RAVENNAA tranquil orb of blue and green, only the planet’s mountain ranges and few desert regions mar Ravenna’s impression of uniform serenity. A stellar anomaly of sorts, Ravenna has no set axis, but rather spins in a gentle, ever shifting pattern around the great gravity engines at its core. Bathed in the warm light of a stable yellow sun, Ravenna is often called a living paradise by those who call it home. Mirroring its geological stability, the nobles of Ravenna seemingly prize political stability above other considerations. This is a centuries-old proposition which only now seems to be unraveling.
Planetary TraitsStar: Storn (pale yellow star)
System: Mosari (0.57AU), Ravenna (1.02AU; Triangulus), Jualwa (6.58AU), Dro (18.54AU; 23 moons), Madro (19.72AU; 17 moons), Nylus (32.99AU), Jumpgate (68.09AU), Ploo (72.58AU)
Jumps: Velisamil, Leminkainen, Gwynneth, Delphi
Resources: stone, gem stones, precious metals, deuterium
Exports: marble, jewelry, fine arts, foods
HistoryDiscovered from Delphi by Independent explorers in 2505, they surveyed a stormy and hostile world. The inclement conditions where driven by the planet’s extreme axial tilt that alternated conditions between the extremes of heat and cold. The surface of the world was often broken by tectonic activity that dredged up massive mineral wealth from the depth of the planets mantle.
Despite the hostility of the conditions Ravenna possessed a natural biome of it’s own, though many of the life forms that called the world home were inimical to human life. Clearly, exploiting the mineral-rich planet demanded great sacrifices of human and financial capital. A number of competing corporate interests from the declining First Republic sought to gain control of the mineral wealth, this included the Cynostar Corporation that already held Delphi, its strategic placement and the fact that it had recently redeployed to Delphi gave it an advantage over the competition when the land grab came.
The DiasporaMany of the first colonists to arrive on Ravenna came from Delphi, perhaps driven by their pioneering spirit to see what lay over the next horizon, but most would have arrived with the deployment of the Cynostar’s assets. Many others soon followed from Urth arriving with other Ziabatsu corporation intent on surviving the slow unraveling of the First Republic.
The storm tossed and tectonically active world had few places of safety to establish secure holdings, though Cynostar had the advantage of being the first to arrive and therefore secured the most strategic sites.
As other corporate interests began to arrive Cynostar resisted these incomers, under the leadership Ravenna branch CEO John-James Mountbatten (2479-2622). The later period of the 26th century became a corporate claim war fought between Cynostar and the arriving conglomerates from Urth. Even with Cynostar’s head start it was unable to secure its dominion of Ravenna due in the main to the hostility of the environment and the indigenous life forms.
In the mean time Cynostar gradually began to change, moving from a corporate to an extended family structure under the leadership of John-James. The best description for the political situation on Ravenna for much of the later 26th and early 27th century could be described as a cold war. Each of the surviving corporations began to morph in to something approximating landholding nobility, but each in a perpetual state of cold war with each of their neighbors.
In was only when the Hawkwoods reached out from Delphi to reassert their claims over the territories held by the Cynostar Corporation did the stalemate crumble. In 2623 the two halves of the Cynostar Corporation were rejoined as a political marriage between Trevor Hawkwood and Marianne Mountbatten, brought the fledgling House Mountbatten into the greater House Hawkwood.
As the final vestiges of the First Republic fell many worlds suffered unrest, and new politely structures struggled for dominance. The Mountbatten family, with Hawkwood support was able to assert significant military strength and crush most of its competitors bring about a period of relative peace and stability on the otherwise stormy world.
In 2799 the Prophet Zebulon visited Ravenna, thereby changing it forever. Ravenna’s harsh environment had bred an apocalyptic furor and the planet welcomed his words of salvation with the ardor of true converts. From then on, Ravenna became the most devout (and conservative) of Hawkwood worlds. When the Prophet died on his embassy to the Vau, the planet went into deep mourning. This bereavement was such that one of the Prophet’s most pious followers, Lord Cato Hawkwood, followed the Prophet’s lead; he took a ship full of the devout into space and crashed it into the jumpgate. Others sought to follow his example, but House Hawkwood repelled additional suicide attempts for fear they would damage the jumpgate. Saint Cato’s image remains a prominent fixture in Ravennan stained glass windows and other iconography.
The Second RepublicDuring the Second Republic, Ravenna underwent a physical metamorphosis to match its earlier spiritual transformation. Fantastically prosperous because of its mineral wealth, Ravenna invested in the most advanced terraforming technology, remaking the hostile world into a garden paradise. The Second Republic scientists used force fields and colossal gravity engines to correct the planet’s flawed axial tilt, making its current changing rotation virtually unique in the Known Worlds. Though the radical procedure took almost two centuries to realign the planets extreme axial tilt. The use of sophisticated weather control technology eased the transition and realignment of the planets environment.
With great effort, hunters wiped out most of the native predators, though some escaped into the planet’s nearly endless underground caverns. Vast tracks of land were set aside as nature reserves and the planet imported less dangerous wildlife from a dozen other worlds. Indispensable to this project, the beast-speakers of House Trusnikron settled in the North Folari continent and have remained close allies of House Hawkwood ever since.
