Aug 3, 2017
The Fallen Times
For 1200 years the Homlish Empire stretched from the Raider's Strait in the North West to the Quiet Sea in the East. Fully half of the world lay under the control of first the senators and later the Emperor-Generals. The might of Homlan was unquestioned, it seemed as though the gods had ordained that they rule the world.
This manifest destiny made the Homlish arrogant. Theirs was the greatest civilization ever known. Their science, art, and military were greater than everything encountered. If it was not the greatest culture then it surely would have halted. Theirs was the history that mattered. Theirs was the art that held beauty. Theirs was the science that showed promise. Thus was their downfall born.
The few decided for the many that all cultures should become one. It began slowly, with the re-education of the children of conquered peoples. Fashion was influenced through the nobility. Patrons were... convinced to patronize only artists that worked in the Homlish styles. Slowly the vassal states and colonies began to change, to become more homogeneous.
The elves, dwarves, drakes, and mummies watched as humanity rapidly began to lose its individuality over 800 years and become more like them. Some thought it good, that they would be less disruptive and tamer. Others thought it was a sign of the slow death of beauty and imagination that seemed to plague the world. To the short lived eyes of humans though, it was going much too slowly.
The Homlish Inquisition was born of brutality. The Homlish Legion was ordered by the senate to expedite the transformation of humanity. They were to find the wise men, the conservatives, the outspoken, and silence them. A cudgel was sent to do the job old age would have accomplished quietly.
The first executions happened publicly in the colonies, but as boys watched their grandfathers murdered, and men watched their sons struck down they began to all speak out. The Inquisition had to become more cunning, using stealth and guile to find the non-conformists. Before a full blown rebellion occurred, word reached the senate in far off Homlan and they realized their mistake. They sent their fastest messengers to retrieve the generals and their legions.
After receiving the messengers from the senate they paused the executions and observed what had happened. Yes, the natives were rather upset, but it was obvious in their faces, fashions, and art that Homlish culture was becoming their own. Thus with the mistaken idea that the cudgel was responsible for the work of old age, they decided that the senate lacked the will to finish the deed. The generals had received word that they were to stop their mad slaughter and return to Homlan to explain the actions of their men. So they brought their men with them.
The coup was fast and bloody as all successful coups are. Most of the senators were killed in Republic Hall, the centre of Homlan's government. The few that escaped and their supporters were exposed and executed swiftly by the Inquisition. The decisiveness that had been turned on the Republic would be used to forge the Empire. However, the transition must first be solidified.
The rebellious generals selected their leader, William Victor Frederick, to become Emperor-General for life. As William I established his rule in Homlan, his son, William II, ensured the empire's stability in the vassal countries of Famiglia Isole, Aadeem Badiya, and Long Plains. When Victor I took his father's place at the head of the empire he decided that it was time to finish the job which his grandfather had begun. Not truly understanding the nature of running an empire nor an army, Emperor-General Victor I set to a task he didn't comprehend.
His reign is poorly remembered and he was the last Emperor-General of William's line. A distant cousin was put upon the throne and became the puppet of the generals. They understood how to manage an army, but not statecraft. The empire continued its decline while maintaining its size, its resources stretched thin. The Puppet Emperor's son, Garland II, regained control of the throne and, having grown up during his father's reign, he began the long task of mending the empire.
He was very successful and were it not for his own son, the empire might have survived its crisis state. Like the impatient senators and rebellious generals Emperor-General Garland III could not see the changes that were happening. He looked upon the history of the first purge and found that it was usually the religious figures that the people rallied around in defense of their culture. If they were removed it would greatly accelerate the unification of humanity.
This plan made Garland III consider Homlan itself. He watched as the priests of Homlan's gods took credit for the hard work of farmers, scholars, and soldiers. Once more the Inquisition was turned loose upon the populace of Homlan.
Though impatient he was not a fool nor uncharismatic. Priests of all gods began disappearing, while the Emperor-General began to subtly erode their power base. It did not take long for religion to become unpopular amongst the aristocracy. Shortly thereafter they pleaded with Garland III to permanently remove this pox from their homeland and the Emperor-General complied. Religion was made illegal, churches crumbled, all religious texts were burned, and clergy were murdered in the streets. The Inquisition found out and cleaned up those who managed to hide.
Famiglia Isole was next, but the islands had always preferred academia and science to religion, so it was only the mariners that resisted and they did so with little enthusiasm. Knowing what was coming, the priests of Aadeem Badiya redefined themselves as scholars and historians of the supernatural. When the Inquisition and Legion arrived to root out religion, to their surprise they found a situation much like they had in the islands. They moved on, but for fear of lurking inquisitors the priests retained and eventually became their disguises in truth. So the aged Garland III turned his eyes towards the colonies.
Vertlieu would be the first to be purged because its people were not nomads like the peoples of The Flats, Long Plains, and Savage Plains, nor were they difficult to root out like the Wildlings of the Tree's Teeth Mountains. Their shrines would be easily found, and their gods destroyed. Fate had a different decree.
For years Garland III had ignored the work of his father, pursuing his crusade instead of tending to his people. Plague ravaged the populace and he did not notice unless it brought whispers of godly wrath. Crops failed and he did not notice unless a priest blamed it on his blasphemy. Sailors went unpaid and he did not notice unless they spoke of storms sent by the furious gods.
When the Legion entered Vertlieu they went in too few and with too little resources. The Inquisition did its part, but its attention was split between there and problems back in Homlan. Then the Seven appeared. The Seven resisted the manhandling of the Homlish and inspired the Vertlieuans to do the same. A full blown rebellion erupted and after much fighting the Homlish Empire was thrown out of Vertlieu which was renamed Terre Des Sept in honour of the Seven Saints.
Meanwhile a scholar in Aadeem Badiya began to suggest quietly that perhaps it was time to cut ties with the empire. Saladin, as he was called, convinced the native nobility that they would be better off without having to bow to Homlan. He spoke peacefully, and he spoke gently, and with time the nobility conceded to his honour and logic. This the Inquisition could not condone. Saladin was assassinated, but the assassin was tied to Homlan. The peaceful scholar became a martyr. Some wished to wage war on the empire for this act, but calmer minds realized this was not what Saladin would have wanted. The vassal state declared its independence and renamed itself Atfaal Min Saladin. Homlan would have responded with force, but the Legion was split dealing with the Seven in Vertlieu, and the mutiny of the Homlish Navy.
Figuring that the Navy was less important for destroying religion than the Legion, Garland III had repeatedly delayed and reduced the pay of the sailors and captains. With the rebellion of Vertlieu this situation reached an all time low when some ships were given stores of food that were moldy before they were sent to out to sea. The captains would not stand for this and they declared their ships independent from the empire. Seeing an opportunity the wealthy traders of the Famiglia Isole offered the sailors a safe harbour AND pay if they would protect their assets. Fearing the loss of their closest vassal state, Garland sent the Legion to recapture the islands. The Navy stopped the too few legionnaires and pushed them back onto the mainland. In turns each major island city declared its independence from Homlan. They then tenuously joined together, out of fear of each other's economically motivated predations, forming the Stati Uniti Citta.
Forced out of their two vassal states and their most productive colony, the Homlish Empire was in retreat. The Legion was pulled back closer to Homlan's borders, and within it to keep order as rumours of revolt spread. This collapse both broke Garland III, and broke him out of his mad focus. Without passion he went about the business of fixing his empire. The Tree's Teeth Mountains and Flats were abandoned, while the Long Plains and Savage Plains were almost entirely emptied of their Homlish representatives. Garland III spent the rest of his life stabilizing the empire. He succeeded and left his son, Kale I, a nation barely clinging to life.
There is stability, but little growth, and this is the case in much of the world. The zealotry and war in the past has resulted in the destruction of much infrastructure and knowledge on all sides. The balance of power remains unsure despite 50 years for it to settle. It has been further complicated by rumours of the spread of the undead in a previously fertile part of the world. The empire has fallen and it threatens to drag down the rest of the world with it. These are the Fallen Times.
There are many strange creatures that wander the world. Eagles the size of horses that are said to feast on the flesh of children. Horned lizards that can crash through a house as though it were no more than a bundle of twigs. Shadows that can rend and tear flesh as well as any great cat. The creatures of the wild and nightmare are many, but these are the creatures of civilization and reason.
There are no creatures that walk the world quite like humans. Most follow their instincts and band together to defend themselves. Most find their brothers and sisters agreeable. Most enjoy what they have. Humans do not.
There is no species as fractious, divided, and ambitious as humans. Even the orc tribes are more united in their cold fury than humans are in their burning passion. This is both their strength and their weakness. They push ever farther in all things they do, standing upon those before them and those below them. They enslave their own kind and eat from their captive's sweat. Yet they have achieved great things. An empire that spanned over half of the world. A wall that blocks off an entire nation. A powder that explodes with irresistible force when lit. Humanity has visited many horrors and wonders upon the world.
Humans have spread to cover most of the world, from the frozen forests of Nordhem to the burning sands of Badikhayat. They are incredibly varied in their abilities, some more so than others. In the land of Terre Des Sept there are people with the blood of their saints. These Saintborn are unusually graceful and charismatic. In Katei there are rumours that the children of woman and shadow run rampant in the night. These Shadowspawn can see perfectly at night and appear out of nowhere. Spread throughout the lands are also those who appear to be cousins to the drakes. These Dragonmen have scales covering their body and are naturally adept at magic. Even the more “mundane” humans are incredibly varied being in turns mighty, nimble, or brilliant. Only their own hubris can limit their potential.
The elves are creatures of old. They were born before humans, before dwarves, even before gender. For millenia they stood united in their forest kingdom Mahndor (translates as Pure Land), enjoying the wonders they found in nature and those they built with their hands. Though as time wore on, their interest waned. They had seen all the grand gestures conceivable or knew that they had been accomplished.
