On the edge of the Iron Sea stands the ruined tower known as The Thorn. It was once home to an order of knights, devoted to Kaālva Swordweaver. The knights were disbanded generations ago and the tower has since fallen into ruin, crumbling from its skyward point to its rounded base. The fallen stones and treasures have been repurposed to construct the City of Grimthorn at its sloping foundations.
The City of Grimthorn is ruled by five monarchs known as the Pentarchs. All are claimants to the Throne of Thorns through long and tangled descendancies from Queen Fālla the Great, youngest child of Kirād the Red King. Grimthorn was founded by the Red King's grandmother, Kāalva Swordweaver. Upon Kāalva's death, The Great Thorn Keep was erected near her grave and each of her eight swords were secured in vaults buried within the surrounding hills. Each of the City's Districts is named after one of the swords: The Final Word, Finger of Flame, Grave-Send, Grimthorn, Heart-Seeker, Soul-Scream, Stormcaller, and Widow's Wail. Since the time of Queen Fālla, the Great Thorn Keep has fallen into ruin and most of the impressive Fortified Districts have been abandoned. Most of the City's population lives in the towns that huddle against the ancient stone walls.
Behind the looming ancient walls and towers of Grimthorn lay the sparsely traveled streets and alleyways of the Districts. Centuries gone, these same streets and buildings teemed with the city's populace, but over time people moved outside the walls and settled in the Footholds. Below the walls, cityfolk have easier access to the waterfronts and commerce. Meanwhile, the Districts have become the domains of the wealthy and those that support the ancient institutions (e.g., Court, Arcanum, academies, guilds).
The towns and communities clustered around the foundations of the old fortified districts are collectively called The Footholds.
The City of Grimthorn is ruled by a Pentarchy of monarchs, each claiming sovereignty over the great city and its environs. Each head of the Pentarchy claims legitimate descent from the city's founder, Kāalva Swordweaver. Despite their conflicting claims, the five rulers work under a strained detente, avoiding one another's toeholds within the Districts and their Footholds. During times of succession however, neighboring rulers often take the opportunity to enlarge their claims. In the not so distant past, there have been upward of twenty-two claimants at one time, though that number was quickly winnowed down to the present order.
King Alzaril of Dār. The most recent of the Pentarchs is King Alzaril of the Soul District. Like the others, he claims lineage from Kāalva, though not through an inherited connection. His claim comes through the Eye of Valgura, a withered raisin of flesh that inhabits his left eye socket. Alzaril's family, the House of Dār, are noble refugees from across the Iron Sea. Following an unnatural plague that ravaged through the House, Alzaril is the last scion of that ancient family. When a similar plague fell upon the House of Dēalled, eradicating all claimants to the Soul District, Alzaril stepped forward and wrested the crown for himself. Challenges to his claim dissolved after a series of unsettling displays of his Occult traditions. There are movements within the city waiting to usurp the sorcerer king, but it is a delicate matter, and the time to act has yet to be revealed. King Alzaril rules from Dār House in the Soul District.
King Hessen V of Grimthorn; Grandmaster of the Ancient Order; Ninth Sword of Kāalva; Caller of Wyverns; Inheritor of the Red King; Defender of the Char and Grave. King Hessen rules over his fortified districts and their Footholds with an iron fist. Curfews are strictly enforced and thievery is treated with public spectacles of barbaric justice. Under King Hessen's rule, the Parapet Gallows of Char district once again display the fruits of his unforgiving authority. Among other honorifics, King Hessen believes himself to be the last of a long line of Grandmasters to the abandoned Order of the Swordweavers. He makes regular trips across the Burning Bridge to visit the ruins of Thorn Keep. A master swordsman, King Hessen sometimes travels about the city without an entourage. This may seem foolhardy, but his guards and soldiers are never too distant to hear his call. Though the ancestral home of House Morgorēan traditionally is seated at Mevanol House, King Hessen V rules from Kanēvar's Tower in the Grave District.
The Hill King; Defender of the Bone Crown; Holder of the Mace of Tails; The Red-Eyed Watcher; Speaker for the Vermēn; Last Son of Verāan, Disowned of Fāala the Venomous. Most residents of Grimthorn know of King Lōth, but few diurnal residents have ever seen him. The Hill King is reported to be a large Wererat, having inherited the disease through a long lineage reaching back to the youngest son of Queen Fāala. When Verāan was afflicted, his mother sought to destroy her son but he managed to escape into the city catacombs, where he lived until his mother's death. It is said, that Verāan observed his grandfather visiting the Final-Word sword vault and saw what the Red King did to open and inspect its contents. He then passed that knowledge to his son, and so forth. King Lōth, the last of this line is believed to hold sway with all rats and lycanthropes in the city. Lōth rules from the Hill of Bones in the Final District.
The Great and Rightful Queen of the Iron Sea; Fair, Faithful, and Fettered Ruler of the Storm and Wail; Blessed Daughter of Kāalva the Merciful. A cunning and successful Pentarch, Queen Sēlatha rules two Districts with the wisdom, restraint, and temperance of a distinguished heir. She is honest and intelligent in a way that does not put her at disadvantage with her contemporaries. As a dedicated student of the Academy of the Eight Paths, she has mastered the Seventh, and is second only to the August Master, Fēlon the Lame. Most scholars believe that Sēlatha has the strongest claim to the Throne of Kāalva. Queen Sēlatha III rules tranquilly from Octagi House in the Wail District.
Elder Queen of Grimthorn; Servitor of the Invisible; Protector of the Old City; Ruler of the Heart; First of Kāalva Sealbreaker. Perhaps the most eccentric and ghastly of the Pentarchs is Queen Valgura the Old, ruler of the Heart district. It is widely known that Valgura is a wizard of great age, her lifetime measured in generations rather than years. Though her powers are believed to be great, she presides over the smallest of the fortified districts and seems inattentive to the political machinations that eddy about her withered feet. Alarmingly, she also appears oblivious to her physical well-being, evidenced by the occasional theft of body parts from her person, to be employed as magical relics by her adversaries! Stories of an Eye, Hand, Ear, and several Teeth of Valgura circulate through the City of Grimthorn. When grafted to a bearer, each is believed to confer a portion of the Elder Queen's eldritch powers. Queen Valgura rules from the ruins of Dougal Hall.