Teusten, Nation of
The nation of Teusten (Too'-sten) stretches from the northern border of the Sundarin Mountains, around Lake Borlesko, up to near Harkestol Mountains in the northern Broken Lands. However many islands throughout Blight Bay and the Shattered Sea, Haskoddpad for example, are populated by Teusten humans claiming to be colonies of their homeland. Some colonies do not exist on land at all but are massive barges located out in the middle of the western seas. Teusten is known by foreigners as a xenophobic hostile nation filled with barbaric raiders.
Life and Society
The ocean waters are the lifeblood of Teusten. Even those who live inland build their towns neighboring rivers and lakes to be sure they are still connected to the greater sea. Villages and cities are lined along the water with docks and makeshift shipyards everywhere. Most homes are stone constructs with thatch roofs, while many larger buildings are made from wood. Often taverns and smithies are the few businesses built with the sturdier stonework.
Foreigners see the Teusten as fighters, drunkards, and brawlers who despise anyone in the world who is not their own kind. But the Teusten have a great love of both life and the sea. Conflict and combat are some of life's greater pleasures. There are other races that the Teusten do hate and often attack on sight, dwarves especially, but often their malice towards others is a combination of their love to raid, fight, and beat up on those who are not their own kind.
The women of Teusten are often as combative as the men, although less of them tend to travel abroad. Those women that do manage to get a crew and their own ship are often seen as some of the nation's greats and are most desired by the Teusten men. "Any wife who does not start a fight with you at least three times a day is a wife not worth being married to," is a common saying among the men. Ironically the women have an identical saying but with the genders reversed and the fight count upped to four. Only in the government itself do women have difficulty attaining position.
Slavery is an acceptable part of life in Teusten. Although most dwarves are killed on sight, there are still several kept for labor. The same is true for minotaurs, humans, or elves. Elves are often seen as a weak race, and the Corinesti are believed to not deserve the sea, above or below. Those elves who prove themselves in physical labor are bragged about by their owners as "the best of their race." Minotaurs are highly prized and respected by the Teusten. They are seen as greater fighters, and many people long for the peace between Teusten and Sakkaras to end so a great battle of strength can begin once again between them. Small raids not sanctioned by the government still occur, and although they are seen as competition and a threat to their existence, minotaur slaves are often cheered by the populace after capture at the start of their enslavement.
The Teusten people have one unique trading partner. No other race has direct trading tied to the Igurna in Terragrym. Teusten highly prizes its agreements with the Noble Ogres and does what it can to keep any Noble Ogre secrets they learn to themselves. Any ogre ship baring a Terragrym flag is never attacked. Any non-Terragrym flag flown by a non-ogre ship is destroyed with no survivors.
Most raiders encountered by foreign vessels or besieged people have a wide assortment of faiths. They believe their gods are separate from the pantheons followed by other peoples. They believe themselves to be better than all others, and therefore any real gods would not pay the others heed. Since Teusten's will often pay respect to the "Lesser Foreign Gods" while traveling in other lands, victims of Teusten raids often witness them actually respecting their own gods and not those of Teusten.
The predominant faith in Teusten is the Vroevadle, a.k.a. "The Currents of the Souls." The concept of branching currents purifying the soul in different manners is almost identical to that of the Tao-Shin, and it is possible the religions may have common roots. However the Teusten people do not recognize the connection between the churches and are steadfast in believing their own pantheon is completely separate from any other faith.
The nation of Teusten is led by a High Chief known as the Havadman, who is assisted by the Council of Regels. Together they preside over major decisions in the land. The Regels each control a province in Teusten, generally based in the largest city of that area. The Regel is a hereditary position, passed normally from father to son, with daughters gaining the title very rarely. If a Regel dies without an heir, the Havadman appoints a new leader to the province. The Havadman is also a hereditary position with the position passing from father to son only, never a daughter. If the Havadman dies without any heir, the position of Havadman comes before the Council of Regels for them to decide among each other who will lead.
The laws of Teusten are those of any typical nation, regulating theft, rape, or murder (against their own people or property). One exception is that there is no trial by jury or magistrate, as in civilized lands, but rather a trial by blood. Depending on the severity of the crime, the accused has the chance to proclaim innocence by battling either the accuser or a monster in the Arena of Truths in Jut-Cythyl.
Each province within Teusten has itself own section of the overall fleet comprised of numerous square-sailed ships with the bows headed with a variety of strange and fearsome creatures. The sections of the fleet are made up of a vast majority of the Teusten population who sail the seas. Most ships that conduct raids into foreign lands are the ships and crew within the Teusten fleet, but unless an official war is declared by the Regels, the ships and crew are considered "off-duty" and can do what they wish.