Many today view this as an act of ultimate hubris, altering the Pancreator’s work. Indeed, some blame this act for the fading suns phenomenon noticed there a century later.
The New Dark AgesDespite its dependence on high technology, Ravenna was among the first planets to heed the Universal Church’s call and discard republican rule. Indeed, Ravenna was one of the few planets to avoid mass violence during that time. The faithful abandoned the cities and returned to a saner and more holy way of life in the country. The planet only reserved some technology to defend itself and to help its less agreeable neighbors (especially Gwynneth, Leminkainen and Velisamil) to follow its path to a more agrarian existence. Ensconced in what it considered a new holy age, the conservative populace was slow to adopt the Doctrine of the Privilege of Martyrs, allowing the clergy (and eventually nobles and guilds) freer access to technology. It was only the advent of the Barbarian Invasions in 4525 that partially shifted most people’s thinking on the matter. All Hawkwood planets suffered during the barbarian invasions, though Ravenna, buffered by Leminkainen and Gwynneth, did not suffer raids until the late 45th century onwards.
In 4520 the Barbarian fleet of Thane Froijir scattered the assembled Hawkwood Fleet in the Leminkainen system and struck at lightning speed hitting both Ravenna and onwards into the Delphi system. But this was no mere raid this was a fully-fledged invasion and Ravenna was cut off from the other Hawkwood worlds and beset by murderous pagans. For the next thirty years much of Ravenna came under the heel of the Vuldrok.
This was no passive occupation, the people of Ravenna were conservative and stanchly orthodox, bolstered by their faith many areas of the planet though isolated from each other and from off world Hawkwood support, they continued to fight, and considered in their religious duty to throw of the shackles of their oppressors. The occupation of Ravenna was the bloodiest of any of the worlds captured by the Invaders.
Eventually Prince Gervaise II liberated the world in 4547, backed by a coalition of Hawkwood, Justinian and Alecto forces. This was not the end of the war against the Vuldrok, but only the beginning, what followed was several years of religious cleansings as Vuldrok, their sympathizers and bastards were systematically tracked down and brought to cleansing flame. If it was possible the Vuldrok occupation had only made the people of Ravenna even more conservative and devout in their faith.
The next time Ravenna would cross the stage of galactic politics was in 4684 when Lady Avyryl Hawkwood, the planet’s nominal ruler, married Bishop Halvor Li Halan of Kish and threw her political weight behind his bid to become patriarch and Emperor. The rest of the family, fearful that she might bring Ravenna into the Li Halan fold (and generally opposed to a theocracy) blockaded Ravenna. Challenged by Halvor’s forces, the combined might of House Hawkwood destroyed the invading fleet and arrested Lady Avyryl. When Halvor died from a mysterious malady a year later, the ambitious duchess ruled House Li Halan in her son’s name until he came of age, where upon she retreated to a private life in a convent on Velisamil.
The Emperor WarsRavenna has again come to galactic prominence in recent years, but this time as the birthplace of Emperor Alexius I. Born to the family matriarch, the Duchess Regnus-Octavia and her paramour, Duke Utar Vincius Hawkwood, Alexius grew up in a house at war. His uncle, Prince Darius Hawkwood, had triggered the Emperor Wars in his ill-fated attempt to be named to the Phoenix Throne.
Upon Darius’ death (4977), Lady Octavia threw her support behind her sons, Alexius and Alverax. With the dowager mother’s backing, Alexius was able to quell family dissension and out-maneuver other rivals to Darius’ power.
When Alexius I ascended the Phoenix Throne, he surprised many by ceding his Ravenna lands and title to his brother, Duke Alvarex, and distancing himself from the family. This act does did not sit well with many on his home planet. Ravenna is a now a world of barely contained resentment. Rivalries within the Hawkwood family have in places broken out in to actual warfare where brother fights brother for control of hereditary fiefs. Duke Alvarex initially quelled many of these disputed by calling for unity in the face of barbarian aggression and for a time this held things together. But succession wars have become all too common on Ravenna. No longer is it the right of the oldest to inherit the title and fief of his family, but instead such things must be won through the use of military might to clear the route to succession.
Mosari: Mosari is an unsual world, blanketed in a thick wrap of toxic carbon and sulfur dioxide. It exerts a surprisingly high gravitational field and very strong magnetosphere, both of which act in concert to prevent its atmosphere from being steadily eroded by its proximity to Storn. It is believed that the planet has a tiny extremely dense corethat creates both of these effects but is largely composed of gases. As such Mosari has been dubbed a “miniature gas giant”. Inhospitable in the extreme, the planet is scoured by hurricane-speed winds and shrouds many mysteries within its clocking gas shroud.
Ravenna: Ravenna is the system’s second major satellite and the only planet with a life-sustaining atmosphere. Its current climate and stability are largely due to Second Republic terraforming that corrected the extreme axial tilt that drove both aberrant weather systems and extreme tectonic upheavals.
