Return of the Godspell
Location: Northwest section of Worm’s Wood
Population: 103,033 by the Chart of Reckoning
Chief Deities: Ostensis, Aurlarist, Celzar, Ganlarid, Marlon, Terranolyn, Churarbus, Nemaria, Helias
Allied Nations: The Worm’s Tooth Towns, Wyrmspine Hills
Enemy Nations: Valdeze, Quasii, Carthron, Mandl
Not truly a nation or a kingdom in the proper sense, Eselix never-the-less remains an important location in Drm and in Worm’s Wood. Eselix is best regarded as a massive city, easily three times the size of Valernus in Valdeze, or Nar Narth Karthrike in Bainland. It seems to stretch on and out in Worm’s Wood, much to the chagrin to Valdeze and Quasii. Eselix is by far the largest civilization in Worm’s Wood, dominating trade and land throughout the region. In Worm’s Wood, the word of the King of Wyrms is almost a law unto itself. Originally known as the Kingdom of Eselix, Eselix was an amalgamation of independent but related towns and cities across Worm’s Wood wary of the growth of the Ministry and the growing strength of Valdeze.
Eselix is extremely young, founded in the Eleventh Age, The Age of Enlightenment but its history goes back much farther. The towns all trace their histories back to the earliest settlers of Bainland and wanderers from the Mandlite areas in the northwest. Prior to the arrival of the first Bainlanders in the Sixth Age, Worm’s Wood was populated by the last remnants of the Curoborian Empire, the B’Ain and A’Grabath Elves, legions of Goblin, Ogre, and Hill Giant tribes, and fell beasts including many drakes and at least one large Green Dragon named Chorisalis. It is unknown if Sapiens from the Mandl area ever attempted to settle here but if they did, the vying racial factions in the Wood doubtlessly slaughtered them. Worm’s Wood was in constant turmoil and war, although occasionally brought to heel by Chorisalis, beholders, or other similarly high-powered creatures. It is known that treasure hunters from Vhendimmoth and the Mandlite areas traveled to Worm’s Wood seeking the hordes of the various green dragons that dwelled in the Wood, particularly Chorisalis’ Lair, but this was probably the extent of Sapien interaction prior to the arrival of the first Bainlanders.
It is unclear when the first Bainlanders settled in Worm’s Wood. Unlike earlier attempts to settle made by Mandlite Sapiens, emigration by the Bainlanders would have been a violent affair and many scholars suspect that the earliest settlers were actually warriors and their families who had joined with the Elves to do battle with the Duruban in the area that is now known as Valdeze. It is known that the earliest settlements were near present-day Shearspine, suggesting that these Sapiens were relatively close to Chorisalis’ Lair and dozens of Hill Giant tribe-homes. Over time, as the Duruban were pushed further north and out of Worm’s Wood and as the Giants and Goblinoid races were brought to heel, these earliest settlers, rather than returning to Bainland or to the area now known as Valdeze, remained here and forged a living in the Wood. The only allies these people had were the Elves that grew to populate the northern portions of the Wood and Wyrmspine Hill, and the Gnomes that lived in their hidden glades and springs. It is likely that these events occurred over a few centuries between the founding of Bainland and the Dragonhold. During this time, numerous independent cities and towns were erected. Of the towns, Goblinoid tribes and Giants would overrun many, Beholders and Drakes would destroy them, or Chorisalis and other dragons and more entrepreneurial Beholders would force them into servitude. Remnants of these ruins, as well as the ruins of Duruban sites, are scattered across the Wood.
By the Dragonhold, towns like Raggedhill and Thunder’s Home, dotted Worm’s Wood. The greatest city in Worm’s Wood at the time, Rosetop, was controlled by the dragon Chorisalis and was in perpetual war with neighboring towns and cities. When the Dragonhold erupted, Chorisalis and weaker green dragons, forced to answer the call of the Dracobane, departed for Vhendimmoth and were never seen again, apparently destroyed during the Fall of Forten’s Keep. For the centuries that followed, the towns and lands within the Wood continued to exist in relative independence, although they continued to have violent interaction with Goblins, Giants, Drakes, and Beholders. It would not be until late in the Ninth Age when some of the towns and cities in Worm’s Wood joined the Noon Alliance under the Throne of Bainland. By bowing before the Throne of Bainland, the people of Worm’s Wood found some measure of protection against mundane foes like the Duruban and Goblins due to the assistance of highly trained warriors, and more deadly enemies like Beholders through the aid of the various Wizardly and priestly guilds, including Pandrila the Great. Some scholars would argue that the Noon Alliance only furthered problems in the area since those cities and towns that remained independent constantly found themselves battling against Bainlander incursions as well as against old enemies. There were hundreds of battles between this time and the Bloody Revolt, many over claims of independence from Bainland and the Alliance. Some cities and towns would switch their allegiance with the passing of local lords and kings, while others would adjust as certain religious orders came into power. It was in the years just before the Bloody Revolt that the city of Glimmerhovel was grew into prominence. It would be this city that would eventually become Eselix.
