Climate/biome: Mild to cold woodland, largely cultivated
Population density: Moderate
Common Inhabitants: Humans, orcs, realm
Uncommon Inhabitants: Revenants, tieflings, wilderskins, awakened, elves, abilen
Rare Inhabitants: Eladrin, wu-kan
Called “the Kingdom of Shadow”, Tenebrae is one of the Three Kingdoms born of Novelis, where the refugees of Parosea first settled. It is best known for its strong relationship with arcane magic, and for its great sin, the creation of the Shadow Rift.
The Shadow Rift is a complicated topic for Tenebrians. They know that it is a dreadful thing to which they owe their survival, and they face its deadly presence with grim resolution. However, they are fiercely defensive about its creation. For all that he is a controversial figure, Salem I is definitively a national hero to his people.
Tenebrae is a hereditary monarchy currently led by Salem III, the grandson of its first ruler. Although the king’s rule is absolute, the monarchy employs a hierarchy of elected governors and mayors to handle matters beneath national importance, so in practice most matters are determined by the preferences of individual communities.
Outside of the dangers created by the Shadow Rift, Tenebrae actually enoys a fairly high standard of living. The state takes an active interest in public welfare, and does what it can to provide for those who lack food, shelter and medical care. Tenebrians are also unusually well-educated, thanks to a national schooling program instated after the war.
Tenebrae is famously reviled as a nation of demon-worshipers by its southern neighbour, the theocracy of Aurion. In turn, it considers them religious fanatics, and is proud to be deemed heretical in their eyes. The peace between the two is an tenuous as any Alm has ever seen.
Kalyvas, to the west, does not hate but certainly disdains Tenebrae. They made their choice, it says, and they certainly aren’t going to compromise their own security to save Tenebrians from the undead menace they created. Tenebrae, in turn, considers Kalyvas a nation of posturing cowards who abandoned them in the face of a fascist invasion.
Outside of the Three Kingdoms, Tenebrae is generally viewed with suspicion (they did create a plague of undead) but also sympathy (Aurion does view all non-humans as monsters). Their strongest allies are the trade hubs, Ashar and Independence, who are always looking to buy and sell magical components and enchanted items. They also find unexpected favour with Deepwood, who view Tenebrae’s history with Aurion as similar to their own experience with Calanshae.
Adventures in Tenebrae
Whether you wish to or not, it’s never difficult to find danger in Tenebrae. From wandering undead, to wizards experimenting with dangerous new spells, to Aurite zealots going “witch hunting” over the mountains, there’s always some threat that needs adventurer attention.
Likewise, it’s easy for a party to find support here; guilds and their outposts are plentiful, and few establishments will close their doors to adventurers in need of healing or rest. Those who are citizens can even expect basic sustenance and medical attention from the government itself, making it ironically one of the safest places for novice adventurers to find their feet.
Tenebrae as the villain
By virtue of its opposition to Aurion, Tenebrae as a nation is typically cast as righteous in most of its conflicts. (Nearly anybody seems like the good guy compared to religious fascists!)
However, if you want to cast it as something more sinister, it’s easy to turn Tenebrae’s power structure against it. After all, the only thing that separates a dutiful immortal king from a perpetual paternalistic dictator is his own good intentions. If Salem and his entourage were to decide that they had no obligation to do the best for their people, Tenebrae would be a very grim land indeed.
Persons of Note
King Salem III
Tenebrae’s current king, Salem III, is a melancholy young human with a deep love for his people. He is the direct descendant of the king who created the shadow rift, and it’s often remarked how closely he resembles his grandfather. Rumours abound that the old king has magically extended his life somehow—but if the citizens actually believe this, they never never seem too bothered by it.
The rumours are surprisingly close to true. Salem III is indeed Salem I, his ritual having unintentionally tied his own life to the Shadow Rift, making him Alm’s first vampire. Eternally insecure over his terrible choice, he considers it his duty to watch over Tenebrae forever, and do what he can to one day close the Rift—even if doing so will destroy him.
King Salem has succeeded himself twice so far, thinking it best that his first self should die young, not long past the end of the war. Replacing himself without actually producing any children has been tricky, but he has managed it with the aid of minor illusion and subterfuge, and his royal co-conspirators, Sabine and Ada.
Celia is wife of Salem III, formerly a low-class seamstress in a small border town. She met the king while he was abroad, and the two married quickly, against his advisor’s wishes. Her rags-to-riches romance has earned Celia many enthusiasts among the populace, particularly as her plain-spoken nature is sure to upset any stuffy formal affair.
Celia is in fact Sabine, a succubus summoned by King Salem many years ago to aid in his ongoing ruse. More playful than malicious, she is delighted to enjoy her indefinite stay in the material world, and loves messing with mortal politics. She continually reinvents herself whenever she gets bored with her current “storyline”, even if it means the current queen must suffer a tragic premature death.
The king is almost never seen without one of his loyal hounds, massive white beasts as powerful as wolves, and much alike in appearance. The breed, created by Salem I and unique to Tenebrae, may only be owned by the royal family. Superstition holds that other beasts know to fear the royal hounds, and dare not attack the king while one is present.
While the hound is generally perceived as one of many who look alike, she is in fact the final partner in the royal conspiracy, a wolf wilderskin simply known as Ada. Perhaps the first of her kind in Alm, she discovered her true form while trying to protect the King during the Establishing War. Proud of her power but uncertain of her existence, she chose to remain at his side, and is now an inseparable companion.
Stern and sensible, Ada prefers to stay in her animal form to keep watch over the others. However, she is often the one to handle mundane matters while the King broods and the Queen enjoys her distractions. In private, she is an equal partner in their relationship, though the King is mostly disinterested in physical affection.