Semmerholm became part of the Empire in 52YE during the reign of Empress Richilde, following a protracted campaign against a tribe of especially vicious barbarian orcs. The tribe, whose name is now lost to antiquity, were exterminated during the war of conquest, finally forced back to their stronghold in Ulvenholme and destroyed after a terrible siege.
It was from Semmerholm that the Dawnish planned their campaign against the burghers of pre-League Holberg, who engaged in a variety of innovative and underhand strategies to keep the Imperial forces off-balance as well as launching regular attacks into Dawnish territory. In the centuries since, relations between the people of Holberg and those of Semmerholm have mellowed extensively - prior to the invasion of the Druj a great deal of trade passed through the great stone Gate set into the southwestern peaks.
Semmerholm produces a major share of the nation's food, for all that it is closely surrounded by thick and dangerous forests. The dark woodlands are home to vicious beasts, including boars, lions and bears as well as several species of drake and a few rare dire beasts. Hunting is a regular pastime for nobles and yeomen alike, and helps encourage a perception of the people of Semmerholm as being a little "wilder" than the average Dawnishfolk.
There are several well-built castles here at various strategic points along the border, protecting Semmerholm from the barbarians of the The Barrens and Holberg. The people for Semmerholm have long felt responsible for holding the borders against the savage tide and this responsibility tends to weigh particularly heavily on the head of the Semmerholm senator. If they fail at their task, this will be the first land lost to the barbarians in Dawnish history.
Immediately after the fall of Holberg in 346YE, coupled with renewed barbarian activity in The Barrens, many Dawnish Earls were convinced a major offensive against Semmerholm was in the offing. Apart from a few speculative attacks against Estcastle and the occasional raid into Estmure the Druj appeared unable or unwilling to launch a concerted attack while the city of Holberg proper continues to guard the eastern approach.
This changed in 373YE when a major offensive against the city was revealed to be a feint to allow four Druj armies to push through into Semmerholm. Estmure was taken and Estcastle besieged, and speculative attacks were made against Lacuve, Axmure and Casse. The Dawnish armies, already battered from fighting alongside the League in Holberg, and woefully undersupplied by the corrupt Senate under Emperor Walter were able to hold their own but the situation looked critical. A Wintermark general by the name of Britta brought her personal forces and a large number of Marcher and Wintermark soldiers to reinforce the Dawnish. Working under the guidance of General Charles de Gison of the Eastern Sky, the additional troops bought the battered Dawnish forces chance to resupply. Re-equipped and rested, they launched a devastating counter-attack that drove the Druj back across the border into Holberg but sadly cost the life of General de Gison. Britta's actions during the campaign - and her willingness not to supplant the Dawnish generals in their own campaign - are both credited with being major factors in her later ascension to the Throne, and her practical demonstration of what could be achieved when nations co-operated went a long way to forge the united Empire she left as her legacy.
Shortly after the Summer Solstice 381YE, a great force of Druj swept up from Dawnguard conquering Axmure and laying siege to the Gate. The Dawnish armies rallied against the invaders, and with the aid of Summer realm knights drove the Druj out again by the start of the Spring Equinox 382YE. Some raiding bands, guerillas, and saboteurs still remain in the territory but they are poorly organised and it is likely they will mostly be used as targets for Tests of Mettle.
First constructed in wood in the early years of Empire; a base for the campaign against the orcs who occupied Semmerholm. It was founded by those strong in the new religion: half church of Virtue, half castle against the orc. Closer to a chapterhouse than fortifications built in Dawn before its foundation, this is a fortress of Empire. It has close ties with the nearby Navarr steading of Greenstead in Brocéliande, which it helped to found. The knights of Rucastle are often called on to help their allies across the border, and there has long been a bond - and several intermarriages - between the two settlements. This close association with the Navarr has lead to the people of Rucastle - and by extension, the citizens of Elvette - enjoying a reputation as 'fey' or slightly more savage than traditional Dawnish norms.
The Pits of Brychel
South of castle Arnet, in Ulvenholm, parts of the earth have fallen away to reveal an underground complex believed to be of Terunael origin. The ruins were stripped of anything of obvious value many years ago, but small bands of scholars still come here from across the Empire to study the remains and the partially buried buildings.
During the Winter Solstice 381YE a particular strike force raided the Pits of Brychel carrying away a band of scholars studying the old Terunael ruins there. Those witnesses who survived the attack say that the Druj were not alone - that they met with certain bandit bands who had long harassed the people of Ulvenholm and Boar's Dell, descendants of the bitter orcs who once ruled all of Semmerholm. No sign of the raiders or the scholars remained once the Druj were driven out of the territory; the raiders appeared to have taken the bulk of the bandits with them to the relief of the yeofolk and Navarr alike.
