The earth shaking under steel-clad hooves; a gleaming sea of blades, raised as one towards the sky; bright banners that invoke the might and radiance of Auros, god of the noonday sun. Again and again the knights of Mercia ride forth into the world, determined to shine the light of righteousness upon those who dwell in darkness or shadow.
The Mercians are natives of Riada, a sunken realm which lay in the great eastern sea, its spires gleaming each day with the rays of the morning sun. When this island home foundered, Mercian survivors landed on the shores of their present-day realm, which they conquered after a long war with an aboriginal people called the Imric. The Mercians see themselves as a divine race descended from the children of the sun god Auros, and they are at best unmindful, at worst disdainful of the needs and opinions of other, presumably lesser races.
The Kingdom of Mercia lies in the southeastern part of Agon's main continent. Beyond a war-ravaged no-man's land to the north lies the orkish realm of Morak, while the dragon-haunted Pall of Oncylus lies to the west. To the south, Mercia is bordered by the wasteland continent of Cairn, which is home to bands of giants and crumbling minotaur cities. In the ocean to the east lie dozens of pirate freeholds, the largest and most notorious of which is the free city of Silvertown.
The dominant terrain types in Mercia are light deciduous forests and gently rolling grassclad hills. A multitude of lakes and waterways also mark this outwardly pleasant land, such as the majestic Eanna river, which flows southward through the heartland before emptying into Sanguine Bay. Mercia's long coastline features countless islands, such as a shattered, sprawling archipelago which lies between Mercia's southern coast and Cairn.
The Twilight Empire
Directly underneath Mercia lies the Twilight Empire, the vile and decadent domain of Malaut, who's is also known as the demon prince of greed. In recent years, Malaut has turned his gaze upwards, and his breath and whispers now seep continuously through the Mercian soil, luring the weak and the foolish into traps of excess and depravity. Congregations of Malaut worshippers have emerged throughout Mercia, as individuals, families and in some cases entire communities are lured out of the light of Auros and into Malaut's shadow. Needless to say, the Mercian authorities spare nothing in their efforts to exterminate this sinister, rapidly growing faith.
The Imric Awake
For centuries, the Imric have been treated as a simple-minded underclass by their conquerors from across the sea. Now, as Malaut's whispers corrupt Mercian society from within, the Imric people have found the strength and will to rise up against their overlords. Several of Mercia's peripheries - such as the region of Wychwode - have already fallen to native rebels, who in some cases have found allies in sylvan creatures such as centaurs and wild Ciel Fey elves.
The human capital lies in southern Mercia, not far from where the mighty Eanna joins her waters with those of Sanguine Bay. Built on the instructions of the nation's founding father, Duke John Malregard, Sanguine stands in an eminently defensible location, atop a broad plateau which dominates the surrounding plains. Despite such military concerns, the Mercian capital is a green and pleasant city, famous for its squares and expansive park areas.
All human adventurers start their careers in one of three villages which lie in the vicinity of Sanguine. Sandbrook, to the south, is a logging community which straddles the banks of a small river, and which lies amid the enormously proportioned ruins left by a mysterious race of giants called the Nithron. Heart of Eanna, to the east, is a large port through which much of Mercia's foreign trade passes. Monkfield, to the west, is a mining community which supplies much of the ore needed by Sanguine's smithies.
Culture and Religion
The Mercians worship Auros, a solar deity who they revere not only as the bringer of light and life, but also as the father of their race. According to Mercian origin myths, Auros chose twelve wives from among the mortal races and brought them with him to the sacred island of Riada. Over the next twelve years, Auros fathered twelve children with each wife, and the resulting 144 half-gods became the ancestors of the Mercian race. Thus the Mercians believe, quite literally, that they are the progeny of their own god, and they see it as their filial duty to expand the reach of his light and teachings.
The Auran faith dictates that all life issues forth from Auros, and that no matter how far from the light a creature has strayed, Auros will receive its life-spark after death. When killing a benighted or shadebound creature, Mercians believe they are sending it into the cleansing light of Auros.
