A land of desolate moors and soaring highlands, Warden is an untouched frontier kingdom. Far from any trade routes, it is bordered by the mountains of Tamora and Nirkivish to the north and west, and the untamed forests of Murthrid to the east. Historically, Warden was home to a number of independent and animistic tribes, and were considered to be the same peoples of the Vintas. Where the rich plains of Vingaard formed city-states and warlords, however, the rugged landscape of Warden lent itself to a simpler life.
When King Aeolus swept through the Vintas and unified the warlords of Vingaard into a single kingdom, he also conquered the northern lands. These he unified into a single vassal kingdom, which he named Warden for its fierceness against intruders. The people of Warden resisted Vintish occupation most fiercely of all, and it is thought that much of the First King's famed momentum was spent conquering the bitter north. The lesson he learned is one that has resounded through the common wisdom of Vingaard: to "take the moor" is to attempt something foolish, needlessly painful.
Warden is a land of pastoral civilisation, mountain fortresses and vast forests. Because of the treacherous terrain, much of it is not quite fit for heavy cultivation. It is far more common to see flocks of sheep grazing on the rocky pastures than to see the gentle, cultivated fields of Vingaard. Warden is also criss-crossed by a network of rivers and lakes that flow down from the many mountain springs in the region; fishing provides sutenance for many, and the Wardens are famed for their swift curragh-ships in time of war.
Because of the fierce resistance shown to Vingaard in times of old, Warden is different in many ways from its liege-nation. Surrounded by the paganistic influences of the gnomes, the stark natural beauty of the landscape, and the elves of Murthrid to the east, the Trinity of Leng was far less attractive to the people of Warden than it was to those of Vingaard. The Druids have a great deal of power in the forests and dales of Warden, and in many matters they serve as an alternative to the government - adjudicating disputes, issuing decrees, and so on.
In terms of its provinces, as well, Warden is not split up into counties, baronies and duchies as Vingaard is. Instead, it is divided into five historical kingdoms: Moray, Alpin, Varciani, Ambar and Remis. The ruler of each of these kingdoms still consider themselves to be sovereign rulers, but within the kingdom of Vingaard their lands are officially considered to be earldoms - a special rank of nobility unique to Warden, at about the level of a duke. This is in itself a mark of the uneasy relationship that persists between Vingaard and its vassal even to this day; although Warden depends upon Vingaard, it is well understood between both that trying to force the Earls of Warden against their will is not a wise endeavour, for Warden is a land where armies go to die.
Because of its connection to sea, mountain and forest - and because the terrain means that Warden is relatively undeveloped - it is key to the magical workings of Vingaard's most eminent mages. A network of artificial ley-lines draws the natural power that rises from untamed moors and elven forests and channels it into the Vintish Heartland, giving the University of Solamnus and the Queen's court mage a deep well of power to draw from. Even when taxes are practically nonexistent, Vintish control of Warden is worth it for this reason alone, and they will not easily relinquish it.
Culture & Society
Although it may be a vassal state to Vingaard in name, the Kings of Warden are neither meek nor submissive subjects. Even if their demesnes are now officially earldoms of Vingaard, they retain their titles and sovereignty. A visitor could be forgiven for not realising that Vingaard has any influence at all; and this is not the only thing that they would find strange about Warden. Many outsiders are bewildered by their strange conception of honour, which is both parallel and perpendicular to Vintish ideals. It is wrapped up in a sense of standing, obligation and shame. Things which the inhabitants of other lands would find humiliating wash over Wardeners, but they can take offense at what would be a slight anywhere else. Another of the Wardener customs which are alien to foreigners is that of Tanistry: each King or Queen of Warden has at his or her right hand a Tanist, the second in command they have selected to be their successor. It neither through election or through primogeniture that new rulers are selected, then, although in the case of tragedy or rebellion a new King may be elected from the people.
The people of Warden are very pale-skinned even compared to the Vintas, leading many to believe that they are the descendants of Norse settlers from ancient times. Wardener society is divided up into four classes:
- Druids and Bards, both of whom are held in great reverence
- Warriors; specifically, the clan chiefs and the King or Queen themselves. Almost every Wardener will pick up a weapon in times of need, but the clan chief, his sub-chiefs, and his trusted warriors have a special position in society.
- Professionals such as blacksmiths, historians or healers, and the general citizenry.
- Outlaws; those who have been expelled from their tribe and family. In Wardener society, an outlaw is without protection of any kind; if they are slain, no crime is counted to have been committed. At one point, all foreigners fell into this category, but Vingaard no longer allows outsiders to be killed with impunity.
Warden is divided up into a series of clans, each ruled by a Chief and their Tanist. The King is simply the "Chief of Chiefs". As such, the justice system is radically different from Vingaard. There are no crimes per se, only grievances between clans. Wardener society has laws - but they are not set in stone, nor are they passe down by the King. They are more like shared social conceptions about what is right and wrong. Killing without good reason is wrong. Theft is wrong. For the most part, these edicts are passed down by the Druids. If a member of a clan commits a crime, his punishment will be mandated by his Chief - or in large clans, perhaps by his Tanist or one of his sub-chiefs. If the greivance is held by another clan, one figure of authority from the injured clan will bring the greivance to the other in order to see it put right. When no settlement can be easily reached between two clans, the Druids are brought in to mediate - lest a bitter clan feud arise as a result of the dispute.
The people of Warden were once animistic, worshiping a wide variety of gods - few of whom had human shapes. They believed in the spirits of nature and of wild beasts as things to be respected and learnt from, and some still adhere to this faith - especially in remote areas. The Wardeners resist worship of the Trinity, and temples are rarely found outside of large cities, but for the most part the practice of Animism has been replaced by Druidism, which many consider to be a more advanced and nuanced form of the "Old Faith". Many consider the Old Faith and Druidism to be one and the same; at the very least, they are compatible.