This beautiful town lies on the shores of the Semmerlak in Causse. Famous for its spires of white granite and gorgeous shrines to the exemplars and paragons of Dawnish history. It is a meeting place for some of the finest troubadours of Dawn, where they share music, legend, and tales of Virtuous glory.
The town is built around old citadel from the invasion of Semmerholm, it was here that the Dawnish generals planned and launched their campaigns to conquer the territory. Planned by the legendary siegemaster Willard d'Onnecour, the castle is built of several interlocking concentric circular walls, said to resemble a rose to those who stand on its tallest towers. The famous architect also designed the white granite bridge that spans the river here, said to be a marvel of early Imperial engineering. D'Onnecour himself is buried in the hills above Semmer's Rose in a tomb of his own design. Plans and the occasional rare scroll of his designs and theories are much sought after by masons and architects alike.
A cluster of thirty moss-covered white stones on top of a hill in western Causse, many of them carved with runes thought to date back to the time of Terunael. Each stone is about two feet high and there is no discernible pattern to their layout. The stones have a potent regio tied to Summer, and are a traditional site for Dawnish Enchanters to meet with emissaries of the Summer eternals. Today, they are watched over by a Weaver cabal with close ties to the Lyceum who use Iridescent Gloaming gathered in the woods around the base of the stones to produce gorgeous red and blue surcotes and standards.
The Golden Causeway
Just outside Lacre in Lacuve stands the white granite arch of the Golden Causeway. Completed shortly before the Summer Solstice 382YE, the arch was built as part of an opportunity provided by the herald known as the Lady of the Semmerlak. Once a servant of Hayaak, this powerful creature is now in the service of Eleonaris. The people of Dawn, along with the aid of wise Varushkan allies, not only freed the lady from a grim curse but also provided her with good advice that helped her to quell the turmoil in her heart that had tormented her for centuries; the opportunity to build the causeway came partly in recognition of this heroic effort.
The two pillars of the gate are marked with mithril sigils, and with the heraldic symbols of both the Dawnish armies, and several houses. The left pillar is surmounted with the moon-and-gryphons of House de Rondell, while the right is topped with the fist and moons of House de Coeurdefer. Several other prominent houses are celebrated in the pillars of the gate - the devices of Orzel, Du Soleil, Vexille, Deveraux, and Arwood are all clearly visible.
While built by the Empire, the gate is a gift of the Lady. She seeks a vengeance of her own against the Druj. As such the pillars of the Golden Causeway can be evoked by any Dawnish witch to cause a magical bridge to spring across the Semmerlak from Lacuve to the Druj territory on the other side of the lake. The bridge is wide enough for a dozen soldiers to march abreast, and strong enough to support entire armies. Any Dawnish army can march from Lacuve to the region on the opposite side of the Semmerlak - and return the same way. The causeway does not permit anyone else to use it - in either direction. It is believed that the Druj will remain unaware of its presence until the Dawnish used it to invade.
The only potential flaw in the Golden Causeway is that if the eternal the Lady of the Lake serves - currently Eleonaris - were to be placed under enmity by the Conclave, the causeway could not be called into being until the enmity was lifted.
The Adamant Gate
In Estmure, the mountains form a barrier that surrounds Semmerholm. The Gate blocked the widest pass through the mountains with a mighty wall of white granite. A single massive tunnel-entrance opened through the wall, wide enough for two dozen soldiers to march abreast. It was constructed by engineers from Holberg in the early years of the Empire and tales of its courageous defence were told throughout Dawn.
Shortly after the Summer Solstice 381YE, the Gate fell to a great force of Druj barbarians who swept up from Dawnguard to lay siege to - and ultimately destroy - the Gate, reducing it to a broken ruin.
After the Winter Solstice 381YE, a large band of koboldi - heralds of the eternal Adamant - descended on the ruins of the Gate following a Senate invitation to rebuild the devastated structure. Using materials provided by merchant prince Lorenzo “La Volpe” Macelliao von Temeschwar, construction was completed shortly before the Spring Equinox 383YE. According to the koboldi, the new structure is "unbreakable" - magicians who have examined the finished fortification are excited to discover that while the castle can certainly be damaged it simply cannot be completely destroyed by normal means. It can be captured, certainly, but it would take exceptionally potent magic to actually destroy it - most likely some dire curse of Winter magic to leech the power from the stones. The new fortification is already being referred to as "the Adamant Gate" in some quarters, a name that looks like it might well stick.