In their exodus from Riada and subsequent campaigns of conquest, the Mercians were led by a legendary general called Duke John Malregard. Several centuries later, the kingdom of Mercia is still ruled by his descendants, even though the line has declined precariously in recent generations. The current monarch, King Robert IV, is a case in point: considered an inept buffoon by many of his subjects, Robert spends his time overindulging in the luxuries of court, while stubbornly ignoring the many challenges that his nation faces.
Fortunately for Mercia, devious advisers somehow maneuvered Robbie the Whale (as he is informally known) into marrying a woman who is made from sterner stuff. A scion of lesser nobility, Queen Morgaine has proved to be both an astute administrator and, in her traditional role as leader of the White Order, a formidable warrior.
Movers and shakers
Shortly after landing on the mainland, Duke John organized his finest warriors into a knightly order which would serve as the vanguard of his armies. Mounted on fierce and towering warhorses, the Knights of Malregard won countless victories over the Imric, and ever since they have remained the indomitable and warlike champions of the Mercian people.
The primary task of the White Order is to shine the light of Auros upon creatures that scurry about in darkness and shadow. Traditionally, this has meant embarking on military campaigns against benighted foreign peoples, such as the Orks and the Alfar, but recently the Order has been forced to turn its attention to internal threats, such as the Imric insurgency and the growth of the Twilight Empire.
The Sons of Riada are a group of Mercian traditionalists who believe that many secrets were lost when the home island foundered. They seek answers and artifacts in ancient ruins, convinced that the keys to global supremacy lie buried in the past.
The Church of Malaut believe that the so-called light of Auros is a lie propagated by those who would force them into lives of pleasure-deprived austerity. Taking Malaut's chthonic whispers to heart, the members of the Church embrace excess and luxury. They seek to corrupt Mercian society from within, and their ultimate goal is to bring about the demise of the current regime.
How the Mercians see the world
«What opposes the Blood Heirs of Auros? Insects. Like leaves we brush them aside.»
- Martin Winterworth, Knight of Malregard
«Our swords are harbingers of the day which always follows night. Do not pity the darkling creature as you slay it, for only through death can its spark rejoin the light of Auros.»
- Catherine Southland, Knight of the White Order
«The demon prince Malaut whispers in the dreams of the weak... Imric peasants offer sacrifice on the altars of old gods... Though Mercia faces many external enemies, the most sinister threats seem to spring from our own soil.»
- Cearl Blackmark, merchant of Sandbrook
«Through the strength of our sword-arms and the divine blood in our veins, mankind is destined to rule. Under human overlordship, Agon will enter a golden age of peace and prosperity.»
- Talaod Ridegate, member of the Monkfield guard
«Where others ponder and discuss endlessly, humanity acts. United in faith and in blood, we strike quickly and decisively whenever darkness rises to challenge us.»
- Wyl Grace, army officer
«Have you ever wondered why Riada fell? Or why the whispers of Malaut hold such allure for certain segments of the Mercian populace? The answers to these questions, and many more, await discovery among the ruins of the past.»
- Jonn Redspire, nobleman and Son of Riada
«Dwarves and mirdain are our noble allies, who have found their own way out of darkness. If mankind is to retain the friendship of these races, we must respect their cultures and beliefs.»
Agnar Shale, diplomat to the court at Charybdis
How others see the Mercians
«Oooo! I harbinge dawn... Oooo! I've got sun blood in my veins. Looks like you've spilled some of that precious blood all over my axe, human! Where's your sun god now, eh? Hehehe.»
Sir Bonehard the Cruel, orkish knight
«I will savor the look on humanity's collective face when the sun fails to rise and the world is plunged into Melek's eternal night.»
- Uirash Yishku, alfar raider
«In vast herds the noble human roams across the plains of Mercia. When they defend in numbers, humans pose a challenge for even the most experienced of mahirim hunters.»
- Ardan the Old, mahirim hunter
«One more word about lights in the darkness and i will be forced to start banging heads... My human clanmates are capable allies, but they tend to be more than a little full of themselves.»
- Storgrim Thorsland, dwarven clan leader
«Sometimes humans settle on a course of action without first considering all the implications, and once their minds are made up, there is no budging them. Since humanity is a young race, proper guidance from their elders and betters may yet learn them to temper their instinctive boldness with caution.»
- Thiela Leafhelm, mirdain officer