Their art quieted, and their majesty turned into subtlety. Their entertainment became so nuanced that noticing and creating the slight differences was the mark of skill. They no longer laughed, only smirked at the ignorance of their peers that missed the joke,
It was not until the spread of humanity that the elves found something interesting. Here was a species of naive, impatient, short lived creatures. The first encountered admired the elves and wished to live as long as they did. These firstmen used powerful magics to preserve their body in a form that was less than appealing to the eye, but they lived as long as the elves. Perhaps humans were not as naive as initially thought.
Then more followed, and more after them. There seemed to be a never ending stream of these grunting, toiling, split sexed beasts. The elves saw danger and opportunity. If the humans were allowed to continue as they did they could very well destroy the elves inadvertently. So the elves began collecting the humans and putting them to work. The firstmen began emulating the elves and they too trained humans for labour. A few elves were disgusted at both the elves and the firstmen, but it was not slavery. Slavery is a system under which people are bought and sold as property; these were humans.
This warded off the humans for a time, they no longer sought to enter elven lands. The solution ended up causing an even larger problem. Humans became a new form of prestige, their number, quality, uniqueness. Then what you could train a human to do, dance, kill, mate. Like all of elven culture the ostentatious was performed, approved, and forgotten for subtler nuances. Then something new was born of this game.
Goblins were born to human and elven mothers alike. It was found that the pairing of elves and humans resulted in the birth of a short ugly creature of unexpected strength. Though there were often twins. The goblin population was born and then bloomed at a dizzying speed. That's when a cadre of elven wizards noted that soon elves would be the minority.
This group of wizards were mages specializing in flesh magic. They resolved to come up with a solution to solve the population problem. First they attempted to convince goblin and human owners to release their animals. It became yet another subtle round of one-upmanship, and hundreds were released, but that game soon became old hat. They then persuaded the nobles to find disdain in coupling with humans. Both of these slowed the population growth of the slaves, but something more extreme would need to be done to solve the issue.
While some politicked to save elven superiority, the other flesh mages plied their trade to find a solution. They focused their efforts on the wombs of elves, humans, and goblins, altering the unborn goblin babies, their goal to make them elves. There never was a success. Instead the mages became more and more obsessed with experimenting on flesh, eventually even their own.
This came crashing to a climax when the leader of the flesh mages, Cylthus Willowsworn, accidentally created a plague that infected humans and transformed them into terrifying beasts of pure muscle. These beasts rampaged across Mahndor killing dozens of elves and hundreds of humans and goblins. The plague was stopped once all the abominations were killed, and the humans magically purged.
Oligarch Casari Suncrow, the ruler of Mahndor and all elves, declared that those responsible for the tragic death of dozens of elves must be exiled, and the means of the deaths extinguished. With that decree the notes and spellbooks of the flesh mages were put to the torch even as they, their followers, their slaves, and their families were thrown out of Mahndor. The elves of Mahndor began to call themselves High Elves to differentiate themselves from the exiled. Owning humans and goblins was made illegal, and they were all forced out of Mahndor and into Badikhayat or Lagartija Selva respectively.
The flesh mages and their followers took ships North to the islands surrounding Mahndor and renamed them Gurthesteltol (translates as Death Hope Islands). There they fractured and followed their own interests, communities of slaves and elves forming around their magical laboratories. They became known as Warped Elves because all of them had been experimented on in some fashion, the most common being the ability to see in complete darkness.
To aid in their experiments some human slaves were taught flesh magic. However this backfired when the slaves eventually rebelled, using their masters' magic against them. Though many slaves were killed, the majority escaped the islands and fled far away to a peninsula where they formed the nation of Zi You. Despite this they continue to buy slaves from Badikhayat.
The noble families of the Warped were ashamed of what the mages had done and so they fled West claiming innocence. The Innocent Elves spread throughout the lands outside Mahndor doing what they could to survive. Many felt that they were entitled to what the “lesser people” pulled from the earth. They became known as Robber Elves, though they maintain their innocence. Many of them live in the woods that dot the landscape. They have become quite proficient at covert actions, being known for their ambushes and burglary. Many merchants have had their caravans suddenly surrounded by armed Elves who take their wealth, and sometimes their companions. The captives are then sold to the slavers of Badikhayat. This behaviour gives elves a bad name, and makes the lives of more integrated elves quite difficult.
City Elves, as they choose to distinguish themselves from the other “Innocents,” are found as minorities in many cities and towns. Rather than sticking to their aloof natures, they swallowed their pride and became artisans, farmers, and guards. Some make a little headway towards gaining the respect of non-elves, but then another story of elven slavers will roll in with a devastated caravan and the goodwill vanishes.
Alongside the Innocent Elves, goblins spread across the land. Being forced into Lagartija Selva was an execution for most. They either died from the natural dangers of the jungle, or at the hands of the Cold Blooded residents. Over the course of decades they made it through the jungle, and into the dwarven mountains, Eshimcubor. Here they were once again seen as invaders and they waged an accidental war against the dwarves.
Finally breaking into the foothills of the Savage Plains the goblins remaining were hardened survivors. Most had never known Mahndor nor the relative peace of slavery. They were a people of brutal cunning bent on finding a home. Then they encountered the orcs of the plains.
Expecting a battle, the goblins once more raised their weapons. The orcs they encountered, however, were Homlish slaves and had no fight in them. Recognizing the same oppression that their forefathers faced, the goblins set to the task of freeing the orcs, and finding a home in the process.
Something that often confounds the other species (except Rootwalkers who are sexless) is the ambiguous sex of elves and goblins. Their sharp facial features seem both feminine and masculine, while their body shapes do not conform strongly to either sex. The reason for this, and not many people know it, is that elves are intersexed. They bear the genitalia and gonads of both males and females. They can impregnate or become pregnant at any time. This often causes social faux pas when a non-elf uses a gendered descriptor for an elf. Occasionally they are even lead into the embarrassment by the elf who then feigns insult, while all elves present enjoy the inside joke.
While goblins share this physical characteristic their features almost seem satirical. Where elves are tall and lithe, goblins are short and wiry. Both have well defined facial features, but goblins noses, mouths, and pointed ears all look too big for their heads. Elves have clear pale skin (though warped elves skin is a pale grey), where as goblins are a mottled greenish brown.
The people of Eshimcubor are a strange people. They toil constantly and steadily in their mines and forges making all manner of metalworks. They keep to themselves in their underground holds and avoid non-dwarves as much as possible. They say little and are gruff or brusque. Yet they are incredibly passionate. A non-dwarf that can find their way into the respect of a dwarf has a friend and ally they can rely on for anything.
Getting in is incredibly difficult though. Mountain Dwarves are long lived and stubborn. They watch as one culture appears and then disappears, while they remain. They have little patience to try and understand non-dwarves knowing that their culture will soon be gone. Even invaders are hard pressed to move them, because they know that the invaders shall pass, while the dwarves remain. And so they remain steeped in tradition.
There are a few dwarves willing to learn the ways of outsiders. These Hill Dwarves live closer to the surface or even have towns in the sun, the largest being Nish. They trade with whoever their neighbours may be, a dwarven hold, a human town, or an orc tribe. To accommodate this trade they do their best to be more welcoming and try to take interest in other cultures.
Dwarves are short stocky folk being 4 to 5 feet tall, but weighing around 180 pounds. Their muscles and bones are incredibly dense making them extremely hardy. They have dark thick coarse hair on their scalps and faces. Their body hair is much the same and covers their reddish brown skin that resembles the colour of clay. Their facial features are powerful and hard, often with bulbous noses and heavy brows.
The cold blooded, or saurians as they are more commonly known, are a species of bipedal reptiles. They are varied in their abilities though almost all of them are quite nimble. Being cold blooded a warmer climate is what suits them best, but many have moved beyond their original homeland of Lagartija Selva. Though they have adapted well to the cultures of other peoples some of their traditions linger.
They have been known to eat the flesh of worthy warriors killed in battle so that they might gain the magic remaining in their flesh. This is a great honour for the eaten, and some dying warriors have asked their slayer to consume them so they might live on. This occurs even in non-warrior sections of the culture where family members will eat their dead, or offer them to a superior as a gift of flesh.
Traditionally eggs are laid in clutches at unmarked sites and then abandoned. The young must fend for themselves and make their way to a settlement which is usually not too far from the birth site. As they rarely discover the identity of their parents, each must take a name of their own in whatever method suits them though usually it is based on deed or named after someone admired. When they reach a settlement the young are then allowed to pursue any career they are interested in if they can find a mentor. Outside of their homeland of Lagartija Selva clutches are guarded by parents, or more commonly, communally by the entire saurian community in a semi-public place.
There are four kinds of saurian: lizard-folk, gecks, gators, and drakebloods. All have wide reptilian heads with broad set eyes and large mouths. Lizard-folk are the most common being around 6 feet tall and weighing about 180 pounds. They have lean muscled frames that are whip quick. Their scales are generally a pale brown green though they can vary wildly from oranges to blues.
Gecks are more lithe than most Cold Blooded and are excellent climbers. They can change their colours to match their surroundings making them excellent guerrilla fighters, though normally they are a bright green. They usually are between 5 and 5.5 feet tall, weighing about 130 pounds.
Gators are hunched, stocky swimmers with thick scales and powerful jaws. Their scales are a very dark green that can look brown or even black. Standing tall they are often around 7 feet tall, but their hunched forms make them look more like 6 feet. Their stocky frames make them average about 300 pounds.
Drakebloods also have thick scales, but are more known for their knack with magic, though some can breathe fire. The scales they wear are usually a dark red, though it is often influenced by the type of cold blooded that they come from. Geck drakebloods may have a muddy green colour with accents of red, while gator drakebloods are often brown with a reddish tinge around their mouths and underbelly. Like their scales, their height and weight depends upon their cold blooded heritage, though they are usually slightly taller than their forefather's type.
