. He grew as most Surtovan men did. A youth filled with education and training in martial skills with many a hunt and feast until the age of recognition whereupon the seventeen year old Domani travelled beyond Brevoy making a name for himself and his family. It was in this time that the serious and pitiless Domani met and became infatuated with an elven girl named Nyia. Domani loved the girl but it was the love of a demanding and impatient youth which ended in scandal. Domani found himself at odds with the Kyonin court and now father to a half-elven motherless bastard whom he named Markoa. Domani was banished from Kyonin and had no choice buut to return to Brevoy and his stringent father with the boy. He tried to forge a life saddled with a sandal and a bastard half-elf son but the disapproval and requests for Domani to rectify the situation from his father became decidedly less requesting. Domani’s father tried to find a suitable wife for his second son but there were few noble houses who wished to accept Domani’s scandal and many of the women found the stern and hard man attractive. Domani only consented to interacting with potential wives only insofar as a political marriage was an expectation of his position and, anyway, his brother Brovloski was first son destined to assume the primogency of the house. Brovloski wed and had a son and daughter leaving Domani free from most of his father’s demands for his wedding. Little did Domani expect to find love in a woman of rare qualities from a minor house and after a very long courtship Domani Surtova wed, and more importantly, found love in a woman who could not only accept his shame but find a way into his heart. In time Domani’s wife, Alyssia gave birth to a son they named Variel, a couple of daughters and some years later a son Conneth.
Markoa lived at the Winter Lodge where typically many of the family’s less than reputable members were sequestered but when summer came and Port Ice became too uncomfortable the family would move to the Winter Lodge for the hotter months and Markoa, Conneth, Variel and the girls played throughout the grounds. About Markoa’s 10th year the elder Surtova had endured enough embarrassment and ordered his son to be rid of the bastard child to ensure that Conneth’s inheritance was not endangered so following the advice of his brother Brovloski , Domani sent his young half-elf son to a distant exiled cousin in Korvosa. Alyssia had always treated the half-elf boy with compassion and knew that Domani felt something for the boy but to others the Surtova second son became even more distant and immersed in his family obligations. In the years that followed he had little love for anyone or anything except that which had driven his now deceased father, the family and when his brother died his motivations were simply logical and political.
His late wife Alyssia understood and was still in love with a man she had only connected with in private moments and secret letters of intense love but with his brother’s passing little of that remained. The duchess she needed to be now knew nothing of the sort from her duke. Alyssia accepted the sacrifice and fulfilled her noble role faithfully until the eventual marriage of her daughters, the exile of her son Variel, and Conneth’s absences to train left her mostly alone. She wasted away in her seclusion at Winter Lodge and she died after suffering a stroke.
Soon after Markoa returned from out of the blue mad with rage and confronted his father at court demanding that Domani recognize his claim as heir to the Surtova line. Grieving and confronted by his shame and embarrassment once again Domani turned his rage upon the young man and verbally assailed him for his insolence. The Duke proclaimed that a mongrel bastard had no claim to nobility and that the young man should have stayed in exile for his own good. Domani Surtova left the stunned court and soon after the guard of the Ruby Fortress entered the audience chambers and beat the young half-elf mercilessly before dragging him to the gate and throwing him into the street to die with the decree that Markoa never set foot on Surtova lands again under pain of death stuffed into his jerkin.
The Duke was little seen by anyone until the Vanishing placed his family in a dangerous position and he returned from obscurity to direct House Surtova to prominence every bit his father’s son.
• Noleski Surtova, Regent of the Dragonscale Throne, King of Brevoy, your cousin
A relatively young man in his prime who was next in line of succession and best poised as a House to assume the throne of Brevoy. You only met him as a youth and found him to not be much different than any Issian youth full of grand designs and aspirations. Trained in the hunt and war, schooled as a noble and a politician, and neither too moral nor debased Noleski is a pure Issian, he always looked for opportunity, or created one if need be, and did what it took to garner glory and success. He was a fair if uncaring boy and didn’t get on well with Variel because of your brother’s morality.
• Natala Surtova, “Queen”of Brevoy, sister to the Regent, your cousin
You didn’t hang around Natala as much as your sisters did given that she is a girl and wasn’t taken to the activities that boys were given to do but your sisters didn’t like her much and given those times when you interacted with her, neither did you. As a young girl she was very aware of her position in the family over your father’s household and could be quite the bully. She treated servants poorly and treated you like one of the help.
• Variel Surtova, son
• Surtova sisters
I haven’t explored their story, that is for you to do; needless to say they are grown and married now and as such are more part of their husbands’ households than Surtova’s now. They shouldn’t come into play during this visit but if you wish to visit them throw me some names and maybe some of the dispositions between you as children. They would remember you and even grown with you but how they feel about you, well give me a sense of that and I’ll run with it.
• Conneth Surtova, h_eir to the Primogency of House Surtova_,
Conneth was only five when you were sent away and if he was in the audience room when you confronted your father you didn’t recognize him as a twenty-five year old adult. However, you do remember his being a sweet boy and you got along well with him. He loved games of hide and seek and riddles but had little interest in the woods or hunting.
