Hesteria
“No man may kill a cat in Olthar…” - a Dreamlands proverb.

Capital: Oracle or Qadath
Settlements: Kelephae (3,000), Menar (5,000), Olthar (3,000), Oracle (4,000), Qadathm (7,000), Silkwood (2,500)
Rulers: Duke Mr’rowwr Fit’th (catfolk, Ulian), High Lucid Dell Brownlock (human, Nerian)
Government: Feudal Duchy (Ulian), Theocracy (Nerian)
Races: Catfolk, Dhampir, Entobian, Fetchling, Human, Living Ghoul
Faiths: Neria, Ul’Ul
Resources: Dreams, godmetal (dreamstone), leather, nightmares, Realms Between access, silk, tourism
Languages: Aklo, Catfolk, Common, Necril
Border Conditions: Restricted (The Wall of Sleep)

History
Brought to Porphyra by the nascent goddess Ul’Ul, the backwater of Hesteria (known to most as the Wall of Sleep) found itself undergoing a surge of planar power after the NewGod Wars when the Mad Maiden rose to full godhood. The ruined land that was the battlefield doorstep of the Middle Kingdoms became the home of The Wall of Sleep, an extra-dimensional curtain rippling through the center of the country. The Wall is a link to the ethereal and astral planes, unstable at the best of times, and prone to disgorging strange, alien, and hostile beings, who stay or go at their whim. Dangerous or not, those who seek vision, solace, escape or communication with those gone on come in the name of pilgrimage, to what is known on Porphyra as the Land of Dreams, that curious, mobile portal through the multiple realities.

Slow to rebuild, the followers of Ul’Ul and refugees finding peace or distraction at the Wall of Sleep founded Qadath, the catfolk city of Olthar, and the port of Kelephae, and set about, in an anarchistic way, follow the ways of The Vortex. A gradual effort to build an actual wall around the Wall began, mostly as a make-work project for the indigent. It was then that refugees from Beyond began to trickle into Hesteria, shadow-touched fetchlings, gaunt dhampirs, and foul living ghouls, who revered the site as sacred. The fetchlings found acceptance with their importation of the highly profitable shadow-silk trade, which has now become a byword for the Hesterian land. Harvested from the cocoons of tenebrous worms, the larvae of gloomwing moths, shadow-silk is very valuable, due to the highly dangerous monsters from which it originates. The queer town of Silkwood is their headquarters.

The Nerian Pilgrimage of AC 592 changed Hesteria greatly. Vast crowds of seekers from all over Porphyra, predominantly human, came to Hesteria to contemplate, and attempt to control, the Wall of Sleep. They rapidly established the “holy city” of Menar near the Wall, and the eastern clerical city of Oracle, seat of the Lucid Council. Typically content to let beings do what they want, the sitting duke objected to the blatant colonization, and a brief conflict took place, the Dreamer’s War.

Short, though bitter, each side used repellent tactics, the Ulians with assassination, poison, and infiltration; the Nerians with recruitment of extra-planar monsters, some of which haunt the southern woods to this day. The bloodshed eventually shocked both sides, being typically non-warlike, and a shaky truce was established in AC 601. The Wall is the de facto border between the factions, with slow progress on a containing structure. The pilgrims still keep coming, and strange and wonderful goods still ship out of the dark port of Kelephae.

Current Events
The Hesterian Fraction drags on, now in its 600th year. The new catfolk Duke of Qadath favors renewed aggression, and the lands west of The Wall teem with irregular units and bragging bravos from many races. If Duke Fit’th could create a cohesive military unit, the wobbly peace of Hesteria could be threatened. The cynical fetchlings doubt it highly, as the priest-dancers of Ul’Ul tend to turn every drill session into a drunken bacchanal.

On the Nerian side, some preparation has been seen to, in the hiring of mercenaries from the Northlands, and harpy scouts, but the presence of The Wall distracts both groups, as the High Lucid is no militarist.

With the groups based in this reality distracted by old hatreds, the increase in strangeness beyond the Wall of Sleep is going unnoticed, except by the Watchers of the Wall, the priest-guards of Menar. Small groups of refugees, of races such as xax, numistians and taddol have crossed the Infinite Spaces and braved the Seas of Nightmare to reach Porphyra, speaking little, but willing to do most any work to grant asylum. A small tent-city called, dismayingly, Freaktown, now sits outside of Menar, though the snobbish Nerians avoid the newcomers.

Settlements
The major settlements of Hesteria are:

  • Kelephae is a busy port that is held to be (mostly) neutral ground for the Ulians and Nerians, the half-fetchling captains of the Shadowships travel all over Porphyra. The wharf bars of Kelephae are places of wondrous and frightening stories- even more frightening than the strange inhabitants of this port on the Sea of Karkoon’s western shore.
  • The pilgrimage center of Menar deals with all of those who wish to visit the Wall of Sleep, and also must deal with the practical consequences of the simmering conflict of the two Hesterian factions. On top of this, Menar must keep the introspective community of Oracle fed. No wonder the motto of the town is “Reality is nightmare, to dream is life”.
  • The catfolk town of Olthar seems more alien than Silkwood to some, being a maze of wood, fabric, scented plants, and cozy tunnels. Those who get used to it and the enigmatic catfolk enjoy it greatly, though humans never stay long, for some reason. Olthar is primarily nocturnal, and is the center for aggression against the Nerians; plotting is a civic pastime in Olthar.
  • Oracle is the base of the Nerian theocratic faction, observance of any other deity is likely to garner a beating by zealous Augurs of the Dreamspeaker. Glass and dreamstone are the primary components of this strange town, making it a poor military headquarters, and if the truce ever broke, so would Oracle.
  • Qadath is the center of the Ulian faction of Hesteria, this old city is a bewildering maze of buildings, alleys, statues, other art, and dance pavilions. Free-willed to the point of anarchistic, anything goes in Qadath, as long as you know the few taboos that bring about forced exile to The Wall. The fact that these taboos change with every new Duke make visiting somewhat hazardous.
  • The fetchling community of Silkwood is creepy, nonetheless industrious and busy, producing shadowsilk and capturing dreams and nightmares for export. The surrounding countryside raises sheep, cattle, and goats, primarily for worm-feed, but a secondary industry in leather goods and meat has taken hold. There are dhampir and ghoul neighborhoods in Silkwood, as well, disconcerting most visitors.

Intrigues

  • A Nerian augur needs a bodyguard for a clandestine meeting in an abandoned fortress in the No-Man’s-Land north of The Wall. Presumably the catfolk of the Ulian faction have long memories of war…
  • Passing beyond the Wall of Sleep is a pilgrimage many Porphyrans take. Will your trip be for knowledge, gain, or something else?
  • A shipful of Rajuki assassins is bound for Kelephae; your mission is to stop them and prevent open warfare in the troubled land of Hesteria.
  • An entobian colony near the north end of The Wall, on the Nerian side, is threatening the shadow- silk trade with dream-silk, spun by those queer people while within The Wall. A fetchling merchant-lord is giving contracts to secure a cocoon of this material.

See Also