Settlements near the borders do have men and women skilled in overland raiding to help push back any incursions that may happened from or against their neighbors. These groups are treated the same way ships are. Unless there is a war, any infraction they commit against Sundarin or Sakkaras has nothing to do with the Teusten government.
Magic and Mysticism
Magic of any sort is not often practiced in Teusten, but the people love to get their hands on magical items and use them to create their own tales of glory. To many in Teusten, an enemy with magic makes them all the grander and makes the story of a sword or axe wielding Teusten slaughtering them all the more grandiose. As such, most Teustens will not learn magic simply because a wizard defeating a powerful wizard is not as glorious as a fighter defeating a powerful wizard. Still, if that fighter ended up getting his hands on a magic weapon prior to defeating the powerful wizard, the story still is considered epic, and thus the use of magic items is "accepted."
The issue of divine magic is different. In earlier years, clerics used healing magic and other battle-ready spells in Teusten just as often as an wizard in other lands, but that changed after the Starfall. According to the Vroevadle, their gods never left. A test had been put forth to see who was truly faithful. In those times, clerics of the Vroevadle had faith in the gods for the sake of faith, and not for the bribery of magic spells. After the return of the gods, the clerics of the Vroevadle gained the ability to cast spells again, but many of them refuse this temptation saying that they are clerics for the purpose of praising the gods, not to become a holy-wizard. As such, divine magic in Teusten is a great rarity even though most of their clerics are capable of casting.
Major Geographical Features and Locations
Blight Bay: North of the Teusten mainland, Blight Bay is seen by many at the playground of the Teusten raiders. None who wish to keep their ships would ever venture anywhere near these waters. It is true that primarily Teusten ships sail these waters, but most of them are used for deep-sea fishing and trade with Terragrym. Most ships of foreign sail that are destroyed in the bay had mistakenly fled from the Teusten ships and into Terragrym's waters, where the ogres are far less friendly.
The Floating Cities: Dotting locations in the northern Shattered Sea and points west are barges of great sizes. On these structures are cities built by those who have shunned life on land. The quality and age of these cities vary. Many constructed after the Drowning were built from the debris swept into the sea by the wave. Others built by those better off used materials imported from the mainland or stolen from wealthy ships. Usually these cities reside in relatively fixed positions, but a few are slowly moved for added protection for their raiding activities.
Island Colonies: The northern Shattered Sea is filled with islands under the control of Teusten. The oldest surviving settlements were taken from the dwarven survivors of the Drowning after the Teusten people gained greater access to the seas through their agreements with the Corinesti. Since then, the Teusten-controlled colonies multiplied until the dwarves could defend themselves and hold the line against the human advances. Those dwarves on Teusten islands are usually killed or taken as slaves.
Some Teusten settlements consider themselves part of the greater Teusten Empire, but yet they do not adhere themselves to the decisions and laws set down by the Council of Regels. Several cities were founded or taken over by former members of the Council who had been ousted from their positions. Their descendants (or those who defeated their descendants) now control these cities and surrounding villages on their own.
Lake Borlesko: On the southern side of Teusten, the Borlesko supplies Teusten with a great deal of seafood and other marine resources. Teusten ships patrol the northern areas of the sea, and although there is a peace treaty standing between Teusten and the Sakkaran minotaurs, many Teusten ships will occasionally raid minotaur villages near the shoreline for fun and profit. The lake often freezes during harsh winters, but the ships are often fitted with metal bows during these seasons in order to help break the ice up.
Teusten Mainland: The majority of the Teusten population lives on the mainland gained immediately after the Drowning, residing on the stretch of land between Sundarin and northern Sakkaras. The land is filled with rivers, allowing the Teusten people to settle almost anywhere in the country and still be near access to the sea. As time passed and the population grew, canals were dug to bring the water to regions previously less accessible. Now, most of Teusten is covered with small towns and cities bordering each other, the rivers, and the sea.
The origins of Teusten have been lost to the centuries. Some believe they had descended from early Midlands while others claim they came to Adlatum long ago from an unknown continent in the west. Even the Teusten people themselves have no solid record of their past. Most ancient tales are told through song, verse, or plain speak, and the desire to embellish and improve tales is very strong in Teusten. With so many others viewing Teusten as a land of drunken dangerous barbaric brutes best kept away from, other nations have a poor record of Teusten prior to the Drowning as well.
One of the popular tales told by the Teusten about pre-Drowning times include the supposed-fact that they were the ones responsible for starting the Canon War against the minotaurs from the east. Not only is this detail included in their popular culture, it is often bragged about. According to the tales, the sea-faring people had raided against every nation and village in western Adlatum and found no decent competition. So the greatest heroes of the waters prayed to their gods for their luck to improve. The gods responded by having the minotaurs invade the west, bringing a people worthy of combat closer to the Teusten waters and hopefully forcing the other races to strengthen themselves in the long run to better defend their homes. Teusten storytellers refer to the period of time in which the Canon War left many Teusten ships destroyed and warriors slaughtered as "The Platinum Age."