In the land of Badikhayat the nobility are eternal. Inspired by the long lives of the elves, the aristocracy sought a way to be forever kings. With a little help from elven flesh mages, the blood priests of Badikhayat were able to devise a ritual that would allow a person to live forever. However, their bodies must first die and be reborn in the blood of one hundred lifetimes. It leaves the body unusually dry and gives them a desiccated appearance but also makes them vulnerable to fire . All bodily functions cease. There is no need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep though they do not heal naturally. They also seem to lose some of their human vulnerability, no longer being able to become fatigued, frightened, or enraged. This makes them unnerving to behold for many.
The ritual is very costly, spiritually, physically, and financially, so only a few people can become noble unborn. Once in their life, each noble is allowed to elect one freeman to be raised into nobility (and mummification). This makes it a very important decision. Most freemen elected are extremely skilled, and almost always wealthy. They choose when they die and gain their immortality. Since many die young to retain their looks and strength, heirs and nobility are chosen rather than being based on bloodline. However, those who are born to nobility are still more likely to become nobles.
For protection and sometimes companionship in their long lives, many nobles commission the creation of a guardian. Sculpted from stone and given life through magic, guardians are sturdy and loyal to the end. They follow the orders of their masters without fault, though sometimes they can be overly literal or naive. Sometimes their noble masters become bored of their utter subservience and dismiss them giving them free will in the process. These guardians must find their own way in the world and pursue what interests them.
The people of the Savage Plains have a very long history passed down from each tribe's storyteller to their apprentice. Which of these are true history, morality fables, legends, or some combination of the three is difficult to discern. The story that seems to be the strongest in the orc tribes is that of the Warlord's Grave.
There are ruins in the Savage Plains desert that an ancient orc warlord supposedly forged an empire from. The empire was evil, slaughtering thousands for the sake of murder and no more. What happened to the empire and its warlord differs from tribe to tribe. Some storytellers say the gods struck down the warlord. Others believe that it was heroes from far off lands who destroyed him. Then there are those that believe the warlord tore down the empire out of hate for his own people that allowed him to commit such vile acts unquestioned. What they all agree on, though, is that the people of his nation were cursed to be as oppressed as the ones they enslaved, and as deformed as the nation they built. The curse lasting until they could forge something as good as the empire was evil. After the empire fell the people split into tribes that wandered the plains seeking something, but not knowing what.
An unknown number of years later, a new threat arose from Warlord's Grave. A powerful necromancer sent out an army of the undead to conquer the Savage Plains. One by one the orc tribes were forced from their homeland and into Aadeem Badiya. Pursued by the undead they made their way through the desert kingdom doing whatever they could to survive. The Badiyans were caught unprepared and fled before the invading horde. They fought the orcs as best they could, but there were far too many of the plains people.
Emissaries were sent ahead to seek out allies. They found them in the form of the Homlish Republic. A line was drawn at a river just North of the Southern Homlish Mountains, the orc savages would not pass. There was a great battle as the orc tribes united to force their way across the river, but they were thrown back. During a lull in the battle, the orc chieftains realized that now that they were united they could most likely retake their homeland. When night fell on the battle, the orcs slunk away and began the long journey home.
The reached the Savage Plains and found it overrun with the undead. Freshly organized, and veterans of an inadvertent invasion the orcs entered battle with the undead. They fought their way to the mostly rebuilt ruins of Warlord's Grave and laid siege to the necromancer's castle. After a hard fought battle, the castle was breached and the necromancer slain at some point in the chaos.
Exhausted from the battle, and full of hope at their people's new found unity, the orcs began the task of clearing their land of corpses. Unfortunately the Homlish Republic Legion with newly inducted Badiyans chose that moment to launch their attack. They swiftly defeated the tired orcs, getting revenge for the invasion of Aadeem Badiya.
The Homlish generals saw a land that was full of opportunity, and a people too savage to dispose of their dead that littered the plains. The savages had no unified government, no industry, and no cities. Truly these subhuman creatures would benefit from the guiding hand of the Republic.
Orcs average at just over 6 feet in height and weigh about 200 pounds. Their bodies are corded with tough muscle whether they are lean or thick. They have pointed teeth most noticeable with the pair of short tusks that jut from their lower jaw. Their skin is a greenish brown the colour of dried grass, while their hair is thin and black. Their ears are long and end in points. They have flat features with noses that are so flat as to be porcine.
The elves like to think that they are the oldest people of the world, but the rootwalkers live quietly and humbly. They share their forest with the elves who respect their kin. It was only with the spread of humanity that the rootwalkers became concerned.
The humans spread across the world, conquering nature and yoking it to their will. Some humans saw the rootwalkers, the wargs, the giant eagles, and the other peoples of the forest and paid them respect. They left the woods alone out of fear or admiration. Others ignored them and the signs of habitation. They cleared huge swathes of forest in mere decades, depriving the forest people of their homes.
The wargs, being an impatient and aggressive people, wished to strike from the forest and wipe out the human settlements. The sidhe saw new players that they could use to act out their stories, and wanted to capture the humans. The eagles did not mind humans as their livestock made easy prey, but were less than enthused by archers. In the end it was the rootwalkers who the forest people listened to, deciding to consider the problem of humanity.
Rootwalkers take a very long view of life, living as long as they do, so their contemplation of humanity took centuries. In that time wargs wiped out villages, sidhe captured families for their tales, and eagles feasted upon much cattle, but there was no unified assault. Finally the rootwalkers decided that humanity must be made aware of the presence of the forest people, and this message was passed along to all the forests, jungles, and swamps of the world.
Being the most patient and understanding, the rootwalkers were elected to be the diplomats of the forest. Carefully and patiently they approached the human settlements. Recently freed from the Homlish Empire many humans were willing to listen, while others were afraid of more and less human conquerors. Irregardless of human anxieties, the rootwalkers continue to seek compromise with their human neighbours while placating their forest brethren.
Rootwalkers are usually around 15 feet tall and weigh around 1 ton. Most have four branch arms and two branch legs, but there are also those that have more limbs. Their skin is bark and their “hair” is a collection of narrow branches. Despite their size they tend to have soft voices that have a whispering quality to them even when they shout. Other than these traits rootwalkers vary greatly in appearance, usually depending upon where they are from. Those from temperate regions have a profusion of leaves sprouting from the tops of their heads in summer, while they are bare in winter. Desert rootwalker have broad fronds in the place of leaves, while rootwalkers from Nordhem have waxy needles.
The free people of Saoradh are known for their strength, endurance, size and appetites. Ogres love food and have a culture of being gourmands. They especially love Halfling food which is why they don't try conquering the much smaller folk. This love of food has even made ogres and halflings traditionally allies in times of need and it's not unusual to see halflings and ogres enjoying each other's company.
Most ogres live in family groups centred around the family farm. They tend their mountainside fields and livestock with little care for the outside world. Some ogres, however, gain a wanderlust or seek tools that their simple subsistence farming cannot offer. These ogres often put their size and strength to work for merchant caravans that pass through Saoradh. This can take them all over the world, to the Merchant's Sea as pirates, Terre Des Sept as dock workers, or Katei as farmers. Many of these ogres settle where their work is and so it is no unusual to see an ogre in a major city.
Unfortunately some that go to Katei, voluntarily or otherwise, fall prey to ambitious Candle Keepers. These captive ogres are then mated with Shadows or shadowspawn to produce the magically inclined ohni. These ohni have the strength and resilience of ogres, but also possess minor shape shifting abilities and particular cunning, all of which make them very useful agents for the Candle Keeper and their House.
Ogres are incredibly thick set, with barrel chests, broad shoulders, and bulging biceps. Despite many having bulging stomachs, very few take ogres for fat, and those that do often regret the insinuation. They stand at about 9 feet tall and weigh around 500 pounds. They have sun darkened skin the colour of the earth so many toil in. Their hair is thin and wispy usually worn long and unkempt, or shaved to the pate. They have little body hair which shows off the plethora of scars that many ogres have. Rounded and almost soft would be how many would describe the faces of ogres. They have wide jaws, bulbous noises, and large flat teeth.
Ohni have rather different appearances. While keeping the same height, ohni are less heavy set with more balanced proportions. They have dark red skin the colour of a sunset seen through smoke. Many have two horns protruding upward from their forehead which can be between 1 and 5 inches long. Their hair is thick and dark, often with a wild look to it even when pulled into a tight hairstyle. Their faces are sharp, with pert noses and pointed ears.
The small folk from Loisdin are a friendly lot. They tend their farms happily, sell their wares enthusiastically, and ply the Green Strait with glee. Even when they encounter trouble, their quickness is usually enough to see them through the day. This carefree attitude and reputation tends to disarm bigger folk, making them vulnerable to more predatory halflings.
Not all halflings are content with honest work and the pastoral life. Some find they are skilled with machines, their dextrous hands being able to manipulate tiny pieces with easy. Others love the waters of the Green Strait and the rivers that connect to it, so they live on houseboats trading goods along the shores. Then there are those that just have a natural need to see, hear, and do more. Many of these halflings end up in the nations of the big folk as artisans, sailors, and adventurers. Then there are those that get involved in less legal dealings.
Those same dextrous hands that are great for building, are also great for picking pockets. Experienced sailors are just as welcome aboard a pirate ship as a merchant vessel and being an excellent cook is a bonus. The desire to explore new places can push some halflings into burglary as they wonder about what could possibly require so much protection. It's not that they have been tricked into crime, they know that what they are doing is illegal, but sometimes the temptation of a good story is just too much.
Almost as much as food, halflings love stories. When caravans arrive in town they are as welcome for their stories as they are for their business. Halfling have a very orally oriented culture, they will talk about anything, and listen to anyone. In fact, just about the only time they aren't chatting idly is when they are listening to someone else talk. Sometimes this drives the big folk to annoyance, especially dwarves, but halflings know to be quiet when its needed.