Ravenna’s moon, Triangulus, is roughly 1/10 Ravenna’s size; it maintains an artificial atmosphere and the gravity of a planetoid six times its mass. Though life is sustainable, it is by no means easy. The rocky soil makes for poor crops, and nobles who manage fiefs here usually really on mining for their principle income. The Muster has a strong presence, operating a penal colony that makes use of prisoners as a slave labor force to mine various minerals for use in manufacturing.
Jualwa: A small rocky planet that was subjected to systematic strip-mining to supply the needs of the world engineers when they manufactured the tremendous gravity engines that now sit at the core of Ravenna. All that remains is small rocky world riddled with caves and massive caverns, sometimes miles deep. It is said that some of these caverns are so large that one could hide a whole fleet inside, if you could be sure of find the way back out again. There are persistent rumors of pirates operating from Jualwa, but little hard evidence backs up tales of a pirate city built at the heart of a great labyrinth of caves.
Dro: A great gas giant of swirling red storm clouds, unusually Dro travels in opposing orbital direction to the other worlds in the solar system leading First Republican astronomers to speculate about its possible extra-solar origins. Dro has 23 moons, most of which are unremarkable barren and rocky. They all show some signs of ancient habitation, having at some point in the distant past either having been mined or subjected to sizable excavations.
Strangely, ancient records recently recovered by the Charioteers record Dro has have 47 moons, thought there is no indication of what happened to the missing moons or when exactly they disappeared.
Madro: Dro’s physical twin, Madro the pair appear as two scarlet specs in the Ravenna sky. Often called the “Eyes of Azzurayelos” (the demonic Lord of the Gates of Death), their conjunction in the sky is supposed to portend death and calamity. Madro has 17 moons and much like those of Dro there are a great many ancient remains, though most have been picked clean of useful tech by the Scravers long ago.
Nylus: Nylus is a large, rocky world, at least three times Ravenna’s mass. Its massive gravity allowed the world to hold onto its atmosphere as the world cooled at the dawn of the solar system. However as the temperature dropped the gases cooled, turning to liquid, much of which is now frozen across its surface obscuring the details of the world from orbital surveys. The gravity is far too great to allow for human exploration of the world, despite its considerable mineral wealth.
Ploo: Ploo is a small chunk of frozen rock. There are those who question if it should be classified as a planet at all. Following an elliptical orbit that brings it close to the orbit of the Jumpgate every 345 years. Its position outside the solar system means that this world has not been visited since the time of Second Republic when a survey mission reportedly landed there.
People and PlacesThe people of Ravenna are often characterized by stern, disapproving, and taciturn with a strong Orthodox morality. Like all stereotypes there is a foundation of truth to this perception. Ravenna is certainly the most traditional and zealous of the Hawkwood homeworlds and the Universal Church holds a great deal of sway in the hearts and minds of the people. Many are disapproving of rapid change and what many see as the defection of the Emperor has created a bitter undercurrent in the usual Hawkwood reserve.
Ravenna has three continents (Castillo, Andyra and Folari) and eight major island groups (Chul, Kasi, Trieste, Austram East, Austram West, Lugano, Locarno and Bredonia). Originally torn apart by runaway tectonic activity, the planet’s geological destiny is now determined by its aging planetary engines dug deep into the core of the world. The strange tumbling rotation of the planet ensures an even distribution of sunlight to all areas of the globe, ensuring a temperate climate with now polar caps. There are still predictable seasonal variations depending on the precise phase of the rotation, though his never reaches the summer heat or winter chill of other worlds.
Traditionally Ravenna has been divided into three duchies and a county, the foremost of which is Duchy of Andyra, currently held by the Duke Alverax Hawkwood, the Emperor’s brother. Duke Alverax is also named as the Protector of Ravenna, making him the ruling planetary lord and second in authority only to Princess Victoria on Delphi. Duke Cassius Hawkwood rules the Duchy of South Folari. The Duchy of Austram has been divided by a succession war between the children of the former Duke. Though officially still a single duchy, these days it is considered to be two counties, the County of Austram East, ruled by Countess Cassandra Justinian Hawkwood, and the County of Austram West ruled by her brother Count Otto Kierkegaard Hawkwood. The Countess Morgana Solara Trusnikron holds the County of Folari North.
The continent of Castillo falls under the domain of the Universal Church and is officially ruled by Archbishop Sondra Nies.
CastilloHouse Hawkwood gave this continent to the Church after the Fall; diplomatically, Castillo is now considered Terra Firma (part of Holy Terra). The citizens of Castillo are now considered among the most holy and devout in the Phoenix Empire. Industrious and honest to a fault, crime and corruption are virtually unknown among the continent’s common citizenry. The Inquisition operates quite openly here, but unlike in many regions, they have a wide degree of support as keepers of public order. It is not an unusual sight to see common citizens greet them on the street. Despite this, accusations of clerical corruption remain. Whether the citizenry’s honesty is a result of the continent’s inherent holiness, or of the Universal Church’s draconian adherence to Orthodox law and codes of punishment is in question.
The Castillo Theological University is a major font of learning throughout the Phoenix Empire; every year thousands of scholars, merchants and pilgrims visit the Castillian Holy Land. Little is left of the region’s mineral wealth, but the continent’s wineries, rich farmlands and industrious population have made the continent a major source of wealth for the Universal Church at large. Castillo is known for its cathedrals and holy places, including the mount in South Castillo where Zebulon addressed the multitudes.