Although there are records of some Teusten settlements on Adlatum's then-western shoreline near what was believed to be dwarven held lands, the Teusten claim to had lived completely out in the ocean and sea. After the Drowning, the small amount of the mainland under Teusten control bloomed as they seized control of the stretch of land between Blight Bay and the enlarged Lake Borlesko. The land was and still is riddled with small lakes, rivers, and streams, making access from the lake to the bay and the ocean exceedingly easy. Once under their control, they made sure no one else could pass through without a very brutal fight. Still, many others saw the Drowning and considered life on solid land cursed, and to this day a large number of Teusten people live on large man-made barges located out in the sea and ocean.
The nation of Teusten came out of the Drowning with much prosperity, and they recognized that their glorious foes, the minotaurs, were badly hurt. To extend their thanks for the wonderful conflict of the previous hundred years, Teusten signed a non-aggression treaty with several of the minotaur factions settled nearby. Trade between the two cultures even existed for a few years. The Teusten would pay the Sakkarans in steel and other metals, while the minotaurs would give Teusten slave labor in the form of captured Midlanders, dwarves (especially from Nordarin), elves, Oguna, and even some of their own kind. But even with the Teusten assistance, the Sakkarans could not sustain themselves in the Broken Lands, and eventually the trade dried up. Yet the non-aggression treaty was not violated, at least not to a large scale, and so-called peace continued.
In 10 AD, the nation was almost plunged into total civil war with the death of Havadman Markan of Trojssan. Markan died without an heir, and two Regels both wanted the position. Luckily for Teusten, one of the rivals, Lokri son of Lukoev, was killed in a dwarven raid near Faste Ckold, thus allowing Aanon of Karssan to become the next Havadman. Aanon would rule the nation for the next fifty years, bringing prosperity the likes the nation had never seen before. He began paying people to explore the continent, making some of the best maps on all of Adlatum with rumors of other landmasses beyond the continent. By 20 AD, Aanon had it agreed upon with the Corinesti Elves that they would not raid their coastal cities in exchange for unhindered passage on the seas. The Corinesti would figure out later that Aanon had granted no protections on Corinesti-owned ships not at port in those cities, but rather than risk the safety of the settlements, the Guilds let the deal stand.
From this agreement with the Corinesti, Aanon began sending ships and settlers to the islands of the Shattered Sea. Sometimes these colonizing ships would come upon dwarves who still lived on the islands from the Drowning. The Teustens either killed or enslaved all the natives of these islands, shipping them off to be sold at their markets. The city of Ramal Varkie would arise and become a central city for shipbuilding and transferring timber back to the homeland. By 56 AD though, the reef dwarves started exploring the islands also looking for the lost villages of their nation. Over the course of the next few years, the humans and dwarves would battle each other at sea and on land, with the dwarves losing more islands to the humans before they finally solidified their hold on the other islands. Now, the Teusten colonies include many of the former dwarven islands. Many of these islands still have small dwarven populations on them, but most dwarves are owned by Teusten settlers as slaves. The island population is filled with colonies of settlers who see the mainland as overpopulated. The greatest advantage Teusten gained from these colonies is that they bring in much needed lumber, food, and metals not available in the mainland.
Aanon of Karssan, the Havadman responsible for Teusten's expansion, died in 61 AD and was celebrated as one of the greatest leaders to have ever led Teusten. His grandson, Aanodac, took over as Havadman with high expectations. The nation continued its growth and its raids upon the other nations in the west. Nothing of important happened though over the next 200 years, as far as most are aware, but in 271 AD the reef dwarves in their ever-growing power at sea launched a surprise attack against some of the various colonies. The Teusten response was swift when Havadman Radac ordered all ships into the Shattered Sea to wage war on the dwarves. The humans were able to capture the island of Haskoddpad during the Battle of the Red Coral in 275 AD. During this, the humans were able to trick the dwarves into crashing half their fleet into a hidden reef the dwarves did not know about. This did not sink most of the ships, but stranded them allowing the Teustens to defeat them easily. Following this defeat, they took over the island and peace was brokered in exchange for the reef dwarves there.
Over the next hundred years or so, the nation of Teusten has continued along doing what it has always done, raiding, pillaging, but staying officially peaceful with the minotaurs to the east and the Igurna to the north. Their concerns with the Elder Dragons in the Midlands is minimal, other than waiting for great stories to arise from the coming war, and possibly to find a way to gain an advantage during the chaos.
