Compass of Terrestrial Directions: The North

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Type: Second Edition Sourcebook
Release Date: November 11, 2009
Page Count: 160
Price: $24.99
Stock Number: WW80204
ISBN Number: 978-1-58846-379-1

Compass of Terrestrial Directions


Description

The North is home to one of Creation’s harshest environments, and its savage predators, deadly winters and scarcity of resources would be challenging enough, even without the additional threats posed by marauding barbarians, seductive Winter Folk and the frozen dead. Defying both the elements and the region’s many threats, though, a myriad of states, large and small, have succeeded in wresting order from a chaotic wilderness and forging a stable home for their subjects. Will the returned Lawgivers seek to maintain these fragile metropolises, or will they be drawn to the banner of the Solar Bull of the North, who seems determined to plunge the entire North into war?

Overview

Volume V of the Compass of Terrestrial Directions.

The fifth of five Terrestrial Direction books devoted to fleshing out the bare bones of Creation presented in the Exalted core book, this supplement includes the following:

  • Details of Whitewall, Gethamane, the Haslanti League and other Northern nations
  • Mass combat stats for the myriad of Northern powers as well as dominion traits for the Mandate of Heaven
  • Traits for the North’s native gods and beasts

Credits

Authors: Michael Kessler, Priscilla Kim, Eric Minton, Dean Shomshak and John Snead

Comic Scripter: Carl Bowen

Developers: John Chambers and Dean Shomshak

Editor: Carl Bowen

Art Direction and Layout: Brian Glass

Artists: Gordon Benetto, Ed Bourelle, Leanne Buckley, Andrew Hepworth, Imaginary Friends Studio (with Chris, Jennyson, Lan Jun ‘Junkman’ Kang, Leos ‘Okita’ Ng and Zid), Priscilla Kim, Saana ‘Kiyo’ Lappalainen, Pasi Pitkanen, UDON (with Steven Cummings, Andre Mina, Saejin Oh, Eric Vedder and Joe Vriens)

Cover Art: Groundbreakers Studio (with Brian Valeza)

Preview

http://www.gametrademagazine.com/public/news_images/86236_224537_2.jpg

CHAPTER SIX: SUN AND ICE

Northern seers have long prophesied the coming of a warlord who would unite the icewalker tribes and bring the entire North beneath his heel. Now, at long last, that prophecy stands on the brink of fulfillment. Yurgen Kaneko, the Bull of the North, has gathered the tribes. With the aid of his Solar circle, he has begun the work of carving out an empire. By definition, however, an empire encompasses many peoples with diverse cultures, histories and ambitions. Yurgen Kaneko has his empire: It remains to be seen whether he can keep it against opposition from without and within.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE EMPIRE

The Bull’s dominion stretches across the northern and eastern Threshold, covering a territory too large, too thinly spread, for any single ruler to command with ease. Its terrain includes meandering coastlines spattered with islands, frosty pine forests, rich river valleys, uninhabited mountain ranges and vast, marshy plains. At the heart of the empire, beyond the hills and rivers and taiga, rises the sweeping emptiness of the ice plains. The Bull’s icewalker subjects call this high tundra home. They spend their summers on the plains, following the great herds that they hunt and worship.

Most of the empire’s population, however, clusters along the shores of Malice Bay and the northern stretches of the River of Tears. A dozen small city-states have fallen to the Bull’s armies, along with countless villages and towns. He has, as yet, avoided direct confrontation with the Haslanti League, but such a conflict seems like only a matter of time.

HOW THE EMPIRE WAS WON

Yurgen Kaneko, an aged hunter of the Whistling Plains Elk tribe, found himself reborn when he gained the Solar Exaltation. His brain filled with visions of the High First Age, he set out to unite the world under his banner. Gathering the other icewalker tribes proved easy enough, as they had no truck with the Immaculate Order and its tales of the Anathema. He fended off the Wyld Hunt as well. Equipped with Solar might and stolen jade, an army at his back, the young-old Dawn Caste moved north and east, away from the Realm’s legions, to capture lesser Northern states whose manpower might swell his forces.