• Nyia, Your mother, last name unknown
In fact you know nothing about your mother except that she was Kyonin. That she was barely an adult and quite possibly not even an adult when she became pregnant with you. That the affair was not only a scandal in Brevoy but in Kyonin too which is why your father left as soon as possible with a human wet nurse who died or left Brevoy as soon as you all arrived at the Winter Lodge (specifics on that point are sketchy). Family gossip is that she was either noble born herself or the daughter of an important figure. Your father had a locket with a small painting of her inside but there was an argument between your grandfather and your father and it got thrown in a fire.
• Vladis Ensovitch, son of the Kennelmaster, Indentured Servant of the Winter Lodge, your friend
Vladis was one of the few boys your age at the Lodge and when your family wasn’t around (most of the year) the two of you played the most. His mother was your wet nurse and your caretaker when you were brought to the Lodge and as such you were pretty much raised by her. Your siblings were nursed and raised by a different woman who travelled with the family and while your father’s second wife wasn’t cruel to you and even showed some measure of compassion towards you there was no illusion that she was in any way like a mother to you, at best she could be friendly. Vladis’ mother, on the other hand, was. Vladis’ father tended to treat his family much like his hounds, pleasantly when he was obeyed and things went well, and violent when punishing disobedience or accomplishment. Vladis and his mother lived in fear of the man and he had no use for you. In his eyes you were a misbred runt who should have been drowned at birth to be kind.
• Sobovor Surtovavich, castellan of Winter Lodge, distant cousin of the house.
Sobovor was your father’s castellan, your grandfather’s castellan and stories were to believed your great-grandfather’s castellan. He was a gruff old gnarled man with broad shoulders and many scars but a keen eye and a sharp wit. It was rumored that he had Golka blood from the dwarf clans of the Golushkin Mountains in him. He knew his role and did it well accepting nothing but the best in either servant or family member. It was said that he was the only man able to contradict your grandfather and live. It was said he was once a pirate on the Lake of Mists and Veils, that he had travelled the farthest of any of the family, that he spent time adventuring and raiding in Old Iobaria, and that during a conflict with Mendev wherein your great-grandfather died he took up and wielded Gorum’s Rage, your family’s ancestral battleaxe, in defense of the body that skalds still sing of the blood and thunder with such awe it brings tears to true warrior’s eyes. The last is probably the truest as you have seen Old Sobovor hold and clean the blade with naked hands; an honor only allowed a Holder of the weapon, past or present. He was also a man of two faces. In the presence of your elders he was as cold and cruel as they ever could be and afforded you no leeway when the summer arrived but when the family train had passed and the season entered into winter his kindness grew. Always on the sly, never in plain sight, but he saved you from many a precarious moment with staff or family with a word or a distraction. It was rumored that he had once a family of his own long ago not to mention the tales of women and bastards across the Inner Sea and the North but if any are still alive none knew and asking such questions drew hard glares from his sharp eyes and furrowed bushy brows.
If it’s any indication of the man, on your birthdays and during the Winter solstice celebrations you only received three gifts ever. One from Vladis, one from his mother, and one unmarked and abruptly appearing in your room that, though you always thought came from Father Yuletide, Vladis’ mother revealed to you came from Sobovor.
• The Staff and Servants
The rest of the staff kept a distance from you given that too much of a fondness shown to you drew condemnation from your grandfather and, later, your father as well. There were people who were kinder or crueler but it’s been a long time and many of the older people would be dead by now
• Gorum’s Rage
This old battleaxe is rumored to have been used by Surtovas since their days a pirates centuries before the Conquerer came. Its handle is solid hickory and so sweat and blood stained, and salt encrusted that it appears almost solid black. The head of the axe is crude iron with a edge so sharp that it leaves cut within stone if left standing on its edge upon the surface but otherwise is pitted and stained by sea and slaughter. It is told that the axe was a gift from Gorum himself to a reaver of the family that killed so many and so well that the Lord in Iron gave him a weapon worthy of a pirate of the man’s prowess to what new heights of battle the reaver could reach. Gorum was not disappointed and in time the blade was passed from man to man not to the leader of the family but to the man or woman who was most skilled as the arts of war. Some fought brothers for it, some stole it and held it by force, some inherited it and some were granted it honorably but never has it been wielded successfully by one not of the blood and never has it been lost to the Surtovas. Some have tried by force and guile and always they have been hunted and killed by force or guile, many killed by the very blade and any man not proven worthy enough to have wielded the blade at all have been struck deaf or killed outright by the rage of the axe.
After the Conquerer came and the family became a House of Brevoy is was decided that the tradition of the axe being given the most battle worthy member of the family should continue and through the centuries there have been few Surtovas who have been granted that honor and also been leaders of the House but any man or woman who has wielded the axe is accorded the respect of primogen of the House itself. Those who have wielded the axe say the axe has always sung in battle and that the honored wielder is immune to its thunderous calls but that in times past, to the greatest of the House, it has displayed wonderous powers seen but rarely since the Conquerer’s arrival.
