Dveroth had been conquered and the race of men from the northern realm of the Lochlands had claimed the country for themselves. Several notable Houses and leaders were placed into the positions of Baron to maintain stability and control of this new realm, which was a fertile land full of possibilities and potential. Some naysayers would claim years later that the King of Wintermere had purposefully sent his envoy of settlers, including his own cousin, to die across the border just so he would have a reason to invade. Many more say that he would have failed in this foolish endeavour were it not for the contributions of House Valorayne, Morvayne, Orelia and Thorn and especially that of his newest General, Wulfgar the Stoneslayer. But he would claim his new territory regardless and begin to form this new country as a vassal state of the Winter Court.
It would not be long however for the seeds of discord to be planted from the very beginning and continue to grow as the months of vexing demands turned to years of struggle. The Barons of Ayrlaston grew tired and war hungry from the constant strains of their King and their Court to produce and supply vast quantities of crops, resources and the riches of the land to an already burgeoning nation of wealth that was fit to burst under the weight of its greed. Within the space of a hundred years, the Houses of Morvayne and Valorayne from their seats in Frosthaven and Covenraen would form an alliance to wage war on their King. Soon the Houses of Orelia and Thorn would also join followed begrudgingly by the House of Stormsever to see themselves free from the shackles of the Winter Court.
They would meet on the battleground outside Frosthaven on the field of the Ice Barren Wastes, just a few miles from the Dead Gate of the Skyspear Mountains and the Pass of Wulfgar that leads onto the road to the city of Wintermere. The King of the Winter Court, the grandson of the King that waged war on the Dvergar, would meet them here followed by the Houses of Barrowmont, Auldred and Graveson and their hosts though when they saw the sheer size of Ayrlaston’s armies, there was no doubt in his mind that they would not prevail. Seeing this and despairing, the King signed an accord with his former vassals and yielded to them the new kingdom of Ayrlaston before he returned to the Lochlands a disgraced monarch.
Each step of the journey, he was hounded by his advisors for his rash decision and told constantly of his apparent mistakes. There were many demands for him to return to Ayrlaston to see their will done, to trample down the dissenters under the boot of the Court and that they would not tolerate an independent southern kingdom. Whatever was spoken is irrelevant, what is known is that this decision saved the lives of thousands that day, they who had no real desire to spill the blood of their kin. But it was a decision that seal that sealed this Kings fate for he would not live long to see his crown thrive or falter.
Hushed rumours of murderous dissent amongst the Barrowmonts and the Auldreds lingered for a while as they refused to relent. The Winter King would die within the month without an heir to replace him and the rest of his family would also disappear without a trace. After a bitter dispute, the House of Auldred would then ascend to the throne and they refuse to this day to fully recognise the agreement that was signed over two thousand years ago. The Winter Court are said to merely tolerate the existence of Ayrlaston’s independence. It is no secret that were it not for the profitable trade between the two countries then no accord would ever be acknowledged. It is also of no surprising news to any who live within the walls of Wintermere that the Auldred Kings are simply waiting for an excuse to reclaim the lands that were once theirs, by war or by right.
As the country of Ayrlaston is separated by the mighty Silverblade River that divides the country into two, so were the kingdoms forged anew. The House of Morvayne would claim the East Reach as its kingdom upon the throne of Frosthaven to guard against their neighbours to the north and dangers from across the seas to the east. The House of Valorayne would tend the Wester Vales and sit atop a throne of silver with its seat in Covenraen to keep the peace with Sollistar in the south and to watch for any attempts at invasion from old allies from across the Silent Sea and the ancient outposts on Emberfall Island.
It would seem however that enduring within the hearts and minds of men, there lingers a lust for war and a terrible thirst for power for it would not be long before a bloody civil war between the two kingdoms would reforge the land once more.
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 Lochland.
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 lands of Lochland 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 Lochland. 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 Lochland 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 Ayl’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 magick 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 magicks can be traced. Many famous or infamous pyromancers in the history of Ayl’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. Mithylfar 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 magicks 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.
This is the written account of the fall of a proud warrior race, the birth of a new nation and the legend of Wulfgar Stormsever as it is documented in the histories and tomes contained within the library of the Aeon Citadel of Amberfall.
Many centuries ago the Lords of the Winter Court, under the rule of its King, ordered a settlement be built as a trading outpost upon the mountainous crossing into Dveroth, the homelands of the Dvergan race. The settlers though would travel too far and begin the construction of their village within the borders of their then allies that would lead to a terrible misunderstanding. Despite the pleas of the village leaders that they would return to the Lochlands, these farmers, hunters and merchants were wiped out but for a few who managed to escape. This demand of senseless murder came from a young and war hungry Dvergan captain that saw this as an unmistakable intrusion into his homelands, a prelude to an invasion and an insult to his god, the God of Storms. This was something he could not abide and would wait for no orders from his superiors as to how to act.
A short time later after a harsh journey to return home though the Skyspear Mountains, this slaughter was reported by the leader of the expedition, a hunter known only by his first name of Wulfgar, to the Winter King. The Kings cousin was amongst those who had been killed and it is said that he wept upon hearing the news and that this was the moment the war began. He rallied the Houses of the Winter Court and commanded the invasion of Dveroth and that Wulfgar would lead the first wave. This young hunter turned bitter soldier was eager for justice.
