Inspired by Celtic traditions and Arthurian myth, the Four Kingdoms of Myredren, Aithemor, Liath Moor, and Keryth occupy the northern part of the world. The ruler of Myredren is the High King, and the three other kingdoms each have a King who is subordinate to the High King. These lands all follow a religious tradition that venerates a Mother Goddess and Saint Clynnidh. The language they speak is referred to as Nyddhish.
While some specimens of other races can be found, the region is overwhelmingly human. They are typical fair-skinned folk, with typical hair and eye colors. An average male stands 5’9″, an average female 5’3″. The technology level of the region is similar to the Renaissance, made somewhat more advanced by the use of magic. Water quality in particular tends to be high in all but the most backwater villages.
Clynnidh was a real person who lived several hundred years prior to the current times. Before she brought awareness of the Mother Goddess to the region, they were sparsely populated tribal areas. Some speculate she was a mage who created enough belief in a loose structure of magic that it gained a kind of form and became the Mother Goddess. Others firmly believe the Mother Goddess was always there, and Clynnidh was the first She chose to speak through.
Another important figure in the past for the Four Kingdoms was a man named Middyn. He was either a mage, a scholar, or a minstrel (or some combination thereof), depending on who you ask, but everyone agrees he was brilliant. Countless tales invoke him as the wise counselor, especially for the early kings, but generally for anyone involved in a perilous quest.
Clynnidh and Middyn are together credited with forming the basic founding principles and practices of the Four Kingdoms. They created the Disciples of Clynnidh and the Order of Middyn, as well as the Bratikren.
The Disciples of Clynnidh is a female only order of priestesses focused on worship of the Mother Goddess. She herself is often referred to as the Prime Disciple. The order is based on the island of Niwlynys, which was once an ordinary village that Clynnidh managed to surround with a moat and protect with mists that only allow those she would approve of through. Anyone else attempting to breach the mists dies, in horribly unpleasant ways; the protective mists were originally placed in response to an attack. At any given time, about one third of the order can be found on Niwlynys, with the rest out in the world, maintaining temples and providing guidance.
The Order of Middyn is a male-only collection of mages, scholars, and musicians, referred to as ‘bards’ or ‘sages’. Unlike the Disciples, members of the Order of Middyn often travel in their younger years, choosing to settle in one place only when the traveling becomes to physically demanding. They are teachers, couriers, and peacemakers, recognized through out the kingdoms as trustworthy arbiters and sources of information.
Membership in the Bratikren is based upon one thing, and one thing only: a noble title. All men with a title and their sons are automatically members of this order. Its purpose has more to do with diplomacy than anything else. Originally, the order was established to unite the warlords or the region and put a stop to constant border disputes. At that time, it involved a blood binding between noblemen and their lands, which was highly effective. Over time, the binding was abandoned, leading to inevitable skirmishing and other petty squabbles, but it’s kept to a minimum through other means.
It is worth noting that the High King is not necessarily succeeded by his son like the rest of the nobility. The sword Alagrenis, an artifact of rulership for Myredren, is somehow responsible for selecting the new High King when the existing one dies. Most common folk believe it is a ceremonial blade used to crown the new king after some unknowable group of nobles choose him. Lesser known is that the sword itself bears power that resonates with certain individuals. The Bratikren have elected to consider this resonance to be the sword ‘choosing’ their new king, and both the Disciples and the Order have supported this, as it has greatly reduced the bloodshed and squabbling that could occur over rights of succession. Twice since the sword appeared – nearly a millennium ago – has it chosen a common man as the new King. It is hardly infallible, and some of the men it has chosen have turned out to be no more worthy of the office than a dead rat.
The most notable intersection of these orders occurs between the Disciples and the Bratikren. At the age of sixteen, each Disciple goes through a ceremony in which she loses her virginity to a young member of the Bratikren. The purpose of the ceremony is primarily to help the Disciples provide daughters to continue their order, as they are not allowed to marry. It also provides the young men with a safe way to explore their sexuality without worrying about producing bastard heirs.
Citizens of the Four Kingdoms celebrate birth, marriage, and death, as well as the solstices and equinoxes. Birthdays are celebrated, but this isn’t called for by the religion. In some places, birthdays rate no more notice than a pat on the head, where others use it as an excuse for grand parties.
Marriage for the nobility is generally different than marriage for the common folk. Nobles marry for alliances, for preservation of bloodlines, and for money. Common folk marry for whatever reason they wish. According to the Word of Clynnidh, both paths are equally valid. All women and men are called upon to sacrifice their personal happiness to ensure the safety and security of the realm. Women tend to suffer the brunt of this edict more than men, but it is the basis of the traditions of arranged marriages amongst the nobility. For the common folk, they rarely have any need to make this type of sacrifice, but when they do, they are expected to make it.
Handfasting is an important part of the marriage ritual. Its purpose is to ensure the fertility, and hence the compatibility, of a couple prior to the binding of marriage, which can be broken only by death. Once this simple ceremony is performed by a Disciple, the couple is expected to put forth effort to conceive a child. If the woman has not conceived a child by the end of six months, the coupling is called unfavorable and broken off. Once she reaches the fourth month of her pregnancy, the couple is married, though nobles often marry as early as upon the first confirmed sign of a pregnancy. Upon a miscarriage, the couple can be handfasted again after six months pass.