Samea of the Blackwater Mammoth tribe became the first Exalt to join the Bull. An orphaned young wise woman, Samea gave all her love to her people and her homeland, and that love drew the Solar Exaltation to her. Embracing her newfound power, she turned to the spirits for knowledge and companionship, and delved into the ruins of the First Age in search of ancient lore. Samea had already become an accomplished sorceress when she found the newly Exalted Yurgen Kaneko. Seeing him as a kindred spirit whose ambitions lay parallel to her own, the precocious Zenith Caste joined him, trained him, aided him in his efforts and guided him toward lost cities to loot and shadowlands and freeholds to raze. Together, they laid the foundations of an empire distant from a sluggish and ignorant Realm.

So successful were their initial efforts in the remote North that they set their sights on a greater prize: the Scavenger Lands. Their road to victory ran straight through the expansive Linowan nation. In RY 761, the two gathered their best troops and a number of Dragon-Blooded recruits. Through sorcery, they brought an army hundreds of miles to assault the Rokan-Jin and Talinin nations south of Linowan. The Linowan called on their old alliance with the Realm, and so, the Tepet legions met the icewalkers in battle. The icewalkers fared poorly for a time. With the Empress’s disappearance in RY 763, however, the legions lost logistical support, while the sundering of the Jade Prison brought several young Solars into the Bull’s fold. Within a year, the Bull broke the Tepet legions at the Battle of Futile Blood. (For more information on the eastern war, see The Compass of Terrestrial Directions, Vol. III — The East, pp. 13–14.)

Yurgen Kaneko has since returned to the North to extend his territory there and further consolidate his conquered provinces. He has replenished the empire’s military reserves, which now exceed their totals at the start of the Linowan War. With the Scarlet Empire in disarray and no sign of the Empress’s return, he stands poised to strike at the major Northern powers and bring the entire direction under his sway.

THE BULL’S ICEWALKERS

In just 10 years, the icewalker tribes that follow Yurgen Kaneko have seen tremendous changes in their society. He took a score of extended families of herders and hunters, their individualistic nature only loosely reined in by a system of face and respect for age, and welded them into a fighting force capable of facing Realm legions on an equal footing.

WHAT THEY WERE

Traditional icewalkers have little experience of organized warfare. They own no settlements and raise no fortifications. They bring their herds with them, or follow wherever the animals go, so they have no understanding of supply lines. While they raid the occasional village or town, walled cities lie beyond their reach, for they lack the technology to build artillery and the food reserves to manage a siege. Most importantly, they lack a formal chain of command. A skilled war chief names experienced men as his officers and assigns them specific tasks before a battle or signals them amid the fray by horn or banner. If the chief falls, the tribe retreats in disarray, and if his tribe joins forces with another, each war chief chooses his own strategy.

HOW THEY HAVE CHANGED

As a Dawn Caste Solar, Yurgen Kaneko grasps the principles of war to an extent impossible for mortal men. He saw the military weaknesses of the icewalker system—the system into which he was born—with instinctive clarity. A well-educated and charismatic mortal general might forge a group of icewalker tribes into an army over a generation. The Bull is no longer a mortal. Backed by the power of his Charms, he took a little over a year.

The icewalker tribes have changed in far broader and deeper ways than mere tactical considerations, as well. The Bull’s efforts reshaped their entire society. War dominates their mental and social sphere. Training starts at birth: Children learn to hold toy swords and spears before they can walk or speak. Their oral culture remains, but the old tales of hunting and beast spirits give way to stories of war and the Unconquered Sun. The young absorb a broader education than the icewalkers ever needed or knew before, training them to become part of an advanced military machine. Their curriculum includes history, foreign cultures, languages and mathematics.

The decade of upheaval tears deep rifts through icewalker culture. While icewalker elders still adhere to the old ways as best they can, the younger generation views the world through a lens of war and conquest, and those in their 20s lie uncomfortably between ways of thinking. The herds lose their powerful spiritual significance to the tribes, becoming little more than sources of meat on the hoof. Hostility between tribes with rival animal totems has been suppressed. All agree in public on the unity of the beast totems, but elders seethe and mutter to one another in their tents, while some parents teach their children a quiet and secret hate.