Halflings are generally around 3 feet in height and 30 – 35 pounds in weight. They have builds that tend toward stocky, but lithe halflings are not overly unusual. They have curly hair which is usually worn short by both males and females. Their ears have a slight pointedness at the top. They are most well known for not wearing footwear because it bothers their hairy feet. This causes their feet to become very tough, and footwear no longer becomes necessary. Like their feet the rest of their body tends to be very hairy, though this hair is less coarse and so clothes are not an issue. Many would describe their faces as soft and youthful, almost chubby.
Drakes have no particular culture of their own, as their natures and appetites often demand solitude. When they do meet it is often to settle disputes, peacefully or otherwise, or to mate. These small gatherings do spread tales of forebears as drakes proclaim their heritage to their potential rivals. Unfortunately this has created a sense of self-loathing that is rife in the population as the accomplishments of their ancestors have been exaggerated with time.
All a drake ever hears from other drakes is how much better their ancestors, who were “true dragons,” were than themselves. This has built a feeling that they are invalids in comparison. This drives many to act with undeserved confidence as they try to hide their insecurities, despite the fact that no one has seen proof of a True Dragon in centuries.
Some drakes find work in the communities of the smaller species, often acting as guides, protectors, or brute force. They are afforded a sense of awe and fear by the smaller species due to their size and the legends that surround True Dragons. Some take this with humility, most do not.
All drakes are about three times the size of a horse being about 12 feet long from snout to hindquarters, and often 8 feet across at the chest. They can weigh up to two tons, though many are lighter and a few heavier. Most have great wings allowing them to soar through the air, and are barrel chested where their inner fire brews. Beyond these commonalities drakes vary greatly in appearance. Some are deep reds the colour of dried blood, while others are grey and look like stone. Many have flared crests atop their heads, though some have a smooth skull. Often these details depend on where the drake makes its home.
As they can be found in most any part of the world, drakes have adapted to a wide variety of habitats. Some are long and sinewy to better navigate the relatively narrow confines of forests and cities. Others are stocky with bumpy scales so that they can blend in among the boulders in the mountains. Most are somewhere in between, living wherever they can find safety.
Magic is gained through belief in the strength of one or more of the schools. Some casters get their power like using their hands to sip from a clear lake. The power is always there, and easy to get, but there is only so much one can take at a time. Other casters use magic like using a water pump. The water gushes out most of the time, but not always and it is also tiring to work the pump.
There are ten schools of magic and each has its own traits. The school of Fire is known for its power over Fire, Destruction, and Strength. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Athletics, Tactics, Ride, Craft, and they frequently wield a Battle Axe.
The school of Water is known for its power over Water, Deceit, and Curses. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Bluff, Disguise, Haggle, Prestidigitation, and they frequently wield a Blow gun.
The school of Air is known for its power over Air, Travel, and Protection. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Ride, Survival, Athletics, Acrobatics, and they frequently wield a Quarter Staff.
The school of Earth is known for its power over Earth, Protection, and Secrets. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Bluff, Craft, Sneak, Tactics, and they frequently wield a Halberd.
The school of Metal is known for its power over Metal, Strength, and Fortune. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Haggle, Craft, Athletics, Search, and they frequently wield a Flail.
The school of Flesh is known for its power over Death, Life, and Beasts. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Ride, Craft, Disguise, Blend, and they frequently wield a Scourge.
The school of Nature is known for its power over Nature, Beasts, and Travel. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Survival, Ride, Sneak, Athletics, and they frequently wield no weapons at all, instead relying on their bodies to defend themselves.
The school of Light is known for its power over Light, Fortune, and Life. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Search, Investigate, Acrobatics, Tactics, and they frequently wield a Mace.
The school of Darkness is known for its power over Darkness, Secrets, and Death. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Search, Investigate, Prestidigitation, Sneak, and they frequently wield a Dagger.
The school of Stars is known for its power over Magic, Curses, and Destruction. The followers of this school also are often skilled in Tactics, Sneak, Ride, and Haggle, and they frequently wield a Longsword.
The world is a vast and varied place. It is full of wonders both natural and manufactured. Mountains that stretch from sea to sea. A wall made of flesh and bone that lives to defend its people. Clusters of islands with innumerable little villages. Much has been found, but there are still places yet to be explored.
The once great Homlish Empire has been pushed back to its roots. The empire is now contained in the original lands of Homlan, surrounded on all sides by natural barriers. The mightiest nation in known history once sprouted from this land, so perhaps it could happen again since its natural defenses and disciplined military make it hard to eradicate.
Unfortunately the nation has begun to stagnant due to its zealotry. The empire's belief in the power of humanity has fermented into a distrust of anything inhuman. Magic and religion are outlawed entirely, the Homlish Inquisition hunting for its practitioners. Non-humans are discriminated against receiving unfair trade, or being used as slaves. Some of them end up in the gladiator pits that many cities and towns have, fighting for their lives. These draconian behaviours were implemented and reinforced by the Legion and Inquisition.
The Legion is the only remaining might of the Homlish Empire. Though its navy is largely gone, and far fewer traders visit Homlan, its ground forces are still some of the best. The legionnaires are trained rigourously, building their strength, stamina, and discipline. Those that prove themselves are elevated to the rank of praetorian, where they maintain discipline in the ranks and act as seconds to centurions. Enforcing the rules of the Legion on their troops sometimes requires a blunt approach, and so centurions are known for being very physically capable. A praetorian that has served well and has a mind for tactics can be promoted to become a centurion. These soldiers are in charge of troop formations, and often lead their men into battle.
The Homlish Inquisition is an organization that is given free reign to uphold two directives. The first is to ensure that there is no dissent to the Emperor-General's rule. The second is to prepare other nations for conquering. The ranks of the Inquisition are filled from all over Homlan and all walks of life because the Directors of the Inquisition never know what skills will be needed. If the Inquisition approaches a person with a job offer, they usually make sure that they cannot be refused.
The largest human city in the world is one of opulence and power. This is the seat of the once great Homlish Empire and that fact can be seen on every one of its streets. The city's lengthy history has made it so that every slum of the city was at some point the wealthy quarter. The crowded apartments of labourers are contained within worn and faded senatorial mansions. Partially crumbled statues of long forgotten heroes stand over even the humblest of communal spaces. However, this inherent wealth of the city does not apply to the citizens.
Wealthy merchants, traders, land owners, and generals surround themselves with green spaces not found in the rest of the crowded city. They fill their homes with art, gold trim, and commissioned works. Meanwhile the tradesmen and labourers get by with what they can and are more often than not happy.
The most famous and opulent section of the city is the Emperor-General's quarter. Here Emperor-Generals, and to a lesser extent wealthy senators, have built expansive mansions to please themselves. Some get torn down by one Emperor-General to build a new home, and his in turn is later destroyed.
Aside from the Emperor-General's quarter, the two most famous features of the city are the Slaver's District and the fighting pits. The Slaver's District is a section of the city where slavers and slave owners bring their wares to auction off to those interested. Slaves are brought from all over the world, and from all species, which is often the only way that many residents see non-humans. This works out well as a useful though unintentional bit of subliminal propaganda for the pro-human establishment.
The sport of combat is extremely popular amongst the Homlans. It's a regular show of the power of human might and distracts them from the weakened state of their homeland. Most taverns have a space reserved for combat in the same way that taverns in Terre Des Sept have stages for musicians. Even small taverns will have a corner dedicated to fist fights. Some are more like gladiatorial arenas that also serve food and drink, with large sunken pits for battles. Rarely are these battles lethal except in the case of accidents or specially organized fights.
The city is also a port and the former home of the Homlish Navy. Ships traveling in the Merchant's Sea would dock at Homlan to offload cargo and take on supplies. Many such ships would be delivering orc slaves from the Savage Plains. Now there is much less trade entering Homlan, as the empire is on poor terms with the UCS, and is only just rebuilding its trade with Atfaal Min Saladin.
The city of Republic Port is the second largest in Homlan. The city imports and exports goods to all the nations along the Soldier's Sea. However, since the collapse of the empire there has been much less trading. Instead the port has become the centre for building the new Homlish Navy, since the lumber felled in the Dark Peninsula is much closer to the city than Homlan.
This well traveled road traditionally saw much ore brought to Republic Port from the mines in the Northern Homlish Mountains. Since the fall of the empire there is less demand for ore and more demand for lumber. Since this began there have been many strange attacks on the lumber transporters heading to Republic Port.
The thick forest that covers this point of land has never been properly explored, even during the height of the Homlish Empire. It's said that the woods are haunted by many strange and foul beasts. These stories originate from woodsmen who have gone into them looking for lumber, but never returned.
Unfortunately with the mutiny of the Homlish Navy essentially wiping out Homlan's naval power, there has been a strong call for lumber to build new ships. There have been a number of disappearances among the work crews felling trees on the edges of the woods. Most of these have been workers who were alone, and so many supervisors have implemented rules requiring them to stay together in pairs at all times.
Northern Homlish Mountains
These mountains are rich with ore and help to fuel the economy of Homlan. However, they also serve a couple very important military functions. The diversity of terrain in the area allows the Legion to train its recruits in forests, rolling hills, and mountains. This helps to build the stamina and discipline that the legionnaires are known for. Additionally, the mountains block off Homlan from the Long Plains along a large section of its borders. Only in the most Northerly area of the mountains, where they become only hills, is it practical to cross them. Knowing this, the Legion long ago set up a small chain of fortresses in the mountains to keep out the tribes of the Horse Lords.
Southern Homlish Mountains
The mines in these mountains supply most of the ore that reaches Homlan. The mines are extremely old, and have been dug very deeply into the ground. Many older mines have been sealed from cave ins or after they dried up. Occasionally forgotten mines are broken into by the miners in newer mines.
The Guardian Isles are a chain of islands that surround the Homlan Gulf. Each one has a fortress located on it that defends Homlan against enemy naval fleets. However, since the fall of the empire and the mutiny of the navy, the fortresses are in ill repair, and some are unmanned.