Glimmerhovel was young as the cities and towns in Worm’s Wood were measured, existing for just over a century. It inherited the power of Rosetop and its nobility and wealth. Glimmerhovel was controlled by the powerful Lord of Worm’s Wood, Sarvin Ordtongue in the years immediately preceding the Revolt, and he owed much of his strength to the pleasure of the King of Bainland, His Majesty Krimnthron Karthrike. Sarvin crushed all nearby towns into servitude and regularly harassed outlying towns. His cruelty and apparent evil lasted until the middle of the Bloody Revolt. Bolstered by the heroic acts of Archlord Valernus of Valdeze, the people of Glimmerhovel and surrounding towns turned against Ordtongue. In the winter of 1022 AG, Ordtongue was attacked by a mob, forced to drink the blood of his wicked sons, and thrown into what is known as the Bloody River. This act, although largely isolated from the bulk of Bloody Revolt related conflict, completely freed the people Worm’s Wood from a single despot for a time but did not end the dominance of Glimmerhovel.
Due to the influx of relatively powerful and evil creatures that live in Worm’s Wood, the towns and cities therein were a haven to many dangerous allies to T’Oth Maldran and his Forbidden Order during the years preceding and during The Darkhold. Glimmerhovel reaped the benefits of being the largest and most stable land in the Wood, able to provide its people with shelter and food behind its immense gates. Although The Darkhold did result in more conflict than even Worm’s Wood was accustomed to, Glimmerhovel, along with Wyrmwood and Carthron, managed to survive the onslaught of Giants, Goblins, and Beholders.
In the years following The Darkhold, Glimmerhovel continued to grow, spreading wide into Worm’s Wood. As one of the few surviving cities, the Lord of Worms offered protection and aid to the many people that were living in the open or in ruined towns and cities. Fearful of the denizen of the Wood, most of these people accepted. This Lord, named Esel, was a powerful Priest of Celzar. He offered safety and guardianship to Worm’s Wood. His might and charisma was such that many followed him willingly, regularly going into battle with Giants and Goblins as they held true to their promise to protect the people of Worm’s Wood. By 102 AE, Glimmerhovel’s Lord of Worm’s was dead and the city was renamed Eselix in his memory. Eselix, now a kingdom, became ruled by powerful kings descended from Esel. Although most cities and towns benefited from the unity forged by Esel, many still feeling the tug of independence, regularly sought to secede. Most of these secessions were put down but the fear always remained.
The might of Eselix extended throughout all of Worm’s Wood, leaving only a few cities like Wyrmwood, Jaeggertooth, and Carthron independent. Although Eselix continued to struggle with Giants and Goblins, they maintained their friendship with the Elves. This friendship would lead to Eselix’s downfall. By the 12th Age, the Kingdom of Eselix, wary of the growing might of Valdeze to the west, and Quasii to the south, began to encroach on territory beyond Worm’s Wood and provided assistance to their Elven allies as they moved out beyond the Woods and Wyrmspine Hills. These actions would result in the Claimed Land War I in 697. The war, which initially involved the Wyrmspine Hill Elves and Valdeze, eventually dragged all of the Ministry and Eselix into the conflict. This war, over the stretch of very fertile land between the Wynding River Valley and Worm’s Wood proved more than Eselix could handle and resulted the shrinking of the kingdom. Valdeze even claimed territory in Worm’s Wood. For decades, Eselix fumed at the loss, never establishing healthy relations with any Ministerial nations, Valdeze in particular. In 732 AE, another Claimed Land War erupted, this time between Eselix and Valdeze. This time, Valdeze attempted to reach Eselix’ capitol and raze the Glimmering City but failed to do so. Still, the war resulted in the end of the Kingdom of Eselix. The many satellites spit off and are now independent towns and cities once again.