Castillo is ruled by the Archbishop Sondra Nies, the elderly church leader has been a frequent and vocal detractor of Emperor Alexius I. criticizing him openly and frequently to her congregation. She is particular concerned by the rise of the Reborn Sun, the so called Emperor Cult, and has issued a number of Inquisitorial Seals through the planetary synod to empower the Inquisition on Ravenna to purge such heresies where ever they may be found.
Craintown: The capital of Castillo and the site of the planetary cathedral and a large airport that makes it easily accessible by flights from the worlds’ four spaceports. The city is not the largest on Castillo but it is widely considered to be the most architecturally beautiful city. Destroyed during the bombings of 4208, the entire city was conceived and designed by the genius of the noted theological architect, Benedict Ishim; more familiar with the design of cathedrals than whole cities he conceived the city as a whole as a place of worship. The Planetary Cathedral
AndyraEmperor Alexius was born here but now, in his absence, his brother, Duke Alvarex and his bride, Duchess Penelope Hawkwood, rule Andyra. Despite occasionally strident criticism by the Ravenna Orthodoxy, Emperor Alexius I still remains wildly popular on his home continent, which remembers his even-handed rule. Even now, peasant homes across the region keep images of the Emperor in places of honor and pray every night for his well-being. A recent investigation ordered by Archbishop Lyander is probing accusations that the Reborn Sun has gained a foothold here.
Alexius I’s reign has also brought a new age of prosperity to the continent. Visiting pilgrims who wish to see the birthplace of the Known World’s longest-reigning Emperor visit the planet. More importantly, perhaps, the boom on Byzantium Secundus and other parts of the Empire has resulted in a new interest for Ravenna’s mineral wealth and skilled stonemasons.
Ravenna marble brings greater wealth to the region than at any time since the Fall and the continent still has the second richest mineral reserves on the planet (next to the barely tapped regions of the Folari North). Ravenna’s citizenry are divided between a rural existence in agrarian communities and a partially technological way of life in its deep core mining cities. Due to its status as a center of politics and major export center, Andyra maintains a large interplanetary spaceport in its capital, Suryada, and also a comprehensive magna-rail train system. This system is widespread in the more populated southern regions; few places are more than a few hours away from each other. The rail system does exist farther north, but only reaches a few destinations.
In the years since Duke Alverax took over from his brother the continent had seen little change, functioning primarily as a wartime economy producing munitions and equipment for the Duke’s personal army. The recent marriage between Duke Alverax and Lady Penelope as already produced an heir and her courtly savvy is seen as a stabilizing influence upon the fiery Duke Alxerax.
Andyra has begun to thrive under their combined stewardship, with the realignment of the general economy away from weapons production towards other industries. The duchess has proved to be driving force for modernization but seeks to balance these ideas with the traditional necessities of the local people. She has already become a very popular figure and her patronage of the local Midwifery Guild has improved the birth rate and survival of both mothers and infants in the Suryada locality.
Suryada: Suryada is a large, orderly city in the south-central portion of Andyra. While the capital has a low technology appearance typical of many Ravenna cities, it has modern aspects. The guards who patrol the street frequently carry advanced firearms and higher-ranking officials have personal shields. There is some motor traffic, though such vehicles are seen less and less as one travels north, where the roads fail. Almost all of the buildings in Suryada are made of quarried stone; the planet’s builders mostly disdain synthetic materials such as maxicrete, and the population destroyed all the Second Republic architecture after the Fall. The most important buildings are made from Ravennan marble of various dazzling patterns and hues. Suryada contains such sites as the royal palace, the planetary agora (the Viceroy) and St. Regoe’s Cathedral, where Bishop Tyrus Hislop oversees services on state occasions. Twenty miles north of the city is the palace where Emperor Alexius I was born, and the site has become a place of pilgrimage for many. There are a number of active guilds in the city, far more than on the planet at large. The spaceport in Suryada is large, opulent and displays a combination of the modern and the traditional.
Deepcore CitiesDeepcore cities are great urban complexes built around deep mining shafts during the Diaspora and Second Republic. Up to five miles in diameter, some are rumored to extend a hundred or more miles into the planet’s interior. Originally built to exploit the planet’s deep mineral wealth, and later to install and service its planetary engines, the cities are largely enigmas. During earlier times, the sprawling underground metropolises supported hundreds of thousands of workers. Grand concourses, shopping and entertainment plazas and spaceship landing pads jutted out hundreds of yards over the yawning precipices. Abandoned and placed under Universal Church interdiction during the early Dark Ages, some of them became active again after the Barbarian Invasions of the 46th century. There are currently 15 active cities. The cities often have unofficial names, but most are known by their pedestrian republican names (i.e., Deepcore 1, 2 and 3, etc.). Muster miners and Scraver archaeologists largely administer them, though House Justinian also lays claim to one of them. This has lead to fierce competition and even some violence between local guilds and the off-world nobles.