Stati Uniti Citta
The “nation” of Stati Uniti Citta (or United City States) is an agreed upon coalition of the islands that formerly made up the Homlish Empire's primary vassal state. While ruled by the Homlans the islands were able to focus on their trades and as such became extremely skilled artisans and inventors. They were also frequently the stops for merchants traveling between the Soldier's Sea and the Merchant's Sea which allowed the cities to make money for little effort through taxation and fees.
When the Homlish Navy mutinied because they went unpaid, many ship captains found their way into the pockets of wealthy individuals from the islands. Years later, when the Homlish Empire sent a force to reconquer the islands the newly invented black powder weapons were used to great effect, despite their small numbers, and the invasion was repelled.
These new and effective weapons have begun to slowly spread across the world, but only the most skilled artisans are able to properly craft the firearms and the black powder recipes used are well guarded trade secrets. Only the scholars of Atfaal Min Saladin have been able to reverse engineer the technology.
There are 4 city states in the islands: Nord, Centro, Gruppo, and Gigantesco. Although publicly each claims brotherhood with the others, privately they wage “secret” war on each other and themselves. Nobles from each will hire mercenaries to attack nobles from other cities, their own city, and often their own guild. The islands are a hotbed of constant politics, espionage, and subterfuge. The only thing they can agree on is their hate for Homlan.
Fortezza, while technically a subordinate state of Centro, survives independently of the other cities. It's able to do this because many of the ship captains of the former Homlish Navy landed here and conquered the native populace. The ships, sailors, and soldiers that make their home here are mercenaries through and through. However, they also have a certain bizarre loyalty to the islands born of a combination of their love for the freedom their home gives them, and the money the cities will pay them in times of dire need.
The island city of Quarto Isola is the fourth smallest island in the chain that makes of the Stati Uniti Citta. Originally founded as a mining colony under Homlish rule the community has since become a manufacturing hub. The city itself has grown to the point of covering most of the island. Now there is little grazing land left and much of the population are fed from fungal based foods grown in the older mines.
Many of the mineshafts dried up long ago and lie supposedly empty. However, there are some that are officially used for storage, and others that are used to grow the fungus which feeds the majority of Quarto's population. It's also said that some of the poorest people living on the island live in the forgotten tunnels, surviving off the fungus and flooded depths.
The city is divided into seven districts titled A through G. A is the administration district where the island is officially ruled from. B covers all of the mines, both active and abandoned. C is the residential district where the wealthier citizens of the island live. D is specifically for the non-human residents of the island as some of Homlan's pro-human beliefs still exist in the city's legal system. E is the ever dwindling farm land of the island, though the admins for the district are trying to get fungal farms rolled into their jurisdiction. F covers the harbour and the fisher folk who live on the island. Last but far from least is the slowly growing G district which has control over the craftspeople and their guilds. While officially district A runs the city the reality is that district G's wealth buys just as much power as A legally controls.
Of legal note in the city are the Profit Syndicates (more colloquially known as gangs) and the weapons pass. The PS run the city's interior occurrences. If it doesn't interfere with the island's business with the outside world then A doesn't really care. Corruption is widespread amongst the island's administration and law enforcement, though it's not unknown for the authorities to come down hard on any PS that disrupts the island's cash flow.
Part of ensuring the cash flow, as A sees it, is the weapons pass. Other than small blades, ostensibly for utility purposes, no weapons are permitted to be carried outside of the home. “Weapons” were initially defined as “blades larger than four inches in length” however a “stop and examine” clause was quickly added allowing law enforcement to detain any individual carrying a “suspicious” AND “potential” weapon. This in turn lead to the weapons pass, a small slip of vellum stating that the person listed on the note is permitted to carry weapons. With the island's rough and tumble reputation these passes are much sought after and often forged. However the passes are difficult to obtain and are solely given to those who have the political sway to acquire them, limiting them to the nobility and the military (but only officers). There are of course ways around this but those found owning a forged weapons pass or impersonating the rightful owner of a weapons pass are executed, which is to say nothing of the forgers gruesome fate. Those found carrying weapons are fined and the offending object confiscated.
The small island of Tesseris Eksousies is an abnormality in the fact that it has never been conquered, nor has any nation laid claim to it. This is in part to the mystery of the island and its inhabitants, and in part to the skills of the inhabitants themselves. The people of the island are extremely isolationist. There is a single port that foreign ships are allowed to dock at, and only under the most dire of circumstances. The foreigners are not permitted off their ships, and the punishment for leaving can be as dire as execution. These laws help to maintain the strict caste system that is enforced in the culture.
The nation has a strict caste system with the 4 schools of spell casters (fire, water, earth, air) all being equal, while non-casters are completely subservient. Casters are not permitted to marry or mate outside of their caste, especially with non-casters, though bastards are not unheard of. When a person is found to have casting ability, no matter how young or old, they are immediately forced into a spell casting academy that matches the element they have shown power over.
Despite their isolationist policies, casters are allowed to freely travel outside of the nation, and indeed much of their culture's legends are based on travelers. These travelers encounter the many “bizarre” creatures and cultures of the wider world, then return to the paradise that is their homeland. Some of the terrifying beasts are recognizable to foreigners, such as wargs or giant scorpions, but are given attributes they might not naturally have due to the exaggerated nature of legends. However, not all are negative, and indeed many of these mythical creatures are worshiped by the Eksousiens for their perceived traits.
The capital city of Tesseris Eksousies and the only place where foreigners are permitted, though they must remain on their ships except under special considerations. The Council of Four rule the island from this city, with the grand caster of each caste taking one of the 4 positions on the council. Non-casters are entirely unrepresented except, occasionally by one of the other castes.
The land of Loisdin is a peaceful land that has remained largely untouched by war even when it was officially under the rule of the Homlish Empire. Part of this is that halflings are not war like by nature, and will most often accede to any invaders, giving them the resources they seek. Crops can be regrown, but a life cannot be replaced. The other reason that Loisdin remains safe is its close relationship with the ogres of Saoradh. Those that threaten the small folk are likely to get smashed by a half ton block of muscle.
The port town of Cathair is the largest in all of Loisdin. Although it's located in the halfling homeland, the small folk are actually a minority in the town. Most of its residents are sailors and merchants passing through on their way to larger ports. If a halfling needs something that their local smith can not craft, this is where they go.
The hills that cover most of Loisdin are populated by the majority of the halfling population. They live in small farming communities amongst the rolling hills. Their homes are made from stone and thatch, or are built right into the hillsides.
The Green Strait separates Loisdin from the Flats. Its green waters are home to many fish which help support the local economy. Most of the villages that line the strait are populated by fishermen, but some will act as ferries for the right price.
This small region on the edge of the Flats is well known for its forest, hills, and resident ogres. The region has long had significance because of its easily defensible nature and containing the only land bridge between Terre Des Sept and Homlan. This has caused numerous skirmishes throughout the years as the Homlish Empire sought to control the region, specifically the land bridge, while the ogre residents continually struck out at their occupiers from the unconquerable hills.
Once an outpost of the Homlish Empire, Tachd has become the largest per capita grouping of ogres in the world. Tachd has always been of strategic importance being located on the only land bridge between the Flats and the Long Plains. After the Homlans retreated back across the plains, the ogres moved in. Now the town is run by a group of ogres and halflings who charge a toll for anyone wishing to use the land bridge. Those that try to sneak past are quite likely to get caught by an ogre patrol and soundly thrashed.
For anyone looking to hire an ogre, this is the place to go. There are always ogres who have been struck by wanderlust and have come down from the mountains seeking a profitable way out of Saoradh. Most find work guarding caravans which can take them wherever they desire to go.
In the hills and mountains of Saoradh are the farms of the ogres. They live in caves and simple hillside huts tending their livestock and crops. They have little to worry about because the mountains are a difficult place to live and travel in for any not born there, and even then few are foolish enough to harass an ogre, even ones that are just farmers.
Terre Des Sept
The Land of the Seven is a large, fertile nation recently freed from the Homlish Empire. They are followers of the Seven Saints, heroes who helped bring freedom to Terre Des Sept and cultivated its growth once it gained that freedom. The Seven Saints represent the virtues of love, justice, prosperity, peace, enjoyment, confidence, and respect. It's been noted that those who follow a specific saint, can trace their lineage to a saint, or simply live in the saint's favoured province all have common traits.
Those who have a connection to the saint of love are known for physical beauty, skillful sex, and dark hair and eyes. Rape is their most severe crime and their motto is "Love as you will." Those who have a connection to the saint of justice are known for sternness, determination, woad tattoos, hard features, and their motto is "All deeds are justly rewarded." Those who have a connection to the saint of prosperity are known for financial acumen, cunning, and their motto is "Everything is an opportunity." Those who have a connection to the saint of peace are known for patience, agreeability, and their motto is "Life should not be a constant struggle." Those who have a connection to the saint of enjoyment are known for savouring everything, soft features, curiosity and their motto is "Make the mundane magical." Those who have a connection to the saint of confidence are known for being skilled, hard working, and their motto is "Make great all you do." Those who have a connection to the saint of respect are known for being friendly, negotiating, and their motto is "Every skill contributes."
Heirs are matrilinear because only they guarantee royal blood. Thus eldest daughters are the heirs. This is mimicked by the peasantry, creating a matriarchal society. The royal bloodline is directly descended from the union of the saints of confidence and justice.
Despite the feats of the Seven, there are pagans that live outside of the main society, usually in secluded hills and valleys. They never had much contact with the Homlish Empire, so they don't see why the seven are so special. The old gods of the pagans are creatures of Nature's Revolt. They roamed the land more freely before the spread of humanity.
The kingdom is split into seven regions each with one of the Seven as its patron. Though the saints united it, there are still small regional skirmishes especially near unofficial borders. Recently the last of the Seven, Peace, has passed away, and many are unsure if the nation will survive under the rule of the Queen without support from the Seven.
Saintborn are the descendents of the Seven Saints. The saints were not chaste individuals (especially Love) and their children's children make up a sizeable portion of the population. The nobility especially have a high percentage of saintborn. The purest Saintblood can be found in the Royal line who were spawned from the union of Justice and Confidence.