Eselix is a vibrant place that still has a sense of oldness and danger to it. It is a place where people value their independence and have been hardened from the dangers inherent in their land. Although no longer as powerful as it once was, Eselix continues to be a thorn in the side of the Ministry, harboring those who fear the spread of the Ministry’s doctrines and the hegemony of Valdeze and Quasii.
Eselix is a very temperate area. It has almost three months of each season. During summers, temperatures never exceed 95 degrees F while winters typically are never cooler than 25 degrees F. Yearly rainfall averages are between 32 to 48 inches. Winter snows have never exceeded 7 inches.
Pine (like reddenwood) and hardwood trees (like hickory and walnut) dominate Eselix. Although not as wide spread as the trees, berry bushes and wildflowers of all kinds can be found, particularly within the city limits. Farmland around Eselix is characterized by relatively rocky, black soil. The healthy dirt is fed by the heavy tree-fall regular rains. Still, farming in Eselix (and Worm’s Wood in general) is significantly more challenging than in the Wynding River Valley. The dominant waterway in Eselix is Worm’s Bile Lake. This large lake lies north of Eselix and is the result of ice flows from the Wyrmspine Hills. It is named for its almost black but fresh water and it feeds the many small rivers and streams that flow into the Agrabathor Jungle or the Wynding River.
Deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, possum, doves, quail, ducks, geese, and turkey are very common in Eselix. Otters, beavers, and mink are also found. Trout, carp, and cod are the fish that populate the streams and rivers. Common predator species include wildcats, owls, foxes, eagles, and hawks. Songbirds abound as do snakes (particularly the king and racer species) and lizards. Wolf packs are the dominant predators, stalking throughout Worm’s Wood and regularly attacking the farms and homesteads around the city; bears and cougars are also seen on occasion. Although creatures like ankheg, giant ants and other insects, owlbears, wyvern (often used as mounts for the nobles), and the dire varieties of many animals are found in Worm’s Wood, such creatures are only very rarely seen near Eselix. Fire Drakes and Psuedodragons are relatively common near and in Eselix.
There are scores of Goblin Tribes in Worm’s Wood, and three, Brackenblood, Garbage Dancer, and Gnomeslayers, claim the land around Eselix as their territory. Eselix regularly deals with these creatures, and so far has yet to find their layers. Fortunately, the Goblin Tribes spend time fighting amongst themselves. Ogres and Trolls are very widespread but they are only rarely seen near Eselix. In the past, Hill Giants regularly attacked Eselix and surrounding towns and cities; these attacks ended during the reign of Esel but Giants are still encountered from time to time. There are many fey creatures in Worm’s Wood and those most often found near Eselix are Dryads and Nymphs. Dryads tend to found in the areas approaching the depths of Worm’s Wood and Nymphs are said to live in the Worm’s Bile Lake and the streams and rivers that flow from it.
Although they were all but driven out of the Wood, Duruban occasionally find themselves living in Worm’s Wood but they only rarely go into Eselix. Gnomes, which have numerous homes throughout Worm’s Wood, tend to keep to themselves but they do trade heavily with Eselix through special arrangements (see below). Elves are very common in Worm’s Wood. Like the Gnomes, they keep to themselves but on occasion they are known to travel into Eselix freely.
As the dominant city in Worm’s Wood, Eselix is the hub of life in the area. As such, many people travel to Eselix for food, knowledge, or material goods. Timber and woodwork, leather goods, furs, fruit, and seafood have historically been Eselix’s chief exports but fletching, pottery, and the raising of psuedodragons have become lucrative business over the past century. Eselix also mines at the southern reaches of Wyrmspine Hills, and has a strong iron production. Unfortunately, Eselix does not have the means to forge as well as countries like Valdeze or Mandl and often finds itself losing money when dealing with metal ores. Other goods common in Eselix are coal, limestone, and marble. As with iron, Eselix typically ships marble out and in turn buys finished works for outside.
