Before the race of northern men waged war upon their southern neighbours, the Dvergar, in a brutal retaliation for the slaughter of their people, they were governed by a noble court of Twelve Houses that were ultimately ruled by a monarch known as the Winter King or Queen. They are collectively known to the peoples of the continent of Gaiaden and beyond as the Winter Court of the Lochlands.
Eight of these houses would follow their King into the Stone-Winter War that saw the obliteration of a race and the land of Dveroth conquered anew, but only four of them were able to survive such a turbulent period. Four would remain to stand amongst the victorious King and his General and the remaining four were ordered to remain in Wintermere to oversee the land and to ward off any threat of invasion from the Ogres from the Highlands.
To put it simply, of the Houses of the Winter Court that ruled the land of the Lochlands and its city of Wintermere – four would flourish, four would perish and four would remain. This is a brief account of the fates and current state of each one of them.
THOSE THAT REMAINED
The HOUSE of LOCKEWOOD – Known as a fair and honourable clan they rose from a simple family of farmers to become the overseers of most of the farmlands in the country. They are well-regarded as valued individuals whose knowledge of the land helped build so many farms and vineyards that thrive despite the harsh winters that befall the Lochlands. Alchemy is also one of their primary resources and sources of income.
The HOUSE of GRAVESON – Famed for their popularity and favoured amongst the Winter Court and the people of Wintermere, they are welcoming of outsiders and have influential links to the Merchants Guild. Charismatic and charming to a fault, they tend to have lesser influence than their colleagues in the Court, desiring instead to foster peaceful resolutions over bickering disparity.
The HOUSE of BARROWMONT – The Barrowmont’s are bold, ambitious and have spoken often that they are fated to one day rule the Lochlands alone. This secretive family with their legions of spies were the only House to object to the war with the Dvergar, preferring to keep their profitable trade links open with their silver miners. They have a reputation as being ruthless, deceitful and desire the advancement of their line and the acquisition of wealth far above the general wellbeing of the region. They were once great allies of House Thorn and have a deep resentment of those not of their race.
The HOUSE of AULDRED – The oldest of the Houses that govern Wintermere, they are a notoriously proud and traditional folk who now view the men of Ayrlaston as having abandoned their heritage and consider these heartlanders to be weak, pitiful incarnations of their former selves. Despite massive opposition from House Barrowmont, the sons of House Auldred are now the current monarchs of the Winter Court after the former rulers were murdered in controversial circumstances.
THOSE THAT SURVIVED
The HOUSE of VALORAYNE – The house that would eventually crown the sole ruler of Ayrlaston, the Valorayne’s have put their mark on history as a progressive and commanding family. They now dwell in the capital city of Covenraen, the seat of the Silverborn. They were responsible for the formation of Ayrlaston’s Merchants and Artisans Guilds and have prospered with the development and rise of the Silver Legion, which is famed throughout all of Ael’gard as an intimidating representation of military might.
The HOUSE of MORVAYNE – This House once possessed some of the greatest strategic and military minds in the Lochlands kingdom. They were also great allies of the Valoraynes from their time together in the Court and during the early formation of their new kingdom. The house of Morvayne was eventually deposed from its seat of power and the rule of Frosthaven as monarchs of the East Reach and forced to become stewards of House Valorayne after a brutal civil war to decide the one and only ruling family of Ayrlaston. Over time the last family members to serve the throne have died out leaving behind a magnificent yet tragic lost legacy.
The HOUSE of ORELIA – A prominent and popular family known for its influential matriarchs, they currently preside over the governance of Amberfall, the seat of the Skyborn. Famous for only ever appointing female leaders into the position of its Barony, they have built their territories into prime trading routes, have become renowned patrons of the arts and have supported the powerful institution of magik that is the Citadel of the Aeons for centuries.
The HOUSE of THORN – In the early days of the formation of Wintermere, the house of Thorn staged a revolt against three of its fellow court Houses. There has been little trust for this family ever since although they did play a prominent role in securing the Ebonroot Crossing of Middemire during the war in Dveroth, therefore easing the passage of supplies for the armies of men. This family now presides over the Barony of Daggeron, the seat of the Riverborn. Distant cousins of House Barrowmont, they also strongly desire to rise higher than their current station and are known to favour wealth, influence and knowledge above all else.
THOSE THAT FELL
The HOUSE of EMBERHEART – At the end of the war, this House had been so decimated that only a few members remained. Its army was lost and its connections to Wintermere severed after the Barrowmont family seized control of their ancestral home. The House of Orelia offered the Emberheart family a stewardship within its own court and allowed them to keep their family title but would remain second in all things to their own House. The emergence of the Emberheart family can be traced back to the island of Emberfall, east of the Lochlands, where the origins of this family’s proficiency with fire magiks can be traced. Many famous or infamous pyromancers in the history of Ael’gard have had the family name Emberheart.
The HOUSE of WOLFRAM – It has long been considered by scholars that this House and its host continued journeying south toward the land of the Mithylfar during the peak of the war and were never seen again for reasons unknown. Mithylfarian emissaries from Sollistar once spoke of seeing a host of men and women clad in cloaks and banners depicting their emblem travelling through the Golden Road and moving south further still. Every trace of its ancestry and heritage has collapsed as this once great House has been forgotten to the passages of time.
The HOUSE of MALLORY – This House and all its members, as well as its host army, were massacred by the hammer and the spear of a bloody Dvergan assault as they marched foolishly to attack a stronghold of important tactical significance, against the advice of General Wulfgar. The few members that did not march that day were absorbed into House Valorayne.
The HOUSE of REATH – During a particularly brutal siege against its own private encampment, this House used its potent practitioners of dark magiks to summon three powerful demons into the mortal realm in an attempt to subvert and decimate the enemy. The plan succeeded to a point, the demons utterly devastated the battalion of Dvergar but they then turned on those who brought them forth from the Hollow Realm and destroyed the entire family and its host with the exception of one. A single young woman named Aeria Reath survived and it has been spoken by many that she still walks the lands and stalks the forests in the south east of Ayrlaston to this day.