Often the Norse raiders cross this stretch of water in their longships to pillage the coastal villages. The Coast Guard's Road was built along its length to defend the peasants of the area. Unfortunately, this strait is also the only way to the North Sea without sailing into the frigid waters North of Nordhem. Merchant ships passing through the strait often hire escorts for fear of the Norse.
The nation of Zi You was founded by escaped test subjects and assistants who had worked with and been worked on by the Warped Elves. After their slaves' revolt, they traveled until they found a home in a sparsely populated land North of Badikhayat. They were lead there by three flesh mages who had been assistants to the Warped Elves. These mages and their followers eventually developed into the Family of Blood, the Family of Sweat, and the Family of Tears. Blood focus their magics and efforts towards the art of war. They often create monstrosities, either by “stitching” together creatures and then manipulating their flesh, or by doing the same to human volunteers. Volunteering to become such an abomination is considered a great honour, though some are pressured into doing so by their families. Sweat focuses their efforts on building and improving society. They manipulate the flesh of livestock to be more nutritious, while also improving the endurance and strength of volunteer workers. Tears focus their efforts on healing and repairing damages done. Often they act as mediators and level heads for the nation. Despite their unity against slavery and the Warped Elves, the nation is ruled by an oligarchy of the three Families with lots of political maneuvering amongst them.
Within the last 100 years, the high mages of each of the three houses sacrificed themselves to create the Living Wall. They did this to wall off their homeland's peninsula because they didn't want to watch their people be re-enslaved by the undead that destroyed Gang Kou. They did this against the wishes of their house leaders, who continued to squabble amongst themselves as the undead drew nearer. The wall they created is a living organism of unknown intelligence. It has teeth, mouths, arms, tendrils, eyes, ears, and is generally a wall of nightmare made flesh.
The land of Katei has a terrain that is quite varied for its small size. The North contains rugged hills and forests, while the Southern half has another forest, but also an extensive swamp and plain. Being almost entirely surrounded by water, there are many fishing villages on its coasts, however Katei is most well known for its nobility.
Nobles in Katei are obsessed with perceived honour. Families structure their lives around preserving and improving face in front of their peers. For the men this means becoming samurai, learning the arts of war (horsemanship, archery, and sword play), and following the orders of their superiors. Women's ability to maintain their family's honour solely involves serving first their parents, and then their husband.
There are a few men and women who instead of pursuing their traditional roles, become spell casters known as shugenja. These few have the strength of belief necessary to wield magic; Earth, fire, water, air, and metal in the case of houses Kokuo, Tora, Ishigame, and Tatsu, while Houses Fukuro and Suneku shugenjas are known as candle keepers for their use of the magics of light and darkness. They are most often sent to their House's shugenja academy, though some families will refuse to send daughters as it is not their role.
Families and individuals that lose their honour will do their best to remedy the situation. For minor slights this may require the offender, or the head of the offender's family, to offer themselves in duty to the person they offended. The offended party can then request any single task of the person, including seppuku, but asking too much may cause an informal loss of face. For major slights the same individual will very often commit seppuku voluntarily or be ordered by their superior to do so.
For all houses, retaining the most face is of highest importance, however, houses Fukuro and Suneku are known as the “Shinobi Houses” and are known to commit many dishonourable acts. They manage to get away with these acts because they ensure that their agents are deniable assets. If a shinobi house agent is caught in an abhorrent act they are expected to commit suicide before they can be questioned, and their actions will be denied vehemently by their superiors.
Katei is not a large nation and the divided houses frequently battle one another. Usually these are small clashes between individual samurai or political maneuverings at court, but occasionally larger battles occur. These larger battles can range from small groups of samurai battling, to full war between houses.
The capital of Katei is located on a river connecting to the North Sea. This is the only port where foreigners are permitted to dock because of Katei's strict isolationist policies. The city also receives many ships from within Katei itself and is the home of the Katein navy.
Being the capital of the nation, Shufu is the home of Katei's divine Emperor. He rules over both his house, House Kokuo, and all of Katei. His commands are carried out by his magistrates and clerks who are most often from within his own house. However, the Emperor is often a figurehead following the suggestions of his advisers. The advisers are chosen by the Emperor from any house of Katei, unfortunately honour most often requires an Emperor to retain the advisers assigned by his father or regent.
This city, like all the other large cities of Katei, is named for its ruling house. House Tora is known for three things: training skilled cavalry, great skill at politics, and an astounding arrogance. The first two have made House Tora very powerful in Katei through the many battles in the nation's past, and through political machinations during peace. The city is unofficially known as the secondary capital of Katei because in past occasions where Shufu became unsafe for the Emperor, the Imperial Court was temporarily moved to Tora at the suggestion of Toran advisers. Their standard is a black and orange tiger on a brown field.
House Tatsu has some of the most impressive libraries in the world and this gives the house a much deserved reputation for academia. Most of these are located in and around the city of Tatsu, most often in one of the several shugenja academies in the area. These academies are what gives house Tatsu its other most well known skill, which is magic. While most houses have a single shugenja academy, Tatsu has five, one for each element wielded by the shugenja. These academies are so impressive that even the odd spell caster from Tesseris Eksousies has come to investigate them. Some wealthy families of other houses even send their spell casting scions to at least one of the shugenja academies, though very few can afford to attend all five elemental academies. However, Tatsu families may attend at a lower cost. Their standard is a gold or yellow dragon on a red field.
House Ishigame are uncouth, dirty, and ferocious... according to the other houses. It is true that Ishigame cares little to nothing for court politics. They are blunt and are not trained to keep a level head, both of which make them awful courtiers for the most part. The reason for this is that their house was founded to defend all of Katei from invaders trying to cross the land bridge and the creatures living in Bakemono Swamp. They spend their youth learning to survive in the swamp and training to fight on foot, as horses are nearly useless in the muck. This task is often extremely dangerous, but the ranks defending the nation must remain strong. Thus House Ishigame has the most low born raised to samurai of any house. Their standard is a black turtle on a green field.
House Sunkeu are known to be treacherous, cunning, and spiteful. They have some of the most skilled courtiers in their midst, and have an arrogance that rival's House Tora's pride. Unlike Tora, however, they do not hold honour in such high regards. Of all the houses, Suneku is the one most likely to commit an act worthy of seppuku. Every other house knows this, and Suneku is aware of their reputation. They like to show off their skill by making it blatantly obvious to any who care to look that they have done something despicable, but they do so in a way that makes the act unsuitable for reprisal. This method of operation is only possible because of Suneku's multitude of skilled ninjas. While other houses may have covert agents, only Suneku is rumoured to have a secret ninja school hidden in the hills and valleys of their land. Many of these ninja are shadowspawn “created” by the candle keepers of the house, or bought from House Fukuro. Their standard is a black snake on dark blue field.
Like House Tatsu, Fukuro are known for their skill with magic. However, Fukuro focus not on the five founding elements (as Tatsu calls them) but on the oppositional elements of light and darkness. Their belief is that without light there could be no shadow, and without darkness we would never know when we were in the light. Their most feared use of this magic is the summoning and control of shadow beasts. These monsters appear as shadows in the shape of great hunting felines with tentacles so dark no light reflects from them. As the various skills of candle keepers are much in demand, house Fukuro are known for being extremely mercenary in their behaviour. Their standard is a white owl on a black field.
The nation of Baikhayat is most famous for its eternal kings, slaves, and monuments. Although the nobility of the nation can potentially live forever, this makes them all too aware of their true mortality. Many commission grand projects that could take decades to complete because they can see these projects through. However, just as many fail in their completion of such projects and there are many half built ruins that have become forgotten.
These monuments are always built on the backs of slaves, and Badikhayat is the main place to buy slaves in the North, sometimes even eclipsing Homlan's slave district. This puts them at odds with their Zi You neighbours, but since that nation has walled itself off, it is of little concern to the mummy kings. What is of greater concern are the undead North of the Grey Desert. Many fear that the undead will cross the desert without fear of dehydration and conquer Badikhayat. However, the quarreling nobles cannot unite long enough to contemplate this problem.
The “Pure Land” is the original home of all elves. Now those that remain distinguish themselves from the outcasts by calling themselves “High Elves.” The nation is largely covered by forest and is surrounded by the Inner Sea, North Sea, and Quiet Sea. This has made sailing very important to the nation, which has a powerful navy. The nation is ruled by the Oligarch Casari Suncrow who has ruled since before the time of the Warped Elves' exile.
The capital city of Mahndor is the centre of elven culture. All other cities turn their eyes for examples of fashion, art, and music. The oldest buildings, which predate the Homlish Empire, are beautiful structures, with spires stretching smoothly into the sky. Such grand gestures have long since passed into unpopularity among the elves and the newer buildings are all very simple, and purposeful. Their beauty comes from the subtle details and their function. Only the palace of the oligarch has the same sweeping power of the ancient buildings, but the interior decorations favour the discrete modern styles.
This port town is the home of Mahndor's Inner Sea navy. It is also one of the largest ports on the Inner Sea. Both of these qualities make Mahndor's Navy the most powerful on the Inner Sea, and one of the most power on the Outer Seas. However, for ships to travel from Cirost to Harmaost they must pass through Pain Lake and the border of Lagartija Selva. Doing so puts them at great risk of attack from the Cold Blooded.
This town lies on the edge of the Bone Dust desert and is often the departing location for caravans traveling to and from Badikhayat. It is the best place to stop for the supplies and guides necessary for crossing the unforgiving desert. The rare creatures and plants that grow in the desert can also be found here for sale.
The multitude of islands North of Mahndor are home to the exiled Warped Elves. The name of the region can translate to either “Death's Hope Isles” or “Hope's Death Isles.” On these scattered lands the elven flesh mages, their followers, and their test subjects eke out a hard living. There is no central government in the islands with most settlements existing as farming communities that surround a mage's or group of mages' laboratory. These settlements are controlled by the flesh mages at the centre of them, though they rarely take any action regarding their followers. The mages generally stay in their laboratories except when their experiments and research are interrupted because of lack of materials or outside interference.