Other Houses and Locations in Brevoy
• House Garess – “_Strong as the Mountains_”
Their crest is a snow-capped mountain peak in grey against a dark blue field like the sky, with a silvery crescent moon in the upper right corner and a hammer across the base of the peak, head toward the left.
The valleys and lowlands of the Golushkin Mountains are the domain of House Garess, founded on both the defensibility of the mountain terrain and the mineral wealth of the house has brought out of the peaks for generations. House Garess once had a profitable alliance with a clan of dwarves living in the Golushkin Mountains, serving as brokers of a sort for the ores, metals, and worked goods the Golushkin dwarves produced. Lord Howlan Garess even took Toval Golka , the son of the clan-chief of the dwarf hold, as his ward (some say more as a hostage than a guest in Greyhaven Castle). This proved fortunate for young Toval, as Greyhaven lost all contact with the dwarf-hold of Golushkin during the same winter as the Vanishing. With his own son Bren lost inside the mountains, Lord Howlan, a widower with no other children, has named Toval his adoptive heir. This has earned the dwarf, now a skilled young warrior in his own right, few friends in Greyhaven.
Kestan is a close cousin to Lord Howlan and is no fan of the dwarf-heir. He thinks that it’s not likely any of the dwarves doing for Howlan has always been a bit erratic and the loss of his son and the financial strain the silence from the Golushkins has caused seemed to push him over the edge.
• H*ouse Lebeda* – “_Success through Grace_.”
Their crest is a white swan, serenely sailing across a blue expanse, with the sun on the horizon behind it.
You know less about House Lebeda but you do know that they are the most Rostlandic of the Brevoyan noble houses having inherited a good deal of Taldan blood and tradition including a love of swordfighting and the finer things in life. Their lands lay along the southern edge of Lake Rykal and your grandfather thought them far too tainted with Taldan blood to make them trustworthy. Their family seat in Silverhall boasts one of the finest castles in Brevoy with spires that rise above Lake Rykal. They make their fortunes in trade and Kestan says that they are led by Dame Sarrona Lebeda who sits as regant since her husband’s death. Her son, Lander, comes into his age of majority soon and his older sister Elanna represents house interests in New Stetven. Kestan says that he has heard that the Lebedas would love to arrange a marriage between her and King Noleski. It is also well known gossip that “Queen” Natala hates the young and charming with a passion.
• House Lodovka – “_The Waters, Our Fields_.”
Their crest is a green-shelled crab climbing from the blue waters toward the grey band of shore surmounted by a grey tower-keep in the center, against a backdrop of black.
• House Medvyed – “Endurance Overcomes All.”
Their crest is a black bear, rampant against a red field, with a spread of black antlers above the bear’s head.
The eastern most house, Medvyed lands lie between the Icerime Mountains and the Gronzi Forest. They are a people of hunters, shepherds and goatherds who follow the Old Ways more than the new faiths. Erastil and the Green Faith, and even Lamashtu it is rumored, are more prevalent here.
• House Orlovsky – “_High Above_.”
Their crest is a black eagle against a gold field, wings spread, feathers almost touching at the point of the base.
Situated in the mountains and valleys north of the Gronzi Forest this House was once a staunch ally of House Rogarvia and only acknowledges Noleski Surtova as Lord Regent. In time Lord Poul Orlovsky will have to declare his allegiance or present himself or another he feels worthy as a new potential king and that could tear brevoy apart.
• House Rogarvia – “_With Sword and Flame_.”
Rogarvia’s crest is a two-headed red dragon, one head breathing flames, the other bearing an unsheathed sword, representing Choral’s legendary conquest, a against a quartered field in white and gold.
Since Choral’s final victory in the Valley of Fire, House Rogarvia has ruled Brevoy. The house built New Stetven and the Ruby Fortress and for precisely 200 years the Rogarvians ruled ruthlessly, keeping Brevoy together. Urzen Rogarvia sat upon the Dragonscale Throne ensuring the kingdom continued by any means necessary. In the Vanishing of 4699 the entire family disappeared and while few mourn their loss most do mourn the stability they provided. Loyalists call for an investigation but it becomes increasing clear that the family won’t be returning anytime soon, if at all.
All the good faiths are revered in Brevoy, three of the gods are especially prominent: Abadar, Gorum and Pharasma.
Abadar is the unifying power of the tradesmen and merchant classes as well as those nobles who seek to build prosperity through trade and not battle. Clerics of Abadar are called to serve as judges or arbiters.
Gorum is the god of the nobility of Brevoy, at least the old nobility, who rule though force of arms and prowess in battle. Every house and keep has a red tabard wearing house priest who recites the glories of the past while swinging heavy iron censures filled with pungent incense.
Pharasma, Our Lady of Gentle Repose, is the divinity of the common folk. The bone-thrower, midwife, and mortician-monks attend to every aspect of their lives and answer their calls for aid and succor. Many have never even seen a priest of Abadar or Gorum.