Although Eselix ranks as the greatest land in Worm’s Wood, it is somewhat of a backwater when compared to any of the Ministry lands. Eselix has a very powerful and very small group of nobles that control the wealth and most of the trade in Eselix. There is a relatively small middle class mostly composed of the clergy of various churches and a few independent merchants. The vast bulk of the population is completely subservient to the whims of the nobles.
There are currently only nine noble families in Eselix. Referred to as the Royal Houses, these nine families control every component of life in Eselix and each is represented by their large sigils that fly over their ancestral Plantations. Each of these families is extremely old and all have significant claim to the Crown of Worms. Every few decades or so, some Houses are completely purged while others rise. Each House has its own cadre of guards and numerous Sworn that help deal with regular confrontations between rival families. When compared to Carthron, Quasii, or even Bainland, the Crown of Worms changes with alarming regularity. Every few decades or so, the Royal Houses enter into destructive and almost genocidal wars in pursuit of the Crown. For the past two decades, the Redspine Royal House has worn the Crown of Worms.
The Royal Houses are:
Commoners live a life of similar to that experienced by their peers in Bainland. They, for the most part, are completely subservient to the will of the Royal Houses and are aware of the conflicts of the Houses. Unlike the Bainlander commoners, Esel commoners tend to suffer a great deal from the battles. Commoners essentially trace their familiar lineage with a given Royal House and many families have been associated with one royal house for decades. Due to these affiliations, as Royal Houses clash, commoners affiliated with the loser in the struggle often lose power, land, and money, if not their lives as well. However, most commoners do not have significant ties to a given Royal House. This concept, called Sworn Fealty, is given only to families that have proven themselves to Royal Houses over the years. The families of such commoners tend to wear the sigil of the Royal House on all of their attire regardless of where they travel. Sworn commoners tend to have more wealth than their peers, tend to work on the large Royal House Plantations, and tend to have some semblance of an education. They also receive a far more significant degree of protection from the denizens of Worm’s Wood. The trade-off, of course, is that they suffer as the Royal House suffers.
The middle class is a small one. Most members of this class are very skilled laborers who, while they continue to claim Fealty to a given Royal House, operate almost independently of the nobility. Most of these skilled laborers tend to work well beyond the center of Eselix, either near the mines and Worm’s Bile Lake, or on the peripheries of the city, overseeing Royal House timber and trapping. Other members of the middle class are the priests of the various gods worshipped in Eselix. Because of the overarching might of the Royal Houses and the manner in which they dictate life in Eselix, priests are often nothing more than extensions of the nobility. Like the clerics in the Ministry, many Priests do not have the ability to call on deific power; those that do tend to control the many temples in the city and beyond. Each church has its own means of accepting new priests, although most have some kind of initiation for young men and women during their 14th year. The only other middle-class members are Wizards. There are many Wizards scattered throughout Eselix and their power keeps them almost above the petty politics… if they wanted it as such. In truth, many Wizards are integrally involved in politics and most are Sworn to one Royal House. Like Priests, Wizards often take in young men or women in their 14th year, determining their talent through various means.
As a group, Esels are very coarse, superstitious, and wary. Unlike Bainlanders, who honor and almost revere their Landed Nobles, Esel commoners fear and often hate the Royal Houses, seeing them as cruel and imperious. The Royal Houses largely ignore most commoners, using them as fodder in pursuit of complete control of Eselix. Still, Esels are very proud of their heritage. They have historically been completely opposed to the Ministry, Valdeze in particular. Many Esels believe that they are more than accustomed with the kind of “tyranny” they are currently dealing with and have no interest in trading it. Their hatred for Valdeze is associated with the loss of land and the end of the Kingdom of Eselix during the Claimed Lands War I. Additionally, many fear that the Ministry, with its belief in one god, hatred for the Word, and imperialistic mentality, will bring about the wrath of other gods and dark spirits.
