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The Drakkath Gazetteer[edit]

Being a guide to the realm of the former Drakkath Empire, and surrounding lands.

Several centuries ago, the Younger Gods and the people of the world were victorious in the Dawn War, casting down the Elder Gods and scattering their armies of servitors. Victory had come at a great cost, however. Gods, spirits and men alike had perished in great number, and continent-spanning wounds from the war had wrought immense destruction.

It is still not known, even to the wisest and most clever of scholars, just how many years the Dawn Era spanned - indeed, some have hypothesised that time itself was still mutable and uncertain in the earliest stages of the Elder Gods' reign - but over that era, several great powers rose and fell in the Drakkath area, such as the Umbrals. The Drakkath Empire itself was the last and greatest of polities to rise in this part of the world, forged under the stewardship of a line of Emperors and Empresses who claimed right of rule through infusion with elemental energies, supposedly a gift from the Great Elementals themselves. The Empire's reach stretched far beyond the central Drakkath region, its aristocracy reaped the luxurious rewards of their vast realm, and its armies numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Even in the shadow of the Elder Gods themselves, the Empire was one of the greatest powers in the world.

By the closure of the Dawn War, the Empire had fallen and the lands it once claimed had been wracked with disasters, both natural and arcane. The Imperial Family were dead, the great cities ruined, and wild servitors and monsters roamed the land. The shattered provinces and satraps regressed into autonomy as men and women struggled to retain any semblance of the civilisation that had once ruled the Drakkath; farther holdings happily tore free of the threadbare Imperial reins to reestablish their own independence. Warlords and opportunists rose and fell. So much was lost - incredible works of art, vast edifices of magic, storehouses of ancient knowledge and heirlooms of the people themselves. The victors of the Dawn War wept to know that Drakkath, glorious Drakkath, with its great bejewelled throne, its towers that reached the clouds, its insightful cloisters of monk-diviners secluded in their glittering sphere-fortresses... all lost. All ruined. All gone. The passing of an Empire.

Some would say, of course, that this was truthfully no bad thing. After all, the Empire rose under the auspices of the Elder Gods; their workings were vital to its operation, their corrupting influence threaded through its very being. When the Dawn War erupted, did not the Empire falter and flinch? Did not its rulers at first dissemble? Did they not answer many of the Elders' demands in those early decades of strife? That which came of the former age had to be torn down so that a new era, one born on the back of mankind's own efforts, might rise true and untainted. More than that, of course, for all its glories the Empire is said to have spawned horrors too. The Panopticon Fortress that stared into peoples' minds to root out treachery, slaying suspects where they stood - and which was infamously misused under corrupt Overseer-Ministers. The vast slave-mines that tore the elemental treasures of the earth forth to gild the Imperial residences. The harnessing of furious elementals just to salve the pride of the Imperial Family, who of course claimed right of rulership over such elemental beasts themselves due to the Great Elementals' gifted infusions. The welcoming of a myriad of some of Hashrukk's most heinous servitor-spawn, just because they were useful tools in keeping the lower orders in line. The sacrifice of the entire city of Kunlai to the waters to appease fell Shauku, thereby guaranteeing the rest of the Empire great bounties from the cold southernmost waters in return for thousands of lives.

For all its light and all its darkness, though, the Empire was a great force and one that has shaped the landscape even today. Indeed, understanding claims to the Imperial mantle and the inheritance of the Drakkath Empire are key to understanding Drakkath regional politics. Many of the nations that have grown up from the shattered Empire's corpse seek such title and claim; and through such a unifying concept, conflict between them is born.

Today, the Drakkath remains a divided land. Several of the nations that have risen in the past centuries can be identified as roughly mapping to old Imperial provinces or divisions; others are entirely new, rooted in religious or political movements that have emerged since the Dawn War. However, much of the Drakkath remains a wild and dangerous land, with national claims over farther-flung regions being tenuous at best. Scars from the Dawn War still wound the land, and servitors are known to gather and lair in the great expanses beyond the grasp of civilisation.

