Kungesvald

“Great Mother of the Sky, Tender of the Hearth, Storm-Wife, Star-Weeper, we call out to you as you weave the clouds and hang the stars,” intoned Norman, his mind elsewhere as his mouth formed the words by rote. The light afternoon breeze tousled his long, white-streaked hair. “Aid us in our travels and whisk us safely home at journey’s end, and send your children to harry those who would delay us, for we can walk safe and happily where Stormcrows have flown. O Manene, wife of the Thunderer, you whose swan-white wings shelter your chosen from the rain, we beg you give us succor as we journey far from home.”

The little menhit girl at his side—Norman was fairly certain she was a girl—threw another handful of swan feathers onto the fire before wrestling a speckled dove out of its cage. Lis had been training under him for a little over a year by now, and while he had only heard of a menhit ritual master once before, she certainly had the drive for it. She spat four times over the dove’s head, muttering the names of the four winds as she did so, then looked up at Norman anxiously. He nodded to her in approval. Beaming with pride, she traced the Loom of the Sky on its breast with ashes before snapping its neck with her hands. Lis handed the dead dove to him with reverence.

“We send this messenger to you as a gift,” said Norman as he began to cut the dove open. “May its songs ease your troubled sleep, You Who Tend the Fire, and may its flesh taste sweet upon your tongue. Let it take our prayers to you as missives written in its blood. Bless us and protect us, Manene, that we might praise you again.” He fed the pieces of bloody meat into the brazier, extinguished the fire with a bucket of well-water, then wiped his hands on a rag tucked into his belt. The smoke drifted through the fog and eventually disappeared among the swirling gray clouds. Norman watched it float away. Once the last wisp had vanished he turned on his heel and began walking back down the hill.

“So where are we going?” asked Lis, her twice-bent legs easily keeping pace with his strides. She carried the empty sacrifice cage with her on its pole. “You said that we mustn’t ever waste the gods’ blessings, or they’ll get mad and not help us anymore. We’ve got to go on a journey now!” Norman chuckled and ruffled her hair. She ducked away from his hand and scowled at him with the intense irritation young children can muster so well, her ears slicked back against her head. “Don’t make fun of me, Ritual Master Frost-Sides! You yourself told me that we’re not supposed to trick the Hroendir!” Lis pouted at him, her short fur fluffing out in irritation around the neck of her dress.

“We really are going on a journey, jisha,” he said with an avuncular smile. “And I’m thinking our journey shall be to head upriver through the trees, so we can fish for our supper on the banks of the Ox. If we see any rabbits, I’m sure Manene’s gift will help you chase them.” He patted her shoulder. “Don’t look so glum. While we’re walking, I’ll tell you the story of Cabonprivet’s mountain-breaking hammer, so you can tell it to someone else, yeah? How’s that sound, Ritual Apprentice Lis? You think we can use up Star-Mother’s blessing as we walk back home along the riverside?”

“Maybe,” she replied sullenly, the tip of her tail twitching excitedly at the mention of fresh fish and rabbit. Norman laughed and clapped her on the shoulder.

“Come on, then, you little furball. Let’s go make the most of a bunch of feathers and a dove.”

Overview

The walled city of Kungesvald is the largest city in Ydra, being a primarily human settlement built on the eastern bank of the Ox River. It is surrounded by heavy forests and hills. While boasting both the highest population and the greatest concentration of buildings in the region, it is technically only a medium-sized city; Liidhaga easily outstrips it in size despite being half-flooded, for example. Kungesvald avoided the worst of the cataclysm but still feels the effects of the Long Winter. The current ruler of Kungesvald is King Bor Snorrason.

Yddr is the native tongue of Kungesvald, though many merchants know a smattering of Moorvic or Darcantel.

The symbol of Kungesvald is a brown boar on a deep red field, and this device is often painted onto shields. Most city flags are simple lengths of dyed red cloth.

The city is known for its fine weapons and armor, as well as those who wield them, and its aggressive culture is mirrored by the local religion venerating the warlike gods known as the Hroendir. The noble hierarchy is strongly martial, and many aspects of everyday life are somehow related to strength of arms.

Magic is extremely distrusted in Kungesvald, as it is in most parts of Ydra, with those found guilty of, or even simply accused of, practicing witchcraft killed, usually by hanging in Gallows Square or being sacrificed to one of the Hroendir (blood eagles are popular). Often simply being from a region openly known to tolerate magic is enough to set the locals on edge; visitors from Loa Saray tend to be acutely aware of this.

Weather in Kungesvald is very cold, muddy, and rainy, with plenty of fog. Winters are equally damp. Kungesvald sees regular snowfall in the chillier months, but not much accumulation, rarely getting more than a foot or two of snow a year. The Ox River becomes particularly cold in the winter, which results in a seasonal spike in thrill-seekers swimming in the waters near the city, as well as deaths by drowning and hypothermia (often among the same thrill-seekers). Locals joke that you can always find two things in Kungesvald: warriors and bad weather.

About 90% of the city's population is human, with a noticable minority of goblins and a smaller assortment of menhit (many of which are outcasts from Rekkuris). Most of Kungesvald's nobles are combatants of some stripe, though a few manage lives as scholars or administrators if they have relatives who can do the fighting for them. Commoners find work as shepherds, goatherds, farmers, smiths, hunters, charcoal burners, and any other occupation needed to make a proto-feudal city run smoothly.

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