The kingdom of Darkav protects a high mountain pass in the Donarzheis Mountains, but when disaster strikes in the form of a goblin horde, an unlikely hero takes the throne.
According to legend, notorious mercenary warlord Velnik Bloodletter left the employ of the honorable Lord Balkett and set out to establish his own kingdom in the northeastern mountains of the Free Kingdoms. He lay claim to the land around Darkav Pass and began construction of the formidable fortress that guards the Pass, completing the castle in the year 390 AC.
Although most of this story is accepted as true, the piece most often debated is where Velnik leaves the employ of Lord Balkett in a professional way. By some accounts, he and his followers fled the field during the Battle of the Low Valley after the fight had turned against Lord Balkett. These accounts claim Velnik and his troops abandoned Balkett to his enemies.
Whatever the truth, when his engineers completed the castle, Velnik traveled to Hawk's Crest to declare the kingdom of Darkav. The council recognized Darkav's sovereignty (to the fury of Balkett's heirs), and the kingdom of Darkav was officially born.
Velnik ruled Darkav for the next nineteen years. In the year 409 AC, however, Darkavian miners attempting to reopen an old deep mine broke through into a Deepland Hall. A goblin horde burst out of the new egress, killing the miners and swarming the land above.
The horde of monsters struck terror into the hearts of the Darkavians. When pressed to take action, Velnik decided to send his knights out to meet the goblins in the field rather than waiting in the castle. He hoped to take advantage of his troops' mounted superiority.
Velnik placed his eldest son, Velnik II, in command of his forces. Velnik II accepted, charged out through the castle gate, and promptly abandoned his sire and the castle, leading the entire fighting force down out of the mountains. (Velnik II later formed his own mercenary company, the Darkav Riders.)
In that moment of crisis, Velnik girded his loins and proved his valor once more—by sneaking his steed out the castle's sally port and disappearing into the mountains, never to be seen again.
This left only the castle's household staff and the villagers taking refuge within the fortress to fight the onrushing horde of goblins. Retreat wasn't an option, since by the time Velnik II's abandonment was discovered it was too late to run. Death seemed certain.
In that moment of despair, hope reappeared in the form of Altiss Triplechins, Velnik's halfling cook. Raised on the heroic legends of the Gelendorian Kitchen Rangers, the middle-aged chef left her ovens to take command of the fortress. Just like in the kitchen she ran so efficiently, she shouted orders at the people standing in the castle courtyard.
"By Alantra's love, there'll be no death here today," she cried. "Not for us at any rate."
Altiss leapt onto a hay bale. "Velnik was a mean, cruel bastard, and deadly in a fight," she cried, "but he was dumber than a box of rocks."
She gestured toward the pass with her rolling pin and cried, “There’s only one way those goblins can get to this castle, and that's through the pass. We stop them there, and every one of you will live to see tomorrow!"
What followed remains the stuff of Darkavian legend. Although the story has been embellished and 'improved' over the years, as is the nature of halfling hearthtales, the following is what is known for certain. Rather than trying to defeat the goblins in direct combat, Altiss chose a distinctly different approach.
She directed teams of cooks to roast every bit of meat in the castle and then rush it out to the middle of the pass. Then she sent another group to gather the stores of rare dwarven greypowder Velnik had purchased to use in a siege of one of his neighbors in the spring. Lumberjacks, farmers, and shepherds hauled the barrels of powder out, and at Altiss’ command, they carried them to the clifftop above the pass.
When at last the goblins arrived at the pass, the horde came to a sudden halt. To their amazement they found a tremendous feast of roast meat, slathered in savory gravy and crisp crackling. They attacked the meal (and one another), gobbling it up in a frenzy. At that exact moment, the protectors above lit the greypowder.
The boom rattled the mountains and a thunderous avalanche poured down into the pass. The rocks nearly filled it, burying the screaming goblins beneath a thousand tons of stone. When the dust cleared, the pass was completely blocked but the goblins were no more.
In the celebration that followed at the castle, the people of Darkav declared Altiss their queen. She and her kin have ruled the kingdom ever since. In the year 423 AC, Altiss' granddaughter, Altissama Triplechins, took the throne and thus inherited control of the mountain kingdom.
Darkav has limited infrastructure. Transportation routes are dangerous and difficult to traverse and most are in disrepair. Most notably, the pass that used to serve as the main route to the castle remains blocked. The kingdom struggles to maintain all but the most rudimentary government programs and improvements. They have a disorganized military with few of the resources needed to defend the kingdom.
The government officials are passable at their jobs and corruption isn't out of control, but even after more than a decade of self-rule, most officials are untrained or self-taught. Of course this means they aren't weighed down by complicated procedures and bureaucracy, and they can quickly enact new economic policies to easily adapt to sudden financial changes. Unfortunately, they only have a few remote networks and resources available should it become imperative to strike at an enemy from afar.
If the people of Darkav are anything, it's resilient! They are extremely tough and can overcome most of the hardships thrown at them. They are generally healthy and recover quickly after suffering from war, plague, or famine.
Most of Darkav's people are fairly well-educated. Many know how to read, and a few are schooled in other areas as well, including mathematics, the sciences, history, and literature—after all, Velkin and his son left all the teachers and scholars behind when they fled. Wizards in Darkav receive fair training, and the population has a reasonable appreciation of magic and the arcane.
Darkav has strong traditions steeped in rich history of the halflings. Knowledge is systematically passed down from one generation to the next, giving the people a broad store of wisdom to draw upon in times of need. They draw great strength from their faith, and the gods smile upon them for their piety. Alantra is their patron enaros and they strive to live by her ideals.
Modern-day Darkav is well-known for its great diplomatic acumen and has an excellent reputation among other kingdoms. In fact, it's often said that the kingdom's complete lack of enemies is the only thing that keeps it from predation at the hands of its neighbors. Darkav often comes out as the primary beneficiary after engaging in critical diplomacy, and its network of strong alliances and trusted relationships serves it very well in times of crisis. An abundant store of information on both enemies and allies allows the kingdom to gain the upper hand in most negotiations.
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Darkav is an official part of the World of Aetaltis, but it is also player controlled kingdom from the Tales of the Free Kingdoms interactive adventure game! Click here for more information on the Tales of the Free Kingdoms game!
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Art & Illustration
- Cartography by Nate Mangion