The forests of Axmure are relatively wild and untamed, and their depths home to a number of rare and unusual beasts. There are several secluded manors here, favoured by nobles who value their privacy, but they must maintain a cautious vigilance against creatures and raiders from The Barrens to the south. The road through Axmure is vital for carrying supplied to Drycastle in the Barrens; several vicious battles took place along this road and in the surrounding woodlands during the Freedom Heresy and a number of manors were burnt or captured, their residents slaughtered by the victorious heretics. To this day, briars tend to receive a frosty reputation in Axmure.
Shortly after the Summer Solstice 381YE, a great force of Druj swept north from Dawnguard and conquered Axmure, destroying many of the more accessible manors and villages.
The rugged terrain of Causse is scattered with secluded villages and small towns, as well as the occasional old watchtower or sturdy keep. Streams and small rivers wind down from the hills of Weirwater, and at where they flow into the Semmerlak stands the beautiful town of Semmer's Rose.
The forests of Elvette are not especially wild; the woodlands have more of the feel of hunting preserve than deep wilderness. That is not to say they are tamed however - the deep woods are home to dangerous beasts that are more than a match for a lone knight. The people of Elvette are known to have close ties with the Navarr of Brocéliande, especially those who live at Rucastle.
Along the eastern sweep of the Semmerlak the ground becomes rugged and broken. As Semmerholm slopes down towards Holberg, the peaks of Estmure raise a great barrier against the orcs now occupying the lands to the south-east. There are several small fortresses here, some dating back to pre-Imperial times when the pre-League burghers of Holberg were engaged in economic and literal warfare against the people of Dawn.
High in the hills here is the tower of Estcastle, which at one time served as a sentinel beacon against the Holbergers but has since been converted to an armed camp that overlooks the tainted plains of Rebeshof and the Druj-haunted forests of Utterlund. In 338YE the tower was largely given over to the control of the Imperial Orcs, many of whom live and drill here, launching occasional raids and waiting for word to strike against the barbarians.
The windswept heaths of Ferrond are scattered with villages and small towns. The most famous is probably Auvanne. Once famed for its farriers; the finest horseshoes in all of Empire were made here many, many years ago before Semmerholm was even a territory of the Empire. With the passing of the horses, the smiths turned their mastery to armour, and even the runesmiths of Wintermark acknowledge their craft.
Overlooking Auvanne is Endric's Hill, a grand barrow mound where the famous Lord Endric and a number of other glorious Dawnish knights lie interred, as well as the site of the empty tomb of the exemplar Elayne Silverlark.
On the shores of Lacuve sits Lacre, a well-defended port known as a place of adventure. Many a Questing knight has set sail to the east from here. The few who return are fêted and applauded, their names recognised on inn signs throughout the town. Lacre also serves as the closest port to the Barrens, and armies march from its gates to the fortress-settlements to the south.
In early 377YE a series of squat fortified watchtowers and beacons were constructed around Lacre and along the shore. Following the Winter Solstice 381YE, these towers were largely abandoned and redesigned to create the Rose Towers, a place of pilgrimage celebrating the Pride of Dawn.
Brooding in the light woodlands of Ulvenholm is the ancient fortress of Arnet. The final battles to conquer Semmerholm took place here, on the site of what was once a great fastness of the orcs. The terrible battle that roared around the orc fortress left the woodlands blackened and broken, and when the walls were finally breached the Dawnish knights and their allies swept as an irresistible tide over the leaders of the barbarian tribes. According to legend, the last orc shaman to die laid terrible curses on the attackers, and the credulous whisper that no Earl who has claimed Arnet has died save by violence in all the centuries since. Once the orcs were driven off, the castle was claimed and repaired, extended by Dawnish masons and its white marble towers stand as a monument to the Pride and Ambition of the Dawnish spirit. One of the heroes of the attack on Arnet, Adelmar the Lion, is recognised as an Exemplar of Ambition, and the hall commemorating his deeds here is a site of pilgrimage for many followers of the Way.
- As of the Spring Equinox 382YE, all regions of Semmerholm are in Dawnish (and thus Imperial) hands.
- The Golden Causeway allows Dawnish armies to treat the region of Lacuve as if it were adjacent to the region of the Mallum on the opposite bank of the Semmerlak, provided Eleonaris is not under the enmity of the Conclave.
- The Adamant Gate is a rank two fortification that is 'unbreakable'. This means that damage to the Adamant Gate cannot reduce it to below 1,000 military strength. It can be captured, but it cannot be destroyed.