Power has been restored (at least partially) to some of these complexes, while in others miners still dig by oil-light. Strict Universal Church and noble edicts ban exploration of the deeper tunnels, for fear of disturbing monsters, planetary engines and exposing the faithful to forbidden technology. The cities are widely seen as cursed; this is not purely superstition. Monstrous subterranean creatures have plagued recent mining operations. Disobedient Muster miners were blamed for the recent surge of earthquake activity on Austram East. After this incident, the Inquisitorial Synod sent confessors to ensure the theological purity of each of the mining operations. For the most part, however, the Universal Church has to do little to dissuade the citizenry from approaching the ancient cities; they avoid the shafts with superstitious dread. Deepcore cities also draw the attention of Eskatonic geomancers who wish to study the planet’s deepest secrets. This has lead to some conflict between the mystics and the Inquisition.
FolariSince the Fall, Folari has been divided between two great fiefs. House Trusnikron has ruled the northern area since the early period of the Second Republic and has largely function as a preserve for much of the native Ravenna wildlife that survives to this day. The southern area has long been the domain of House Hawkwood.
Folari NorthFolari North is highly mountainous, forested and wild, with more species of wildlife than anywhere else on the planet. Some mining activity takes place on the mountainous eastern coast, but there are strict rules governing the Muster’s mining and timbering practices. Although the Muster guild is the largest mining operator and contractor they are by no means the only guild operating in this area. The Prospectors guild and number of local guilds (the Collieryers being the most powerful) vie for lucrative extraction contracts.
The Reeves also have a role maintaining the region’s environmental wealth, and often audit local fiefs to ensure adherence to mining practices and maintenance of environmental statutes. The Universal Church supports Trusnikron rule and fights to keep Merchant League interests to a minimum, favoring local guild activity over the intervention of Interstellar guilds.
The Trusnikron’s hardy subjects live in either stone or timber houses, often with numerous animals. Their Trusnikron lords mostly live in palatial mountaintop aeries, soaring above their subjects on their great urroc steeds. Amongst the Trusnikron are a select group know as Beast Speakers, who display an uncanny ability to communicate with and control the animals with which they work. Far from viewing these Beast Friends with suspicion or fear the local Orthodoxy welcomes them has living in harmony with the beast of the Pancreators bounty. On many other worlds such talents are seen as witchcraft or devilry and actively hunted.
House Hawkwood has often depended on House Trusnikron for their aid in war, their value as couriers and agents cannot be overstated, and they have a reputation for fierce loyalty, and good council. To be a friend of the Trusnikron is to have a steadfast ally.
During the Second Republic there were two Deepcore Cities dug into Folari North, both fell into disuse after the Fall and both the Universal Church and House Trusnikron have fought to prevent the Merchant League reopening their operations. So far the house’s leader, Countess Morgana Solara Trusnikron, has refused all such entreaties.
Folari SouthThe duchy of Folari South still profits from its remaining mineral wealth, though much of its resources are, after a thousand years of exploitation, finally nearing exhaustion. There are three Deepcore Cities within this domain, two run by the Muster and one run by House Justinian. While some elements cast their eyes to the still mineral-rich Folari North, the region’s ruler Duke Cassius Hawkwood and his predecessors have been content to slowly steer the region’s economy to a more agrarian base.
The domains within Folari South are some of the most technologically backward on Ravenna. When the Universal Church called for a return to a simpler existence Ravenna answered, but Folari South wend further than most, many of the nobles themselves willing reverted to a lower technological base, with many of the agricultural areas reverting voluntarily to a pre-industrial tech level. Even the existing road network has been allowed to fall into disrepair, with riding beasts rather than cars being used by the nobility. The wealthiest nobles can buy trained urrocs from their Trusnikron neighbors in the north, but most peasants and freemen must travel on foot.
The display of high technology here will likely get a person shunned at best or likely stoned for technosophy. Even nobles need to be weary of flaunting their traditional rights where technology is concerned. This is mainly a result of the local Orthodoxy’s strong objections to open technological expansion.
The Scravers guild attempted to muscle in on the mineral extraction operations in both Folari North and South during the turn of the century attempting to usurp control of several local guilds. Duke Cassius, alongside his Trusnikron and Universal Church allies resisted the underhand attempt by the guild to steal control of local resources. In 5002 an assassination attempt against the Duke was foiled, and the resulting investigation pointed a finger at the Scravers as the instigators. The Duke took the unprecedented step of declaring the Scravers blacklisted within his domain, and that anyone professing allegiance to that guild to be considered a criminal and arrested for their affliction.
The Scravers have of course protested this ruling, initially petitioning Duke Alverax to over turn it. After hearing representation from the guild, Alverax endorsed Duke Cassius’s action. The Orthodoxy continues to support the nobility against further encroachments of guild power on the continent. The peasantry here is largely uninterested in politics, but have strong opinions on religion and theology.
Major IslandsIn addition to Ravenna’s three main continents, there are also eight notable island territories.
AustramIf there is a tragedy on tranquil Ravenna, it is the war between the two Austram Islands. The island chain has traditionally been a single duchy, but the last ruler, Duke Sigmund Keirkegaard Hawkwood (4933-4998) divided it into two separate counties giving one to his eldest child Countess Cassandra Justinian Hawkwood, and the other to his eldest son Count Otto Kierkegaard Hawkwood. With the provision that it would revert to a full duchy and go to the surviving heir, these half siblings have been locked in a bitter war ever since. To date over 100,000 people have died senselessly in the Austram War.