This port city is the only settlement that resembles a town. Here is where the followers of the flesh mages barter with merchants for resources that their masters require. Outsiders also come here to purchase the creations that the mages are willing to sell.
The jungles and swamps of Lagartija Selva are home to the cold blooded and many other fierce beasts. The cold blooded live in temple cities that are ruled by city kings. These kings are guided by their priests who have the second most authority in the culture. Warriors have the next most authority. Since cold blooded never know their parents or children, the heir is selected by the current king whenever he chooses. The selection may be anyone, though usually it is a priest or a warrior.
Cities are formed around temples, which always have a sacrificial purpose. They worship the power of blood and flesh. The magic contained within the living form that makes life possible. They make regular sacrifices of prisoners of war to show how powerful they are, and to release the magic of life back into the land. The more impressive the sacrifice the more powerful it is. In dire times citizens, priests, and even royalty may be sacrificed.
Their other sacred sites are where egg clutches are traditionally and routinely placed. These sites are unmarked as tradition dictates. By nature, their eggs are abandoned after being laid in a clutch. This has caused a state of constant skirmishes with the elves of Mahndor. The battles are fought along the shores of Pain Lake, the rivers connected to it, and the swampland around it. The elves want the land for development, while the cold blooded use the many locations in the swamp as birthing sites. The cold blooded fight by ambushing elven soldiers, and then disappearing back into the jungle.
The cold blooded typically adorn themselves with the skins and feathers of the beasts in their homeland. The most skilled wear the skulls of the giant terror lizards as helmets. Such acts of bravery and skill form the basis of their art which revolves around the tales of their heroes carved in stone.
The land of the dwarves is a rugged one, covered with snow capped mountains and green hills. The mountains are rich with ore and this gives the dwarves their livelihood, metalworking. However, there is much more to the dwarves as their passion and persistence finds them in most every craft. Dwarven poets are said to be some of the most moving for the emotion that they give every word.
To the North lies Lagartija Selva and the Cold Blooded. The dwarves care little for the saurians as they are not interested in trade other than blood. Occasionally though their mines can break into dwarven tunnels that lie like veins under the mountains and this can lead to conflict. Generally the dwarves take a patient stance, eventually the invaders grow bored of the battle and seek excitement elsewhere.
The capital of Eshimcubor is a massive fortified stronghold located underground. There are a few entrances to the above world, but all are secret and only known to the dwarves. The city is home to the dwarven parliament which meets once a year to discuss the issues facing each dwarven hold. Each hold sends a single representative and may bring a single grievance to the gathering. The meeting is not adjourned until every grievance has been settled. Often this takes days due to the stubborn and passionate nature of dwarves, and it is quite common for them to take their meals and naps in the parliamentary hall. Occasionally this leads to drunken brawls during particularly heated debates, and so weapons are not permitted in the hall.
The only dwarven settlement primarily above ground and readily available to non-dwarves. Here is where the hill dwarves trade with the other races for what they need. Often other peoples come looking to purchase dwarven metalworks, however, the amount of time and effort that dwarves put into every craft makes them quite expensive. When combined with dwarves general distaste for others, the prices can be very steep.
Chaang Bor On
The land of the elephant people is a peninsula stretching off of the Savage Plains. The human nation is ruled over by a king who is selected through bloodline. The populace is well known for their symbiotic relationship with the elephants native to their land and the Savage Plains. The great beasts fill the tales, history, and religion of the people. This symbiosis stretches into every aspect of life; farming, transportation, and war. The elephant riders of Chaang Bor On are legendary among the militaries of the world for having held off the Homlish Legion at Sam-Lak. Despite this well known tale of history, those who have never before seen an elephant or mammoth often believe they are but fairy tales like giants, shadow beasts, and mermaids.
The capital of Chaang Bor On has many splendid buildings which the added might of trained elephants have helped to build. However, the port city is better known for its seedier side. Having few affiliations with other nations, Grung is often a centre of pirate activity. The port thrives as stolen riches pass between hands.
Sam-Lak is a heavily militarized town. On the border of Chaang Bor On it is strategically located at the bottle neck to the nation amongst the hills. It is the primary home of the elephant cavalry that the nation calls on in times of need.
Atfaal Min Saladin
The nation of Atfaal Min Saladin was once the second oldest vassal state of the Homlish Empire. Throughout this relationship they managed to maintain their culture, though they lost their religion during the Inquisition's purge. To avoid the religious purges of the Homlish Empire, religious figures in the region transformed themselves into experts on the supernatural. Maintaining their culture had the side benefit of preserving a great deal of knowledge, especially of the supernatural, that would have otherwise been destroyed by the Homlish. Despite this preservation of arcane knowledge they share the Homlish belief humans are superior to others. This is what causes the unusually low number of spell casters within the nation.
Even during the height of the Homlish Empire this nation has always been equally ruled by a queen and a king. These royal members can be husband and wife, father and daughter, brother and sister, queen and noble, etc. They can be any two people so long as one has royal blood, and they are a man and a woman. This is done to get a balanced perspective on governance, and many times the calm head of one ruler has prevented the rash actions of the other, while the initiative of one ruler has spurred the passive one to action.
One such action that was not prevented by both rulers has lead to an ongoing feud between Atfaal Min Saladin and Terre Des Sept. One ruler believed that the Seven Saints were demons seeking to dispose the righteousness of humanity after she was very badly and very publicly embarrassed by the Saint of Love. This belief was not quelled by the other ruler who was afraid of his partner, and also occupied with the fallout of the Empire's collapse. This lead to a crusade against Terre Des Sept that cost Atfaal Min Saladin greatly. Not only did it deplete the nation's resources (which it is beginning to recoup), it also gave the nation a reputation of zealotry which is in competition with its reputation of academia set out by its namesake.
The Long Plains is, as the name suggests, a long proportionally narrow area of plains that stretches from Atfaal Min Saladin in the South to Saoradh in the North. The area is claimed by the Homlish Empire, and no other nation has formally declared sovereignty over the land, but the empire's presence is minimal and those living in the area must fend for themselves.
The biggest threat to those living in the Long Plains are the Horse Lords. They are a nomadic people traveling throughout the plains in tribes ranging from the size of a couple families to the size of an army. They follow the food across the plains, living in collapsible bone and hide huts. Unsurprisingly they are masters of horsemanship and quite possibly the best light cavalry in the world. They quite often use these skills to take what they want and need from other tribes and less nomadic people. Usually this is just food, goods, and tools, but sometimes includes slaves as well. There are three main tribes on the plains: Hawk, Bison, and Bear.
Hawk is the most feared as they answer to no one, and almost never negotiate. They sweep into a region taking all they want, and selling anything they don't. When they approach a settlement the residents are instantly on edge because even if they had peaceful dealings with Hawk previously, such as buying their stolen goods and selling them supplies, there is no guarantee that they won't raid the town this time around.
Bison is the least feared as they are well known for their economic acumen. Unlike the other large tribes they understand the concept of buying low and selling high. Their frequent travels along the plains make them the only trade that some of the small settlements receive. This causes many to forget that they aren't simply an extra large merchant's caravan, and many a bandit has regretted attacking these horse lords.
Bear tribe consider themselves conquerors. They surround settlements that they come across and expect tribute. They ask only for what the settlement can give, but if they suspect the town is trying to trick them, or if the town refuses to pay, they raid the village and take everything. Those that do pay receive an additional boon: they are considered a protectorate of the Bear tribe. This means that if there is trouble in or approaching the settlement, such as Hawk tribesmen or a lack of people to bring in the harvest, the townsfolk can send for aid to Bear. The horse lords are then obligated by their customs to send an appropriate response force.
This city is the largest settlement in the Long Plains, laying on the borders of the Homlish Empire and Atfaal Min Saladin, but independent of both. The city is a very cosmopolitan one as its position on a major crossroads brings in peoples from all over the world. While the population is largely human, those humans come from many different nations, and there is no small amount of any race, even drakes and saurians. The trade of the city is facilitated not only by its crossroad location, but also because it is located on the Orc Head River which connects to the Inner Sea, bringing trade across the water from far off nations like Badikhayat and Mahndor.
The city is ruled by a council made up of various business leaders in the community and a governor selected by the council. The council includes the captain of the town guard, the head of the city bank, the port master, the chair of the tradesmen guild, the chair of the mage's guild, and the chair of the “locksmiths'” guild. The city's governor is chosen by the council from any of the local landholders. The current mayor, Elan Ofhomlan, is a surprise to all as he was elected through voter division and a pair of throwaway votes. He is surprising many by being at the least a competent governor.
Crooked Tree Crossroads
This crossroads is a familiar but bizarre sight for many. All the trees near it are bent towards the North. Some speculate that the small lake to the South may have something to do with this phenomenon.
Tree's Teeth Mountains
This mountain range is incredibly dense and nigh impenetrable. With thick forests and rugged mountains, no roads pass through them. However, they are home to the Hillfolk whose home necessitates that they be skilled hunters and trackers. They keep to their mountains, living in stone and thatch cottages, and worship the natural and supernatural that surround them. Outsiders who try to pass through or into their lands often find themselves ambushed and harried by the Hillfolk who are distrustful. Stealing from outsiders is their only source of iron and steel, and they have a very primitive level of manufacturing.
Cirque Du Soldat
A common sight on the Long Plains are the brightly coloured patchwork tents of the Cirque Du Soldat. This circus travels around the plains, and occasionally farther, performing for the residents near their current stop. However, they also perform odd jobs that the residents pay them for. These can range from assisting with building a house, to robbing a house, to eliminating a gang of robbers. The circus was founded by deserters and losers from many different armies, so when they come to town a wide variety of skills are brought with them. Not all of those skills are constructive, but they are almost always used at least once on every stop.
