The Realm of Ultherst is one of the faithful countries of the Old world. It is surrounded by an ocean from three sides and the high range of the Moonshine mountains on the north separates it from the rest of the faithful world. The capital of the Realm is Alvaron, where the sovereign of Ultherst, King Edward II resides. The whole land is decimated by the Scourges of God that befell it in the last three years, and you can notice that at every step. Most houses in towns are deserted, business stagnates, there is nothing to eat and hellish monsters or bands of bandits swarm outside the town walls. The story will lead you to three large towns and their surroundings—Hillbrandt, Glatzburg and Alvaron.
Your story begins in the barren foothills of the Moonshine mountains, in a frontier town of Hillbrandt. It is here where the investigation of your first case leads you. The town and its surroundings are governed by Duke Weinberg who managed for many years to keep the town above water, thanks to the mining of iron ore in nearby mines. But when the miners came across an ancient evil lurking in the depths of the earth, the mining was over. Monsters from distant times infested the mines and their neighborhood, plundered the mining village of Asherbald and spread throughout the foothills of the Moonshine mountains. Since then, there is nowhere safe other than within the town walls. If it wasn’t for the great help of Bishop Quentin, an old and experienced priest, the people of Hillbrandt could have ended in all sort ways. But thanks to him there is still a touch of hope among people.
Roughly amidst the Realm, there is an old town of Glatzburg situated. It was built near the former ancient town of Galibornium, a thousand years ago in the times when the pagan realm of Ereborn was destroyed under the attack of faithful armies led by Saint Orthenius. It used to be a rich town with massive stone walls, imposing citizen houses, and busy market places, but bad times descended even here. Order in the streets is kept by the iron hand of Grand Duke Heidrick, a considerate and strict man. Recently though, he has had to face infinite bands of bandits and robber barons that have almost laid siege to the town and won’t allow any merchant expedition in or out of the town.
Not far from the southern shore of the ocean lies the royal residential town of Alvaron. In its center stands the royal castle, a magnificent structure built in the most monumental of styles. But there are more such buildings in Alvaron—after all, this is where Archbishop Laurencius, the head of the Holy Mother Church, the Inquisitor General Commendoni, as well as other very prominent persons of the Realm reside. It used to be a town brimming with endless entertainment, carnivals and fairs, but that all ended. A stifling atmosphere of the end of the world lies heavy on the town now and the fact that the King has been drowning in his grief over the loss of his only son, the Crown Prince Louis, for several years already doesn’t help either.
He used to be a powerful sovereign and a dauntless warrior that was willing to do anything for the welfare of his Realm. He was loved by people and tolerated by aristocracy, which is quite something! But since the moment his whole royal family died of the plague, including his three daughters and the Crown Prince Louis, it started to go from bad to worse with King Edward. He was unable to bear his grief and wine became his most faithful companion. That was why he didn’t think twice when signing a decree entrusting all of judicial power to the hands of inquisition. And with that he plunged the Realm into an even bigger schism that he is not able to solve alone. Though the far worst question is what happens with the Realm if the king dies and leaves no heir to the throne behind.
Holy Mother Church
When the First Prophet died a martyr’s death on the cross, he left twelve followers, saint prophets, behind. And it was them who stood at the birth of the Holy Mother Church, a clerical institution continuing the work that the First Prophet and his followers started. The mission of the Church is to bring salvation to people by guiding them to obedience and repentance, similar to a shepherd leading his sheep. During centuries though, the Church ceased to take care of spiritual matters only and became a powerful player in the fields of politics and business as well. The fortune of the Holy Mother Church moved entirely away from the idea of saint prophets of poverty and renunciation. The spiritual law binds an entire society without exception, and the position of archbishop, head of the imperial church, is comparable to that of the king. No wonder there are many people that don’t like it, but it is better to hold one’s tongue these days! Archbishop Laurencius is the head of the Holy Mother Church nowadays, an old priest with a longtime experience obtained in service at the Apostolic See far beyond Realm’s borders.
Although the Holy Office was born from the Holy Mother Church, the inquisition isn’t subordinated to the Church in any way—quite on the contrary. Based on the king’s decree, everything and everyone is subject to the Holy Inquisition. The inquisition has the right to investigate and try all crimes against God and faith, that is all cases of heresy no matter who the suspect is. It is lead by the Inquisitor General cardinal Commendoni, a strict and reserved man that is absolutely convinced of the rightness of each of his steps. The structure of the inquisition is rather complicated, it breaks up into individual curia that cover the area of the whole Realm and where the superb authority is maintained by an appropriate curial inquisitor. All inquisitorial judges and investigators in that curia that partake in investigations and trials of cases of heresy are subject to him. And we can’t forget to mention that the inquisition is of course competent to use torture during their interrogations.
Brotherhood of the Righteous
Many centuries ago, when the Old world writhed in agony of crusades waged against the pagan desert realm of Jad-Habaal, a powerful knightly order of the Brotherhood of the Righteous had been born in Ultherst that took justice into its hands in the time when the then leader of the Realm was fighting in distant sand lands for the liberation of God’s grave. When crusades died away the order was preserved and extensive competences in the field of administration of justice were entrusted to it. Paladins of the Brotherhood of the Righteous thus above all became a guarantee of safety on roads as well as within cities. But as their power was rising, many started to raise a warning finger because there was no doubt that the order was becoming more powerful than the royal family itself. Currently, the order is headed by Grand Master Christoffer de Malamert, a bold and dreaded warrior that has gotten into a bitter conflict with inquisition because he refused to subdue members of the order to its authority. Relations between the Brotherhood of the Righteous and the Holy Office are thus very tight.
Individual provinces of the Realm are not governed by the king directly, but by the aristocracy. Although the noblemen are king’s liege their power allows them to act relatively independently in relation to the royal crown, in fact. But if they break the bounds they can easily get to know the king’s wrath and end up imprisoned or executed. At the most important places of the Realm, noblemen exercise king’s power as royal governors which is a title that the king grants them (even hereditarily) for their services to the homeland.
Heresy existed everywhere and ever since the moment the First Prophet died on the cross and most of the Old world adopted the true faith there were people that diverted themselves from it for all sorts of reasons, whether they were worshipers of the old pagan gods or followers of the Devil. And the Holy Mother Church does its best the whole time to fight against heresy because it threatens the very principles of faith. Those who were found guilty were burnt at the stake so that the flames of divine justice purified their souls from their sinful bodies. The number of cases of heresy was thus constantly kept in check even though the faithful world was consternated by this or that heretical conspiracy from time to time. But after the ill star had appeared in the sky a few years ago the number of cases of exposed heresy began to rise rapidly in the Realm and it was no longer possible to face them in the same way as before. That is why it was suggested for the inquisition to receive far broader competences than thus far. And so it happened. But the result wasn’t as many had hoped for because heresy took roots in the Realm so deep that they reach perhaps into the hell itself.