Initial attempts to bring the warring parties to the negotiation table failed. In 5003 Duke Alverax involved himself in the war by backing Count Otto Kierkegaard and providing military support to the Count’s war machine in the hope of bring about a swift resolution. However, Merchant League and Trusnikron support have been instrumental in maintaining the Countess in her fief.
In 5008 Sir Ambros Kierkegaard, Count Otto’s younger brother attempted to break the deadlock between his siblings by arranging a ceasefire and convincing both to attend a negotiation to resolve the situation. In secret he plotted to murder both his siblings and assume control of the Ducal fief himself. The explosion killed a high proportion of the delegates and injured Count Otto. Countess Cassandra escaped without injury; her security forces captured her errant brother, Sir Ambros Kierkegaard, whom she later turned over to Count Otto as a gift.
Sir Ambros has not been seen since and is believed to be languishing in the Count’s dungeon. Though no formal peace has been negotiated, though a ceasefire has remained in effect with both sides occasionally undertaking small raids and saber ratting naval engagements.
Austram WestAustram West is a hilly country and the richer of the two Austram islands. Heavily forested, much of the habitat is not natural to Ravenna, instead having been transplanted during the transitional years when the planet under went its massive realignment. The resulting ecosphere has finally reached its own internal equilibrium and many of the plant and animal species imported have adapted to fit their new environmental niche. A number of rare species exist that can be found only on this island (including the ocelynx, a nearly extinct giant cat), and the region has a reputation for excellent big game hunting, a pastime that Count Otto is particularly fond of.
A great deal of untapped mineral wealth is believed to lie beneath the craggy mountains that dominate the islands interior. Thought there are several mine workings that produce much needed ores these operations are run by the Barons who’s fiefs they are within, as a result these operations have a poor safety record and lack the expertise of guild run operations. The Muster have made attempts at opening negotiations to exploit the mineral wealth that still lies under the mountains, but so far their delegations have been unable to meet with the Count directly to begin any meaningful discussion. Count Otto is suspicious of the Merchant League since it supported his half sister in the Austram War and instead holds to the council of his Barons and to the local Orthodoxy that preaches against allowing the guilds any greater power than they already possess.
Count Otto rules from his father’s former ducal capital at Kairtop on the island’s east coast. It is a small city nestled deep in a fjord that grants it a safe anchorage and makes it defensible from both land and sea. The origins of the city can be traced back to the mid 46th century when the world fell under the control of the Vuldrok barbarians and some suggest that the ducal fief began as barbarian thanedom. The local Austram dialect certainly contains a number of words that might have Vuldrok roots.
Kairtop: Situated at a head of a long narrow fjord the small city is easily defensible from both land and sea. A pair of great artillery installations atop the cliffs defends the mouth of the 2-mile long fjord over looking the mouth and ceramsteel submarine nets are deployed to prevent any silent incursion. The city docks and harbor line the north and south faces of the steep cliffs while the city itself stands watch high above on the cliff edge. There is a circling outer wall the secure the landward facing side of the city. Most of the buildings are of a sturdy stone build construction; much of the stone having been cut from the cliffs it defends.
The city is traditionally laid out with the most important buildings grouped together and faced in the best local stone. The former ducal palace is a castle by the traditional definition, with a solid fortifying wall built around a keep at the highest vantage point above the cliffs. It is said that on a clear day a lookout can see across the Castillo Straights with the naked eye.
Austram EastAustram East is the northerly of the two Austram isles, and the terrain is much less mountainous and arable, growing a wide variety of crops. The east coast of the island has always been volcanically active with many geysers and hot springs seeping up from the earth, many of which are reputed to have restorative properties. In past decade tectonic activity has increased with three major earthquakes and numerous minor tremors that have caused damage to local settlements and one major tsunami that caused major damage to the eastern coastline of Austram East and across the straights on the western coast of Andyra. The Viewports naval facility on the east coast also suffered considerable damage, though much of the fleet was deployed to patrol the Austram Channel and was available to give aid.
The Countess Cassandra Justinian Hawkwood rules Austram East from the city of Paravel on the west coast of the island. Some three decades ago (during her father’s rule) the Muster were given license to reopen the Deepcore City that sits in the heart of the island. Though the decision was controversial at the time it has proven to be pivotal in supporting the economy of her fief. Guild interests have also supported her fief military, augmenting its otherwise limited capability with seasoned veterans to provide specialist support.
Her close personal relationship with Countess Morgana Trusnikron has also provided much need military assistance. The local Orthodox Church however, distains the Countess’s entertainment of alien dignitaries and sponsorship of the arts. No small amount of scandal is attached to her name, and the Countess has rarely been seen at the Ravenna Count since Duke Alverax provided military assistance to her Brother in the early years of the Austram War.