What happened over the following weeks was considered nigh impossible. The Dvergar were known for their strong fortifications and deep strongholds and were confident that they would repel these invaders from the north. No one could have known just how successful Wulfgar would have been. He never battled his enemy head on; he knew that it was pure folly to engage warriors who were superior in physical strength and larger numbers head on. He instead sought out ways to drive the Dvergar from their forts so that they could be fought on open ground. Dvergan weaponry and armours were considered to be greater in every way but Wulfgar did not take brute sword wielding warriors with him. He instead commanded a legion of two thousand of the finest archers from the Lochlands and each were trained in the use of longbows made from a fine but strong wood that grows only in the north. The reach of this longbow is renowned and was capable of firing arrows across frightening distances. So as the Dvergar were driven from their homes with arrows laced with oil and fire, they were easily decimated before they could get close enough to wield their hammers or swords into battle.
Wulfgar directed the defeat of several battalions of Dvergan soldiers and conquered the city of Morinth within a month. After the news had arrived of this victory, the Winter King led the armies of the men of the Lochlands which had over thirty thousand soldiers from eight of the twelve Houses of the Winter Court and they strode into Morinth unopposed. Here they would fortify their own stronghold from which to continue their campaign. With Wulfgar’s archers and three years’ worth of untouched grains and supplies, the stone city of Morinth provided an excellent defensive advantage so much so that the Dvergan King had to wait for the invaders to come to his forces one battle at a time.
Now feared as Wulfgar the Stoneslayer, he became a potent strategist of warfare and would be at the head of every successful battle. His wrath was vicious and calculated. It is said that his wife and sons were killed and that their bodies were hung as a vicious message of rotting ruthlessness when the Dvergar slaughtered his people, but no one can now know for sure if this was true. No Dvergan captain was able to match his mind; they were constantly and consistently outfought and outwitted even though their numbers were greater. They had greatly underestimated the capability of their neighbours to the north. The losses suffered by the race of men came only when Wulfgar was not leading that particular campaign and so these soldiers could not defeat the warriors of Dveroth in close quarters. Once, both races were content to trade sparsely with one another in search of common ground from which to form an alliance. The Stone-Winter war became the epoch of their hatred and resentment for one another.
After just two years the Dvergan peoples were pushed back further and further until they accepted that there would be no reclaiming their lands, that they would soon be defeated and conquered. Wulfgar took no prisoners except those he could personally extract information from. He knew that his enemy would be obliterated within days and so led his army one final time into the last Dvergan encampment within the ruins of Duskholm only to find that it had been abandoned completely.
To this day, no one really knows what happened to the last of the Dvergan race. The common tale is that they escaped through the passes of the Summerpeak Mountains and sailed north across the Silent Sea, never to be heard from again. Others would claim that they fled south into Sollistar to seek aid from the Mithylfar, but none of them have any recall or tales of this ever happening. And the Mithylfar have long lives and even longer memories. There is a drunkard story teller who lives as a beggar in a small border town who sings of the return of the Dvergar and that one day they will seek to reclaim what they lost and kill the descendants of Wulfgar and his King.
Whatever actually happened, the country of Dveroth had fallen completely to the merciless campaign led by the Winter King and his chosen General. Wulfgar would be rewarded with the rule of the city of Morinth, and given the name and title of Wulfgar Stormsever, and became the Baron of the newly renamed city of Stonehold. The King would return to his Court to rule once more over his own territories as well as oversee the regulation of his new lands now that this monumental task had been completed. He placed the four Houses of the Court that travelled south with him and survived the Stone-Winter War in strategic positions across Dveroth so that the race of men would forever retain dominion over this land that would become the country of Ayrlaston.
The House of Morvayne would form the settlement of Frosthaven on the far eastern shore just across from Sundership Bay. The House of Thorn would settle in the rivers of Middemire and become Barons of the newly created town of Daggeron. The House of Orelia which had conquered the southern borders claimed the ruins of the ancient city of Duskholm and built atop it the now famous mountain city of Amberfall. Finally the King would place his most valued ally, the House of Valorayne, in a region rich with silver mines that would eventually become the capital city of this country, Covenraen.
The King of men had claimed his ambition with the help of his General but the Court of Winter would eventually lose their grip on their new territory. The Houses he placed in seats of power would one day come to rebel against his grandson to form two kingdoms of their own as they shunned the laws of the Court in favour of their rule.
No one living two thousand and some years later can recall the name of the King that ordered the execution of an entire race to avenge the loss of his dear cousin. But the story of Wulfgar Stormsever the Stoneslayer lives on as he is remembered as a fierce warrior general and a powerful legend that became a symbol of pride for the race of man folk and a dire example as a warning to others who would dare test the might of men.
Dveroth had fallen, the Dvergan race was lost and the realm of Ayrlaston was formed atop the bones and the ashes of the dead. This was the brutal birth of a country that would become one of the most powerful nations in all of Ayl’gard.