Esels have a strange relationship with Worm’s Wood, viewing it as both their foe and as their friend. Most Esels make sure to find themselves either indoors or in heavily populated areas at night, never wander too deep into the Woods, and pay homage to a wide variety of gods associated with the various animals that dominated the Wood. Worship of gods like Nemaria, Ganlarid, and Helias is very widespread and temples and shrines dedicated to these gods can be found throughout Eselix. Celzar is only slightly less popular and tends to be worshipped almost exclusively by a few Royal Houses, some Wizards, and the most trusted Sworn. There are small cults dedicated to Churarbus and Marlon; these tend to keep well into the Woods, rarely interacting with commoners, although at least one Royal House (the Brokenclaw) are said to have dedicated themselves to this cult. All but the most holy, goodly Esels placate evil gods. Ostensis and Terranolyn are extremely powerful in Eselix and Ostensis has a very visible church within the city that is said to have ties to the Bloody Heart (see Worm’s Wood). Even Lestonises finds veneration here, particularly during the winter. Most Esels believe that by placating and respecting these evil gods they will escape terrible fates associated with murder, theft, and tyranny. It is this mentality that has kept Eselix (and much of Worm’s Wood) steadfastly opposed to the Ministry.
Esels are hesitant to treat with strangers. However, they are far more open-minded than most of their Worm’s Wood brethren due to Eselix’s status in the Wood. They view the other people of Worm’s Wood as backwards fools but there is a sense of familial concern. Esels tend to know what occurs in the other lands of Worm’s Wood, particularly former satellites of the defunct Kingdom of Eselix. They know little of Dwarves but believe them to be greedy for gold, so greedy that they would do anything to acquire gold, even murder. Gnomes are generally feared as mischievous troublemakers better left alone. Most trade with Gnomes is done near glades and open areas in the forest; either party drops off their wares which is picked up by the other who leaves behind the payment. Esels seem most comfortable with this arrangement. Esels do not hate Gnomes, however, and often will attack anyone who has claimed to have harmed a Gnome, fearing that the little ones have the ability to curse those associated with such an act. Esels greatly fear Duruban and often attack them on sight. They are not especially fond of Hobgoblins either, seeing them as spawn of Ostensis. The few Esels who have seen Chirpto firmly believe that they saw demons. Like Gnomes, attacking a Chirpto will often get the offender killed by his fellow Esels. Aside from Gnomes, Elves are the only other demi-human race that Esels have any dealings with. Esels view Elves as the otherworldly lords of the northern parts of the Wood and treat them with deference. Although they fear that offending an Elf will result in the kidnapping of their children, the growth of hair on palms, and other maladies, Esels remember that their forefathers fought side-by-side with Elves and to this day consider them allies. As such, Eselix has a strong relationship with both the Elves of Wyrmspine Hills and Wyrmspine Valley.
The Lord of Worms rules Eselix and he is referred to as such by those beyond Worm’s Wood; he is most often referred to as the King of Eselix by the people of Eselix and Worm’s Wood. Historically, the Lord of Worms has been a very powerful yet dangerous position. Although the Lord of Worms has greater resources and the support of the Stewards of Worms, he is also just the eldest member of a Royal House and many Lords have fallen victim to assassination attempts and coups as the Royal Houses compete for power. The Lord of Worms decides on his own precisely how to rule Eselix, how to issue and collect taxes, and how to punish those convicted of crimes. Currently, His Majesty, Lord Denegar BrokenClaw, rules Eselix. The BrokenClaw House has ruled Eselix for 80 years now and Lord BrokenClaw has proven to be an ingenious and manipulative ruler for the past 30 years. A aging man, Lord Redspine has kept the other Royal Houses out of any direct power, angering all of them. But he has also rewarded some Houses will lands, greater wealth, and similar boons for secret arrangements he’s made with them. Those Houses not so rewarded have turned much of their ire from the Lord of Worms to the Houses that have received Lord BrokenClaw’a pleasure.
The only constant in the government is the office of the Steward of Worms. While the Stewards could be considered another family, the entire line is under a hereditary promise that forces them to maintain complete support to the maintenance of Eselix and loyalty to the given Lord of Worm’s. The Steward’s family maintains the Castle of Dragondagger, collects taxes as decreed by the Lord of Worm’s, acts in the Lord’s name, and oversees the army. The current Steward is also the Queen of Eselix, and a testament to Lord BrokenClaw ‘s power. Her name is Bianka BrokenClaw.
Eselix is protected by the Dragondaggers, a cadre of warriors that are composed of many Stewards and members of the given Lord’s House guard. This ensures that their numbers are always greater than those of other Houses, although this is often just barely accomplished. King BrokenClaw has taken to hiring mercenaries, including those associated with the Raiders of Worm’s Wood, to bolster the Dragondaggers. There are currently 7832 Dragondaggers in Eselix, of which 3000 were former mercenaries.