The trading practices of Teusten with the Igurna in Terragrym are a great mystery to those aware of it. No one, not even the Teusten people, can remember when peaceful contact between their people and the noble ogres began, and no stories include many details on their northern neighbors. All that is known is that the nation of Teusten treats their economic partnership with Terragrym very seriously and will keep whatever secrets they gain from the ogres to the death. It is very rare for a noble ogres to venture to Teusten to trade, but Teusten ships are the rare few non-ogre vessels allowed to even get within sight of Igurna ports in the north.
Faste Ckold (Large City 17,546): Also known as the Castle Shield, Faste Ckold is located on the border of Sundarin beneath the gaze of dwarven settlements in the mountains to the south. Positioned in a defensibly inopportune location, the city is meant to be a tempting target for any siege coming from the Sundar. The Teusten here desire nothing less than getting their dwarven enemies to attack them without provocation. If such an event occurs, it would allow the Havadman and Regels to declare unbridled war against the dwarves. Regardless of being in easy striking distance from the higher Sundar towns, the people of the un-walled Faste Ckold are well skilled in defending themselves.
Faste Vard (Small City 8,210): Also known as the Castle Sword, Faste Vard was founded on the location where the Sakkaran minotaurs and Teusten made their long standing nonaggression treaty. Now it acts as a bordertown, making sure the Sakkarns don't become desperate enough to take any interests in their lands. Many of the citizens of Faste Vard take great pleasure in venturing into Sakkaras to pick fights with the strong and impressive minotaurs.
Jut-Cythyl (Metropolis 43,484): The capital of Teusten is the largest human settlement north of the Midlands. Like all other Teusten mainland settlements, all roads are simply wide dirt paths between wooden and stone buildings. The Frivord river divides in two, surrounding the city on both sides. The wall circling the city was built to come up out of the river and bay, and it was also made to look like the side of a ship. This gives Jut-Cythyl the appearance of being a floating structure even though it is on solid ground. Sections of the wall drop down to connect to otherwise incomplete bridges crossing the Frivord. Other sections open to connect to giant complexes of wooden docks that free-stand in Blight Bay where ships make port.
The Havadman and Council of Regels meet within the city in buildings that would remind anyone from civilized nations of renovated barns. The Arena of Truths, a place where battle determines guilty or innocence, is also located here.
Geetrac Vag (Metropolis 29,540): Also known as the City of Crashing Waves, Geetrac Vag is the largest and oldest famed floating city in the western ocean. It is also run by a brethren of pirates who do not recognize the rule of the Havadman. After gathering so much material and wealth over the centuries, the city is as well constructed and stable as any major city on land along with being a piece of architectural beauty.
Due to its primary source of income coming from illegal and murderous piracy, Geetrac Vag is continuously moving. Legend claims the city was originally constructed on the shore of the mysterious continent across the ocean in the west before being freed to sail across the sea. Another legend says the city the birthplace of one of the Vroevadle gods of the sea.
Ramal Varkie (Large City 19.803): Also known as the City of Falling Timber, Ramal Varkie is located on one of the larger islands in the northern Shattered Sea. The city was originally named Voldenhaas and was constructed during the reign of the dwarven Hammervald Empire. After being warn down by the Canon War and cut off from the rest of civilization by the Drowning, a fleet of Teusten ships laid waste against a city not used to being so close to the sea. Most dwarves were killed in the attack. The rest became slaves.
The Teustens rebuilt the city, properly adjusting it to become a port town capable of defense. The tall mountains all around the city and Human Bay hide the city from all eyes until a ship finds the pass into the bay or a foot traveler is almost upon the city wall. Voldenhaas used to be surrounded by lush forests, but the Drowning buckled the land and destroyed the trees immediately around the city. As a joke, Teusten renamed Voldenhaas the City of Fallen Timber.
This is one of the few Teusten settlements with buildings and roads made primarily of stone. The surviving forests on the other sides of the surrounding mountains provide Teusten with the best shipbuilding wood available.
Tullgripp (Large City 24,387): Also known as the City of Steel, Tullgripp is only accessible by Blight Bay. Ships enter a wide cave mouth and travel several miles underground before reaching the city ports. The city is a mining colony, filled with men and women supporting the excavation of metals from the rocks deep in the earth. There are no direct routes from the city up to the surface. All traffic comes and goes through the watery cavern.
The city is eternally lit by fires fueled from gasses seeping up from specific points in the cracks of the rock. Being so distant from the cavern mouth, this supplies the city with its only light besides lamps and torches. Some districts in the city are higher than others as the city slopes up parts of the cavern wall or rests on sculpted plateaus.
Parts of the way between Tullgripp and the bay are not safe for ships. Beneath the way's water impossibly long and sharp stalagmites can tear apart the hulls of any boat piloted by those not familiar with the Tullgripp. Many wrecks lay at the bottom of the mile deep pool.