THE ICE PLAINS

Between the White Sea and the Inland Sea, from the crags above Whitewall to the taiga that girds the marshy banks of the River of Tears, stretch pale expanses of high-land tundra that burgeon with vibrant green grasses only in the brief Northern summer. The icewalkers call the Ice Plains home. Even those in service to the Bull still spend their summers on the plains, following the great herds they hunt and worship.

Although they lack the fertility of warmer climes, the Ice Plains are no desert. Grasses sprout from the chill earth along with dwarf shrubs, mosses and lichens. Below a few yards, though, the ground stays perpetually frozen. There is little precipitation, but the perpetual cold of the long winters prevents snow from melting, so even light flurries accumulate into snowdrifts. The summer thaw softens the land into one vast swamp dotted with lakes. These lakes freeze over when the cold returns, forming the expanses of ice that give the plains their name.

Only a few animals endure the harsh conditions of the Ice Plains. Fish inhabit the few large lakes that don’t freeze solid in the depths of winter, while birds and insects migrate to the marshes in the summer. Squirrels and bears hibernate through the cold, emerging only when the weather warms. A few larger animals inhabit the plains throughout the year. Lemmings and hares provide prey for foxes and owls, while packs of wolves and snow hunters compete with icewalker tribes to hunt the great herds of mammoth, caribou, moose, musk oxen and elk.

THE MOTHER’S HEARTH

When Samea traveled to the heart of the Ice Plains in search of greater enlightenment, she found a demesne where the sun blazed upon the snow in pillars of golden light. When she settled there to meditate upon the Unconquered Sun, the Mammoth tribes followed, and when the herds moved on, many tribesmen remained to feed and protect her. After she emerged from her contemplation, the icewalkers marked the place as holy. Her followers raised a shrine to her upon her departure and took pilgrimages there to make offerings in her name. Others came to trade goods and stories with the pilgrims and with each other.

Both Yurgen and Samea saw the value of a central meeting place for the tribes. Once she had mastered Celestial Circle sorcery, the Zenith raised a Solar manse wherein visiting tribes could meet and dwell out of the plains’ bitter chill. Its rooms and halls slowly filled over the years as artisans, shamans and elders settled there on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. Now, almost a decade later, the place forms a small self-contained town amidst the ice, where Samea rules as priestess-queen.

THE MANSE

The great marble dome of the Mother’s Hearth rises amidst the Ice Plains, its snowy flanks blending in with the tundra landscape. Eight gold-peaked minarets rise from its sloping walls. Gates of yellow wood open in each of the four directions, and each gate leads into a broad, door-lined passage leading to a great central courtyard. The manse’s magic fills it with sunlight and warmth even in the depths of winter. The common areas are richly furnished. In addition to their native furs and ivories, its residents cram its halls and common chambers with the booty of a dozen plundered city-states.

Roughly 100 people inhabit the Mother’s Hearth on a permanent basis, all of them icewalkers. A few foreign merchants have petitioned Samea for residency, but she has refused them all. Transient residents range widely in numbers. At quiet times, there might be no more than a dozen pilgrims, traders or foreign scholars present, while a large gathering of tribes swells the settlement’s population into the thousands. The manse itself has room for 100 guests to lodge in comfort, or up to 500 in cramped conditions. Another 1,000 can cram themselves into the domed central courtyard. Any additional visitors must pitch their tents outdoors.

PEOPLE OF THE HEARTH

The Hearth’s handful of permanent inhabitants tends toward the aged and sedentary. Some spend their days engaged in handicrafts—painting leather, sewing furs, carving bone and the like—while others devote themselves to prayer. All spend a great deal of time sharing stories, for this is both a pastime and a responsibility among the icewalker tribes, and the folk of the Hearth come from many different tribes, each with their own tales and histories. Music also fills the manse. Drums beat, hands clap, and many voices rise together in song, their words echoing through the glittering halls.

