Dearest Mother and Father,
I will not chill your loving hearts with tales of the things I have seen in the Kingdom of the Wolf. Know I remain whole and uninjured. I have once again joined with other stout souls and have moved from the Vargrike, a region of howling wolves and blood, into Björnrike, the kingdom of the bearfolk!
The Lands of Fenris
The Vargrike is a land of unending horror and fear. This wild and uncivilized place is the homeland of Fenris-worshipping worgs, winter wolves, and werewolves. The region has no inhabited settlements, little in the way of farming or agriculture, and precious few safe pathways. The few humanoid residents are enslaved by the wolf races, most likely to be sacrificed to Fenris Wolf in orgiastic blood hunts. Travelers in the Vargrike tend to stay close to the coast, hoping to flag a passing merchant vessel or even a reaver’s longboat.
Despite the dangers of traveling in the Kingdom of the Wolf, intrepid souls do occasionally traverse into its mountains and forests to awe at the raw, primal beauty of the unsullied land. Historians visit the area to study the ancient elven ruins dotting the forests, including what was once an outpost of Thorn. Elven hunting parties use the Raven’s Road to make sudden strikes upon dens of wolves before using the ley line to dance away once again.
Increasing numbers of fey are taking up residence near many of the ruins. It is rumored that the fey lord Reynard has encouraged his adherents, particularly kitsune and wind weasels, to follow his occasional lover Silver Foxgloves in her endeavor to chase the wolfen folk from the Vargrike. To that end, the fey lord has taught the mischievous creatures a ritual that will cure lycanthropy and have begun using it to heal as many werewolves as they can get a hold of.
The fey of the Vargrike are no kinder than their kin elsewhere, but they have been known to take pity on lost humans and halflings in the area and may guide them through to the safer lands of Trollheim or Björnrike, though rarely without a promise of future service.
The Honeyed Kingdom
The lands of Björnrike are as different from the Vargrike as the night is different from the day! The people, who look like human-sized bears walking upright, possess deep courage and honor. They would not be out of place on the boulevards of Saph-Saph or the bazaars of Inkabut.
The Kingdom of the Bear is almost as wild as the lands to the north but is dotted here and there with signs of habitation. Farmers herd cattle, sheep, and goats. Breeders train fine horses. Orchards of cherry trees produce the sweetest cherries in Midgard, most of which are turned into Bjeornheim’s famous sweet cherry wine and cherry liqueur. Parties of hunters stalk the plains and forests, enjoying the camaraderie of their fellows while searching for prey or simple sport.
Like other northlanders, the resident bearfolk work hard and enjoy spending their leisure time hunting, drinking, and brawling. Communities are close, even in cities like Bjeornheim. Each member of a neighborhood is considered part of the tribe, and this intermingling creates deep relationships that often last generations. While not welcoming of strangers, bearfolk tolerate newcomers and show them respect and courtesy until the moment they no longer deserve either. Bearfolk venerate nature and its mortal representatives. Druids and priests of nature gods hold a place of prominence in bearfolk society. They distrust people who worship deities of commerce or construction, such as Volund and Rava.
The City of the Bear
The first thing I noticed as we approached Bjeornheim was the drone of bees housed in innumerable hives outside the city. I understand they make fierce guardians should the city suffer attack. My companions tell me honey is sacred here and used to flavor most foods. My mouth waters in anticipation!
Community, hard work, trust, and honey are most valued by the inhabitants of Bjeornheim. The city, located where the River Lakz meets the ocean, is the most cosmopolitan hub in the region. Many parks and small orchards dot the city. Cherry trees grow alongside the cobbled main streets, which lay in an easy-to-navigate grid. Smaller streets of packed dirt and river rock connect to the main roads, offering knowledgeable residents quick and easy routes to the locations they frequent. As often as possible, construction enhances or includes the natural landscape. Homes built around one or more trees or designed to look like the surrounding stone formations are common.
The scent of honey is always in the air, the bearfolk say. While this is not true, the sweet aroma wafts from every open window during the spring and summer months. Bakeries are commonplace. Each offers a unique array of honey-flavored pies, pastries, and sweets. Mesikämmen, the king of the bears, walks the streets of Bjeornheim every highsummer, sampling the pastries. The king then gifts his favorite bakers with money and trinkets.
The folk of Bjeornheim, with their love of family and community, make me miss home. I am going to stay here a time, and then I am not certain. Perhaps I will search out a settlement of goblins to visit. Or maybe I will return to you and tell you in person of all the sights I have seen. My pack is stuffed with so many things to show you. I must appear to be a peddler to passersby!
I will return to you soon. Until then I am ever your daughter,