Paravel: The city has greatly benefited from the rule of Countess Cassandra, through by necessity she has been forced to make investments in military infrastructure and defenses. The lady is a patron of the arts, and Paravel reflects this in its cosmopolitan style, and its vibrant art scene is encouraged by the presence of a public art gallery and theater. The city also has a bohemian alien quarter, most of the aliens are Ur-Oban, though there are a number of other species present in much smaller numbers, including Ur-Ukar, Gannok and Shantor. Note of this would be possible if it were not for the generous tariffs paid by lucrative guild contracts, specifically those of the Muster and Scravers guilds.
The local representatives of the Universal Church have strongly criticized the Countess for her support of alien influences. Although the Countess remains a stanch adherent of Orthodox theology other sects have begun to take hold, only a decade ago the Sanctuary Aeon established a hospice in the city, the Obun Church too has a temple in the alien quarter.
ChulChul inhabitants are reputed to be backward, highly insular and suspicious. They live a very simple existence surviving on subsistence agriculture, augmented with fishing and scavenging birds eggs from the rocky crags. They disapprove of even the low level of technology seen on the rest of Ravenna, believing that such items as candles and water wheels are evil.
An enormous volcano dominates the southerly end of the island, though it has been inactive for centuries the massive crater is still full of bubbling hot magma. A local splinter sect of the Universal Church holds the volcano to be sacred and a physical manifestation of the Pancreator’s holy fire.
The Chul’s periodically engage in raiding behavior, often attacking the neighboring island of Kasi, taking supplies, foodstuffs and slaves. In return Kasi’s citizens have made accusations that the Chul are descendants of the barbarian Vuldrok, that they practice Antimony and human sacrifice. An inquisitorial investigation in 5002 found no evidence to support accusations of Antinomy. Nevertheless, visitors to Chul island have been known to disappear.
KasiKasi is a rugged island with high mountains to the northern end, though slightly smaller that the neighboring island of Chul, it a population almost five times greater. A large number of inhabitants are guildsmen, and many of them affiliated with the Muster that has a large-scale operation at Deepcore 12. The Deepcore City was reopened during the early period of the Emperor Wars under contract to provide ores and minerals necessary to support the war effort, since then the population has grown, making it the most populous city on the island by an order of magnitude. Its citizens enjoy a slightly higher level of technology than that found on most of the planet. Many of them have electric lighting, though the Muster keeps a cap on the more extreme technologies in deference to planetary tradition.
In addition to the conflict with its Chul neighbors, Kasi has other problems. Rumors of subterranean horrors lurking in the dark tunnels below the city were once scoffed at as superstition, or tales to frighten children, but the Muster does on occasion lose workers in the cavernous tunnels, often times they simply vanish and are never seen or heard from again. Several exhaustive searches have so far discovered no trace of whatever might be responsible.
TriesteTrieste is a heavily wooded island and, despite its size, supports one of the planet’s four spaceports because of its willingness to handle technology. The island acts as a center of trade and has a strong Merchant League presence and several well-known agorae. Perhaps most importantly, Trieste is one of the Phoenix Empire’s few sources for luminite, a mineral that is critical for the manufacture of blaster technology. In the past the mineral rights have been leased on a five yearly basis, with bidding encouraged between the Muster and House Justinian, however with the recent change in the islands ownership that pattern has been disrupted with Muster having been granted an indefinite contact by Baron Tarland Trieste Hawkwood, who succeeded his cousin Baroness Morgein Trieste Hawkwood, a noted socialite, after he raised an army and took the fief by force in 5006, executing his cousin for bringing the family name into disrepute and setting a poor moral example to her subjects.
Although the new Baron has not instituted curbs on guild activities as many amongst the local Orthodoxy might have wished he as strengthen the position of the Universal Church and commissioned the construction of a Cathedral dedicated to Saint Leronus, a woman who heard the words of the Prophet in 2799 and organized the first faithful on Ravenna into a greater movement, though the Ravenna Church would later be incorporated into the growing Universal Church of the Celestial Sun established years later by Palamedes Alecto.
Lugano and LocarnoLugano and Locarno are two relaxed resort islands known for their Urth-like wildlife, breathtaking scenery and rich ocean life in the surrounding clear blue waters and coral reefs. Both islands are major tourist and business attractions for Ravenna citizens and off-worlders alike. Indeed, one is just as likely to run into foreign nobility, League traders (especially Reeves and Engineers) and Ur-Obun scholars here as Hawkwoods and Orthodox clergy. The area has many plush resort hotels and some of the highest concentrations of technology on the planet can be found around the spaceport on Locarno. Both islands are more cosmopolitan than the planet at large, with a combined population exceeding that of every continent except Andyra.
BredoniaSince the Barbarian Invasions of the 46th century, Bredonia has become a place of retirement for old soldiers who can choose to live in monastic solitude or as instructors at the renowned military college, the Lextius Academy. The academy accepts students from all across the Phoenix Empire, but the majority are scions of House Hawkwood destined for positions of military leadership within the armed forces of the House. Duke Alverax is a generous patron to the college and he often selects from the finest available Hawkwood candidates for his personal star navy.