The Flats are a large expanse of flatlands stretching from Loisdin to the North Sea. The southern area is a vast savannah called the Drylands, while the northern section are plains known as the Freefields. The area is best known for its residents, the nomadic Plains Runners.
The people of the plains are comprised of numerous hunter gatherer tribes. They travel on foot following food sources as the seasons change. However, they often form temporary villages of huts, and it is not uncommon to find empty villages that will fill when the next tribe moves in. They are governed by village elders, and have no larger social structure. This is because they do not believe in nationwide policies and alliances. A village elder can know the feelings of all the people they represent, but a monarch cannot.
Most disputes within and between tribes are solved through peaceful discussion. Sometimes though a fight breaks out or an agreement cannot be reached. In these cases ceremonial battles are fought by champions representing the involved parties. These battles are decided by fights to the yield between village champions and are usually fought with spears, javelins, and shields.
Their legends and spiritual beliefs are centred around the powers of the plants and animals of their homeland. Those that know the stories and can call upon the power of the spirits are known as grass speakers. One of the oldest stories they tell is of how the plains peoples came to the Flats. It is said that they migrated to the Flats to escape from a ruler that had conquered their homeland. Rather than bow down to him, or die resisting, they fled and didn't stop until they found a new home much like their old one.
As their name implies, the Drylands have little water. This huge savannah is home to many magnificent and unusual animals. The plains tribes live here in the wet season to avoid the killing cold that is found in the Freefields to the North. At this time of the year the tribes do most of their trading and negotiating with merchants and neighbouring nations.
The Freefields are the wetter, colder section of the Flats. During the summer season the tribes of the plains follow the migrating animals here, out of the Drylands. It is during these times that the plains people are most isolated from other cultures as few are willing to cross the savannah during the hottest time of the year.
The Meeting Place
This land mark can be seen from miles away. Twelve 50 foot menhir stand in a circle atop what is said to be the only hill in the Flats. Ancient torch sconces have been carved into stones and when lit they bring light to the surrounding area and the gathering within. The hill contains an amphitheater that is worn with the use of ages. While primarily used by the Plains Runners to hold gatherings of the tribes, it has also seen use by many other other groups including a meeting between the Homlish Empire and the tribes, and even a Norse Thing was held at the site.
This fertile area of land is believed to be empty of sentient life. Formerly a section of Zi You, the problem began roughly 100 years ago when reports of walking corpses and skeletons traveled to the the nearby towns with traders. Those in the larger cities of the area were not especially concerned because the flesh mages of Zi You often produced zombies to aid in manual labour, and the mummies of Badikhayat could potentially be mistaken for skeletons.
Then there came reports of empty villages that showed signs of struggle. Some of them had makeshift barricades as though they knew something was coming. The 4 Houses of Zi You sent out magistrates and soldiers in search of the bandits, most likely robber elves, who had wiped out the towns. The magistrates either did not return or found nothing.
The truth of the crisis became known when Gang Kou was suddenly set upon by an army of the undead. In a single day of bloodshed and desperate fighting the city was overrun and the populace slaughtered or scattered. From these few survivors word reached Shou Du and Ahlan, from there the tale changed and spread across the rest of the world.
Now the region is an empty spread of bountiful land dotted by empty villages and walking dead. Only the most desperate pass through the region hoping to reach the Living Wall and gain entrance to Zi You. However, many are turned away with the wall guards being the last to see them alive.
Ruins of Gang Kou
This once thriving port city is now nothing but burnt ruins. There are no first hand accounts of the current state of the site, but sailors foolhardy enough to go near on their way to Ahlan have claimed to see shapes moving amongst the rubble. What is known for sure, is that on many nights strange shadows, that are so dark as to absorb light, can be seen emanating from the dead city.
This desert marked the traditional border between Badikhayat and Zi You. After the exodus of the region, few venture across the sands. Those who do enter the Grey desert walk its ash coloured sands looking to capture the giant scorpions that are native to the area. While difficult train, they make excellent war beasts and many are bought by adventurers, mercenaries, generals, and gladiatorial arenas.
For more than a thousand years the Savage Plains were under the control of the Homlish Empire. However, in all that time there was never a concerted effort to civilize the region. Instead the Homlish simply hoped that their presence would help to show the orcs what was possible when they were willing to lift themselves out of the dirt. The constant enslavement of orcs and their forced reeducation was just another step in that direction.
When the empire began to crumble, the Savage Plains was the first region abandoned. Most of the legionnaires were pulled out to be moved to areas that were more important to hold. While the region has never declared its independence and the empire has never officially given up its claim, it is apparent to any sensible person that the region is no longer part of the Homlish Empire.
This mining town was the hub of business for the Savage Plains for hundreds of years. Great slave auction houses were built that often rivaled the ones in Homlan. The city expanded with the coin brought in by slave and ore traders.
With the independence of Atfaal Min Saladin, formerly Aadeem Badiya, the Savage Plains became cut off from the rest of the Homlish Empire. Most of the legionnaires stationed in Endeavour were called back to secure Homlan. As the flow of slave and ore traders dried up, suddenly the garrison found themselves severely outnumbered by the oppressed peoples.
All the slaves were set free, though slavery was not formally outlawed. Many of the orcs and goblins left the mostly empty city, though some stayed to continue working their former slave positions for pay. This has allowed the garrison leader, centurion Blake Smithson, to remain in control of the town, though he must continually broker deals between the merchants, traders, and workers to keep the town running.
The ruins here are at least as old as the Homlish Empire, and there is evidence that they were built upon even older ruins. Being located on a raised plateau of rock in the middle of a desert makes the ruins quite defensible if one has enough water. Despite this advantage, orc tribes give the ruins and the desert that contains it a wide berth. Even bandits are loath to enter them because of the rumours that they are haunted.
The stone of this canyon has a reddish orange tinge to it, which lends to the name. However, most believe that it is called such because of all the corpses that lined the bottom when the Homlish Legion arrived at the Savage Plains to tame the orcs. If they bothered to ask why there were so many corpses, the orcs would have told them that there was a great battle where the united orc tribes forced hundreds of undead over the canyon cliffs to destroy them.
These woods are named as such because they have a long history of harboring guerrilla warriors. Orc legends say that they were used by resistance fighters against the Warlord of old, and against the Necromancer that forced the orcs from the plains. Homlish Empire records also show that the forest was avoided by the Legion because of frequent ambushes from goblins and orcs.
This road, like so many, was laid by the Homlish Empire. It was built to better facilitate the transportation of slaves and ore from the Savage Plains back towards Homlan. Once Aadeem Badiya declared its independence this road fell into disuse, and has not been maintained well.
The road that leads from Endeavour to Nish serves primarily as a means to transport ore and tools between the towns. Many farmers bring their crops to the dwarves who will often pay a higher price for them than the local humans, orcs, and goblins. In return farmers are able to buy tools of superior quality from the dwarven forges.
This island is as cold and unforgiving as the god of the Norse peoples. Covered in snow and ice for most of the year, those that live here eke out a meager existence. They survive on subsistence farming which is tended by the women and slaves. These settlements are each ruled by a thane who inherited his role from his father. When a decision is made that affects a great number of the settlements, then a Thing is held where every freeman is allowed to cast a vote on the matter.
Meanwhile the fighting men take their longships across the Raider's Strait to pillage the villages along the coasts of Terre Des Sept. Sometimes they go further a field, attacking merchant ships in the Soldier's Sea and the North Sea. It has even been said that they occasionally reach Chaang Bor On. They steal whatever they can get their hands on whether coin, tools, or people. They keep what they need, and sell what they don't at North Port.
In battle they are incredibly fearsome, having trained since childhood and raised on tales of glorious combat. Most frequently they fight with shield and sword or axe, while wearing leather armour or mail stolen in raids. Most terrifying of the Norse warriors are the berserkers who enter a battle fury that makes them impossible to kill. While in this rage they kill whatever foe they see, and have even been known to catch people fleeing on horseback.
The Norse worship two gods Father Cold and Mother Storm. He teaches that only the strong survive the cold dispassion of winter, and she teaches that only the clever survive the tumultuous rage of storms. Only Father Cold has dedicated priests known as coldhands who call upon his blessings with their frost blackened hands. Mother Storm has no need for clergy because every sailor says a prayer to her, including non-Norse seamen that are familiar with her wrath.
Like many ports this is a town that is rough around the edges to put it lightly. It is the primary port for pirates of the Soldier's Sea and North Sea. Many less than pleasant things can be bought here including poisons, slaves, and rare ingredients. However, there are also legitimate businesses here as well that cater to ships and sailors who are not welcome in nearby Terre Des Sept.
Father Cold's Forest
The massive forest that covers roughly half of Nordhem is poorly explored. Most Norse stay near the coasts, only venturing to the wood to gather timber to build ships. Only the coldhands and their initiates enter the forest's depths.
Human = no human species feats
Saintborn = Angelic Heritage species feat
Shadowspawn = Elemental Heritage (Darkness) species feat
Dragonman = Draconic Heritage species feat
High Elf = no elven species feats
Robber Elf = Hart Nation species feat
Innocent Elf = Wolf Nation species feat
Warped Elf = Spider Nation species feat
Goblins = Any or no goblin species feats
Mountain Dwarf = no dwarf species feats
Hill Dwarf = Hill Born species feat
Lizard-Folk = no Saurian species feats
Geck = Jungle Clutch species feat
Gator = River Clutch species feat
Drakeblood = Draconic Heritage species feat
Mummy = Unborn with Flesh Construction species feat
Guardian = Unborn with Granite Construction species feat
Orc = Any or no Orc species feats
Rootwalkers = Any or no Rootwalker species feats
Ogres = No ogre species feats
Ohni = Fire Brave species feat
Halfling = Farstride Folk, Cool River Folk, Quick Finger Folk, or no pech species feats
Drake = Any or no Drake Species Feats