Whoever would seek to reunify the old Empire and restore its past glories has a very great task ahead of them.

Geography of the Drakkath[edit]

This gazetteer addresses the lands of the Drakkath along broad divisions - the Huronese provinces of the north, the three nations of Carthagia, Naseria and Grum-Tarath in the West, the vast swathe of the Drakkath heartlands, and finally the borderlands to the south where can be found High Kyros and Ascaria.

In broad strokes, it is accurate to speak of the Drakkath as a very varied landscape. The region discussed stretches for hundreds of miles from the frigid mountains of High Kyros to the arid Myrmec. Several great mountain ranges split the region apart, and the great Marble Sea serves as an eastern border.

The mighty Storm mountains and their lesser fingers of crag and peak serve as a southern border to much of the Drakkath. High Kyros itself, huddled on the coast of the Marble Sea, sits amongst the valleys of the Storms; to its west, the mountains eventually level out into the taiga of the southern Drakkath and the rolling Ascarian tundra. Here, lesser mountain ranges wind through the tundra, as well as many terrible scars and canyons torn by Dawn War weaponry.

The White Bay serves as the heart of the coastal Drakkath regions, a great gouge into the continent around which several city-states cling to the water's edge. The sea itself is pockmarked with islands around this region. Around the Bay stretch the Western Drakkath Plains, turning hilly to the north and south while eventually reaching the Central Drakkath Basin to the east; here, marshlands and fens dominate. Farther east and the Drakkath is greatly forested and hilly, with sporadic mountainous regions; to the south, where the Storm and Sarokean mountains sweep away, the landscape eventually becomes taiga. To the east, the way is blocked by the Sarokean mountains themselves.

The northern Drakkath is low hills split apart with regular crags and badlands, as well as great forests that spill on for leagues. Sukumvarang is a peninsula that forms the northern limit of the White Bay, extremely hilly and mountainous where it meets the mainland but rolling down to flat coastal regions.

Eventually, continuing north, the northern Drakkath accedes to the Eastern Huron Plains, the great swathe of land where the Huronese people live. This land is, broadly speaking, plains and forests with several mountains jutting up throughout its length; unlike the Central Drakkath Basin and Western Drakkath Plains, the Huronese Plains are split with few rivers, serving that peoples' reliance on their horses well. To the east, the Great Cliffs mark the border between Eastern and Western Huron Plains, although the Western Plains are more commonly known by the Huronese as the Wasteland in this day and age. Further north from Huron, the land becomes more arid, eventually turning to the Myrmec itself. The desert here is so wide and inhospitable that it is effectively a barrier; instead, land trade comes down the Marble Sea coast, where a series of small autonomous provinces are shielded from the worst of the Myrmec by the Longfang Mountains.

To the west of the Drakkath itself, over the Sarokean mountains, the rolling plains of Naseria stretch from mountain range to the edge of the Malachite Sea. North of Naseria, the Carthagian mountains and highlands rise; to their west, a thin strip of forests and hills edges the south of the Wasteland and the Malachite Sea's north coast.

Beyond the Drakkath[edit]

The world is a vast place, even in the scope of mighty empires such as the Drakkath. The nations of this region would fare poorly without trade and migration from farther lands.

Across the Marble Sea to the east, there lies a continent known as Ara. Little is known for certain of most of Ara, although you can find any number of scholarly hypotheses on such things based on rumours and travellers' tales. The northern coastal regions are the home of a clannish people known as the Ironjacks, thaumaturgical engineers who dwell upon strange, Dawn-era rigs in the shallow waters; beyond the coastal regions it is said that there are several sorcerous magocracies. Most importantly, the southerly reaches of Ara are the lands of the Kamuri Conglomerate, a powerful trading polity whose ports play host to innumerable merchant vessels from lands both western and eastern. Beyond Ara is the archipelago nation of Great Amun and the coast of the small continent known as Vekath, where the Bright Empire and the Storm Clans dwell.