SPIRIT GUESTS

The Hearth’s eight towers are off limits to most of its residents. Each contains a luxurious bedchamber and other amenities. Samea resides in one. She reserves the others for her circlemates and visiting gods. The towers generally stand empty in her absence, but when she is present, powerful Terrestrial gods often seek audience with her. Some wish to bargain with her on their own behalf or on behalf of their worshipers. Others are curious to meet the reborn Solars and learn their motivations.

Samea’s most persistent guests are the animal avatars. The Bull has transformed icewalker society, and the avatars have yet to come to terms with the effects of these changes on their rivalries and relationships. Emissaries from the North’s many national and tribal gods likewise gather here to discuss the growth of the places under their protection. More than once, Autumn Frost has visited surreptitiously. Whether she comes as a representative of the Haslanti pan-theon or on her own behalf is not yet known.

AUTHORITY AND GOVERNANCE

Samea’s word is law among the icewalkers, and doubly so at the Hearth. She has never claimed any title among her people. Nonetheless, they call her the Mother of All Tribes and worship her as a living goddess. In addition to obeying her instructions, they do their best to guess at her unspoken desires, often gathering outside her presence to discuss the interpretation of a mood, a turn of phrase or a gesture.

The Mother often travels abroad. She finds many demands on her time, from the Bull’s wars to incursions by the walking dead and the Fair Folk. When she is absent or when she is too engrossed in her sorcerous studies or her meditations to deal with her people, her priestesses minister to them in her stead. Samea has chosen five so far, selecting from the visiting tribes those who seem quick-witted, generous of spirit and without strong attachments to individuals or families. Though she insists there is no seniority among the priestesses of the Unconquered Sun (save, of course, for herself), she most often employs her Underling-Promoting Touch upon Adare, a former elder of her own Blackwater Mammoth tribe whom she remembers fondly from her childhood.

Visitors who behave courteously have little to fear in the Hearth. Simple rules bind residents and outsiders alike: Do no harm to others; offer aid to those in need; respect the customs of hospitality. Those who cannot abide by these restrictions suffer whatever penalty Samea or her priestesses choose to mete out, ranging from asking for an apology to exile from the Hearth.

Exile is a surprisingly potent punishment. Samea’s presence so affects those around her that her absence aches like a phantom limb. Exile also serves to protect. Not only can the banished do no more harm to the community, but if a mortal’s actions move Samea to violence, how could he survive her anger?

Of the few that have left the Hearth in exile, most were banished in Samea’s absence or when she was calm. Two, however, she expelled in the heat of anger, and the super-natural power of her wrath forever branded their souls. For good or ill, they seek to shape the world to match the marks she left upon them, wandering across the North to preach subservience — or opposition — to the Solar Exalted.

The Mother’s Hearth - a Magnitude 2 Dominion

Military: 1

Government: 2

Culture: 2

Abilities: Awareness 1 (Pilgrims +2), Craft 1 (Foreign Merchants +1), Integrity 2 (Religious Edict +1, Tight-Knit Culture +1), Investigation 1, Occult 2 (Animal Avatars +2), Performance 2 (Icewalkers +3), Presence 1 (Icewalkers +3)Virtues: Compassion 3, Conviction 2, Temperance 3, Valor 1

Virtue Flaw: Compassion Current Limit: 1

Willpower: 6

Bonus Points: 10

External Bonus Points: 3

Notes: The Hearth’s Magnitude, unusually high for its size, stems from its centrality, its large transient population and its significance to the Bull’s icewalker tribes. Samea is the dominion’s legitimate sorcerer, while her priestesses act as savants. The dominion’s bonus points are tied up in its specialties, as are the external bonus points it gains from foreign traders and influence over the icewalker tribes. The folk of the Mother’s Hearth pride themselves on their devotion and spirituality. When the settlement enters Limit Break, its people refuse to accept culpability for its ills. Instead, they blame everything on a scapegoat and exile him or her from the community.

Source: [Game Trade Magazine]