Coldforged: The Modresto

I’m rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged Material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch. This week we’re going to look at another of the Kingdomless Nations: The Krols of Modresto, the lords of the Wraithold

The Wraithhold

The Wraithhold is the result of the most recent calamity to befall Tysis: the Rise of the Modresto who erupted from their underground stasis after centuries for the Gromulan Conjunction. While they failed to resurrect their demonic scion and god, their emergence has sown confusion in the Kingdoms of the continent, who struggle to deal with this new force.

While outsiders see the wraithhold as a monolithic land of evil, internally they are as fractious and duplicitous as one would expect. Each of the Krol’s strive against the other in an eternal struggle of wills as they attempt to outmaneuver each other to establish supremacy, and thus gain favor with their dead god.

A Brief History

Before the Modresto went underground and put themselves in stasis for centuries, they were a remote civilization inhabiting the deep Vwara forest. The Dwarves had expanded from the nearby rocky hills of Pradalsk into the woods until they encountered a significant human presence within the forest, the Ulsach. It took almost a generation of warfare, but the two civilizations merged, though the humans took a clearly subservient place in the hierarchy. Each city that they built centered on a temple-ziggurat, one that was dedicated to the Scion of Earth and Ash, Gromulus, and the Modresto prospered.

Every civilization must fall, though, and when the saldi began overrunning the border cities and crushed all beneath their webbed feet, these same ziggurats became the center of the effort to save as many as they could. The dwarven Krol’s gathered as many as they could of their followers, lead them into the central stasis chambers hastily prepared, and cast great and terrible spells that devoured the lives of those left behind to safeguard those who would be saved, as the massive structures sunk into the earth, preserving those few that were within, and abandoning the rest to their inevitable deaths.

Now, after centuries, the Ziggurats have returned to the surface, and those within the stasis chambers are now active, and those slain in the profane rituals have become bonded to the Krol’s, serving them even now in death as they had in life.

The Ziggurat States

Each Ziggurat is ruled by an independent leader called a Krol. These leaders rule their area independently, each pursuing their own goals and desires while trying to foil their neighbors. Through this dissent, though, their sense of solidarity as a unified culture holds strong. When outside forces threaten, they are quick to put aside petty differences and join together to defeat a common enemy that dares trespass on Modresto Land. The Krol’s will continue to maneuver for a stronger position at the resolution of conflict, but none of them will risk outright defeat of the coalition or endanger Modresto land.

These Ziggurats states control the nearby lands, farming what they can for the living and exploiting the resources for the benefit of the few at the top of society. Those in charge of these outlying farms, outposts, and forts are the Tarcha reporting directly to the Krol for their performance and production. It is a simple organization that allows for flexibility while also holding individuals responsible as necessary, both for accolades and punishment.

Social Order

The Krols are the undisputed rulers of their domains and each one is unique in their powers, having spent decades honing their chosen crafts prior to leading their followers into stasis and entombment. Within their domain, their word is absolute law. Those who disobey or displease them are promised an excruciating death followed by an eternal torment of servitude as corporeal undead. The lieutenants of the Krol, their direct advocates in all things, are the Tarcha. They answer only to the Krol having been hand-picked to perform their responsibilities.

Below the Krol and Tarcha are the leaders of the ziggurat cities, Priests, bureaucrats, and nobles, all of whom are responsible for different aspects of the state and its maintenance, referred to as the Vudtz. Below these are the Craftsmen and skilled laborers, both human and dwarven, who were spared the grizzly death at the hand of the saldi or their brutal Krols. These unfortunate souls are, almost universally, mentally broken from the ages in an imperfect stasis, their dreams haunted by specters from the past, present, and future. They labor long days pursuing esoteric goals and twisted visions, attempting to prove their worth to their superiors. Finally, there are the unskilled laborers and the squalid poor who toil day in and day out for the craftsmen and Vudtz in the hopes of being able to make enough money to survive until the next day. This group is itself separated into two groups, the gang leaders and the menial laborers. Gang leaders negotiate directly with the Vudtz and crafters for the labor of their gang, taking a cut off the top and providing the rest to their charges.

Within each of these strata are both living and undead individuals, and both being treated as equals within their given rank. The living and undead live side by side, the immortal vassals of the Krol and the living aspirants.

Undeath is granted by the Krol as either reward or punishment at the end of a lifetime of service. Depending on the needs of the Krol and the aptitudes of the individual, an individual is returned to unlife either as a spirt or a corporeal undead. Bureaucrats, orators, researchers, and leaders, are often animated as incorporeal beings, able to live through the ages unfettered by their physical selves and any bodily needs. Crafters, soldiers, and laborers are animated whole, their bodies preserved in order to continue the work they have been tasked with for the rest of their existence.

These mortal and immortal live side by side in these cities, deferring to their betters and passing judgment on those lower than themselves, whether living or dead. This promise of eternal existence creates perpetual anxiety in the living about both the individual’s body and their service, and many individuals subdue this worry with unshakeable loyalty. They know without a doubt that if they die, they will be reanimated into a permanent form, immortal and without worry or pain. With this knowledge the strive as hard as they can to prove themselves dedicated and truly loyal to their Krol, hoping that when they are granted unlife they will be given that elusive and desired promotion. The possibility of moving beyond what they knew in life, to be elevated to an immortal lord over other living and undead thralls, keeps the society moving, and even if it is rarely granted, it is the promise provided by the Krols to their underlings, the gift of perpetual life, unlimited wealth and unconstrained power.

In Modresto society, Necromancers hold a special position, looked at in awe by the living and in deep respect by the unliving. They are often given preference for many positions within society, and having the power to raise the dead and the skill to hold them within their will is a great boon to any who can command their loyalty. Within each of the states, the Krol’s train their necromancers in specific methodology and practices, leading each state to have their own cadre of uniquely trained individuals that give it its main character. Some are stronger in corporeal magic, others in dealing with death, and even others in siphoning life from their allies to power their magic. These unique forces help shape the destiny of each of the states and project the unique personality of the Krol into the world.

The Goals of Modresto

When the Modresto submerged their cities and people, sacrificed the majority of their populations, and rescinded their grip on their lands, they did so with the knowledge that, when the time came, they were going to exhume themselves and return to the work of resurrecting their god. This plan, though, was foiled, and they now exist in an alien world, with a dead god and no united leader. They squabble among themselves, attempting to unite all of the states into a league underneath their banner, one that would then expand to the rest of the continent and punish those who denied their god their resurrection. Until then, however, they work on rebuilding their states, repairing their cities and building roads between each other. Even with their current undead labor force, it’s not enough, and the Modresto have taken to raiding nearby lands, no matter which kingdom they belong to, in search of more labor to add to their ever-growing forces. These captives are then used in labor camps alongside the mindless undead, forced to work on slightly more mentally challenging projects until their use is ended and they join the hordes of zombie laborers.

This has created a ring of terror and refugees around the Wraithhold that concerns the nearby kingdoms. The Modresto have kept to themselves, gathering their forces and adjusting to the new times, but how long is that going to last, before they march in force against the realms of the living. The Kingdoms of Tysis have fought off hordes of undead before but beleaguered and strapped as they are now, they worry that they will be unable to stop the next attempt.

Until Next time!