In the Marble Sea itself, the Rift Islands are a snaking chain of volcanic lands that play host to a few small ports and that sit adjacent to the Rift itself, a strange mid-sea phenomena created by Ishrak during the Dawn War.

The northerly lands of the same immense continent which the Drakkath is part of are largely inhospitable; beyond the Myrmec, there are mountainous plateaus and blasted lands that may have been the original Carthagian homelands. Civilisation keeps to the coast before eventually reaching the verdant northern coastal plains where several states hold sway including the marvellous Scriptorium of Ashenay, the Librarian-Republic; beyond them, an arid peninsula connects north to the mountainous southern reaches of Lower Hunam, where the great towers of the chitinous Eretreni are said to stand, the Hive-Kingdom of the Anansi. Little is known of northern Hunam.

West, the Malachite Sea is a great many-tongued expanse of waters that reaches deep into the continent, both north and south. The Ascarian tundra eventually accedes to the Munerik tundra, sparsely populated with a different people with different traditions; north of the Munerik, the Masked Kateni people host several city-state republics along the southern edge of the Malachite Sea, practicing strange rites and politics that are said to be unfathomable to outsiders. West and north of the Wasteland lies the greater Ashen Desolation of Gilam, and the fell city of Baalshegarath is said to survive at its heart still. Beyond the Desolation lie the mighty many-rivered kingdom of Irgut, where men and women dye their skin strange colours, and the mountainous Tavashti lands where the Zenith Union rule. Beyond even they are the patchwork nations of the Irminsa, and the great and terrible Steel Consulate that is said to still hold to worship of the Elder Gods and provide many and potent biothaumaturgists.

Beyond these lands, even less is known amongst the common people of the Drakkath, although scholarly works and travellers' texts can be fine sources of greater enlightenment.

The Northern Lands of Huron[edit]

The nascent power of the Huronese has taken root in the region that was once the northern province of the Drakkath Empire. Now, centuries later, people who were once the vassals of the Drakkath now look to make themselves its new masters. With a great swathe of land in its grasp, the Huron nation is one of master horsemen and proud warriors, their traditions rooted in their history as plains nomads. That has, of course, been changing over the long years - in the present era, Huronese cities are amongst the largest in the Drakkath, maintained roads crosscross the rolling plains and bridge the rivers, and great fields of crops grow under the sun's gaze to feed the untold thousands of the land's people.

There are two main divisions Huronese culture. The first of these are the 'Westerners' and the 'Easterners'; many families and clans still trace their lineages back to the era of the Dawn War, when the western Huronese horse-clans were forced east. Westerners are the most ardent in calling for a Holy Pilgrimage to reclaim the Wasteland and restore it to its former glory as the Huronese heartland; they mockingly characterise easterners as softer and having lost touch with horse and steppe. Easterners are those whose ancestors already dwelt in the Great Eastern Plains at the time of the Dawn War, and who are the keenest in seeking the mantle of the Drakkath Empire; in their crueller jests, they depict the westerners as less clever and more barbaric, or even as weaker immigrants who couldn't hold onto their own lands. Of course, these are only broad generalisations and many bloodlines of both Plains have intermarried and blurred old boundaries.

The second division is that of the horse-clans. These clans remain central to Huronese government and military hierarchy, as they are essentially military structures. They are also foci of Huronese culture clashes, with different clans having their own traditions, rites and grudges, and much internal unrest and struggle is down to feuding clans. However, the importance of the clans has been eroded over time as cities have grown and many Huronese become settled farmers and labourers, to the point that some clans are purely made up of a warrior-class, some are many thousands strong and others are mere hundreds. The Lord Commander, supreme ruler of Huron, is ritually elected from amongst the Clan-Lords to serve until they retire or are removed by the Clan Council.