Barony of VulflorThe Barony of Vulflor is located on the west coast of the Island of Austram West, and beholden to the Count Otto Kierkegaard Hawkwood. The lord of the domain is the elderly Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood, and the years of the Austram War have not been kind to him or his family. As a coastal domain the baronies economy is dependant upon fisheries and some agriculture, but the most significant asset within the domain is the Cantrope Naval Station.
Although the terrible Austrum War has finally would down to a state of cold war, each side is ready and poised to strike at a moments notice. Engagements between naval units are still frequent, particularly in the narrow Austram Channel that divides the two islands. Relations with the other barons of Austram West are strained as Baron Gareth feels that he has been abandoned to fight his lords war alone, his considerable naval power and expertise is allowing his allies to shirk their responsibilities in defense of the island realm.
The fief has a strong naval tradition, and many of its freemen and serfs serve in their lord’s navy. Serfs who serve a naval career are often rewarded with their freedom; acts of heroism, or displays of military excellence can accelerate this process. As a result there are few families in the fief who are not in some way tied to the Cantrope Naval Station. The stanch military discipline of the naval tradition overflows into the general population creating a people who respect military authority and those who serve.
The losses of the Austram War have been keenly felt in the Vulfor fief, every family has the suffered lose of loved ones. Baron Gareth Montague is no exception; he has lost three of his four sons in various naval skirmishes over the past decade. The baron has become increasingly bitter in the last few years, and has taken the unprecedented step of forbidding his last son to enter naval serves for fear that he would be lost too and that his barony would pass to another family.
Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood (born 4939): A man of military bearing, the baron served his time as a naval officer, before the death of his own father passed the family fief into his hands. Although his body in aging and he suffers painful arthritis in his hands, his mind is ever the keener. He can see no clear end to the Austram conflict, and the price of that conflict weighs heavy upon him and his fief. Receiving no dispensation from his liege and having lost three of his four sons in the war to date, he is determined that he will not be the last of his line. Though not a natural when it comes to political schemes the baron can see no other way for him to preserve his family and his fief from the long slow attrition that is claiming it.
Lady Estella Varsolay Hawkwood (born 4976): The baron’s second wife and the mother of his youngest and only surviving son. Lady Estella was a political marriage intended to build stronger bonds between Vulfor and the neighboring Barony of Craigdon. She has little time for war or the military traditions of Vulfor and has actively tried to steer her son away from the military and the navy specifically. Initially this approach earned the ire of her husband, but his attitude changed as his elder sons perished. He now endorses her stance, but it may already be to late to redirect Sir Gilespie without earning his resentment.
Sir Gilespie Montague Hawkwood (born 4994): The young son of Baron Gareth, he has just reached his age of majority, and had intended to enlist to naval service and follow his brothers into battle. His father however has denied him his opportunity for revenge and glory and has taken to sending him on extended ‘missions’ to the courts of various important allies. Sir Gilespie sees this as his father’s way of keeping him from his natural birthright, and a rift is opening between father and son.
Vice Admiral James Goodman (born 4951): The Vice Admiral (the baron holds the title of Admiral) is the commander of the Cantrope Naval Station. He has served with distinction rising through the ranks from his first days as a serf seaman. During his service he has been decorated several times and earned a commission awarded by the baron himself. The Baron considers him his equal in many ways and the pair close friends and allies. The Vice Admiral is privy to the baron’s schemes, and acts as a voice of reason to his lord’s thoughts. If the baron were to give an order that the Vice Admiral were to disagree with he would still follow it unto death. He is a loyal man who will do anything his lord requires of him.
Men-at-arms: Vulfor has a strong martial tradition and the Baron commands a large naval fleet with thousands of serving personnel. The fief does receive a tax dispensation from Count Otto in return for maintaining a standing fighting force. The personnel include naval officers, seamen, marines and various auxiliary support personnel. Naval officers are often drawn from the second sons of the nobility of Austram West, though a sizable number a long serving freemen, some elevated from serfdom.
Cantrope Naval Station also trains its own marines, and many of these are rotated through other duties, including guarding the fief, and providing sentries to the baron’s manor. While on guard duty they are dressed for ceremonial duties, in a smart uniform and armed with a cutlass, a revolver, and often other arms depending on their assignment.
Using Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood as a Patron: Baron Gareth is tired of war; he fears that he will lose his last son and that his family line will die with him. He has become increasingly disillusioned with the war between Count Otto and Countess Cassandra to the point where he just wants it to end before it claims his last son. His fief pays almost soul upkeep for the navy that now largely protects the island, and his allies do not share the burden equally. Urged on by his young wife, the baron is prepared to end the Astrum War once and for all, by turning traitor and letting a fleet from Austram East through his defensive perimeter. The only problem is, that he needs some one trustworthy to send as an envoy to the Countess, some one who could be deniable.
Using Baron Gareth Montague Hawkwood as an Adversary: Baron Gareth is a traitor; he is conspiring against his rightful liege and playing a dangerous game in the process. Count Otto has become suspicious that the baron is conducting unsanctioned covert operations against Austram East, and is keen to discover exactly what is ‘loyal’ subject is doing. Agents within the Cantrope Naval Station have reported unusually ship movements that seem to be deliberately opening a close holes the naval defense line, perhaps allowing unseen agents to come or go.