The Great Eastern Plains of Huron[edit]

Icons: The Lord-Commander Razheman White-Mane-Clan, who rules from Dar Urazel

The Great Eastern Plains of Huron are a large region of grassy plains and wooded hills with few rivers that has served as homeland to the Huronese since time immemorial. By the time of the Drakkath Empire's emergence, the horse-clans had entered into a formal pact with the lesser Elder God Hammasztu, a being of twisted flesh and swirling wind which is reputed to have been the Father of Horses after petitioning Hashrukk to create equine-kind. Despite the pact, Hammasztu did little to aid the Eastern Huronese during their conquest by the Drakkath, possibly due to the influence other Elder Gods; however, the seventeen great lakes that dot the centre of the plains are known as 'Hammasztu's Tears' that it wept to see the proud horse-steeds that died in the battles that ensued.

The Plains are today divided into many smaller administrative areas, although wider regions often retain their Empire-era province names - Jhah, Kaishan, Haunshun. The heartlands of the plains, especially those near the great cities of Dar Urazel and Garan Sen, are well ordered and bear a thriving population. Huronese roads are well maintained and patrolled, running all the way from the ports of the Fractured Coast to the Great Cliffs themselves. However, moving out of the heartlands, safety and civility becomes far less guaranteed, especially amidst the densely wooded hills and the few rugged mountains that erupt up from the alluvial soil. It is easy to stray far from civilisation on the great plains, and easy for threats to hide. The mountain ranges play home to some monstrous terrors, in particular the Longfangs in the north-east that split the coastal states there from the Myrmec - for it is there that Sharaz Longfang, a dragon matriarch who served the Elder Gods until their defeat, now lairs and broods.

The horse is the symbolic heart of Huron, and even sedentary city-dwellers and bureaucrats tend to hold the beast in a special respect. The broad plains and few rivers of the Great Plains served the early Huronese well, and in the modern day cavalry play a heavy part in their military. The breeding of steeds is a matter of pride and fine details amongst the horse-clans,and there are several notable rare strains like the precious and prestigious blood-sweating horses and the wyrdspawn steeds of Hammasztu's bloodline. So too are horses a focus of fearful Huronese tales of beasts and monsters - bizarre terrors like the mare-dopplers that shift their forms and hide amidst herds to prey upon horsemens' minds, or the ravenous diomedics that are said to hunt in packs, wolf-like and hungry for meat, or hippogriffs that make off with prized horses to mate with.

Urazel is the patron deity of Huron, and his worship is dominant. Dragon iconography is thus particularly common in Huron, especially around temples and organs of the state; the elite Dracoverr, the Lord Commander's personal troops, bear the red dragon of Urazel on their armour. A rare few dragons are known to dwell in the farthest and wildest reaches of the Great Eastern Plains, and some of these still hold to old pacts with Urazel; in theory, they might be called upon to aid Huron. The wider pantheon is worshipped in Huron as well, supported with the usual reverence of ancestors - an oddity of Huron is that certain famous horses are also held worthy of worship in this same structure, and many clans have two or three such steeds that members pay homage to as well as their own forefathers and foremothers. Ishrak and Immar are both held in reverence just below Huron; Huronese tradition holds that the two deities are actually married.

Aasor holds a position of particular import in Huronese society; rather than widely being venerated, his priesthood officiate over the area of oathes, duty and binding agreements, especially over warriors who wish to form blood-brother bands and those who swear themselves into the service of another. This appears to stem from the chain-cults that grew up around the Eighteen Cold Pits in the north of the plains, a series of deep sinkholes that lead to strange Elder confinement devices; ancestors of the modern Huronese are said to have sworn a pact, apparently overseen by Aasor itself, with the weird and inhuman creatures that once lived in the Myrmec that they would forever keep eighteen terrible beings locked away beneath Huronese soil, the bindings refreshed regularly with Huronese blood. Most Huronese have some business with the Aasorian chain-priests at some point in their lives but, overall, leave veneration of the deity aside from their worship and offerings to the wider pantheon.

Seeing the vast tracts of ordered farmland and irrigation that cover the heart of the Great Plain is a surprise to those who think of the Huronese only in terms of their horse-warriors; moreso still are the massive edifices of city and stone that the Huron people have erected over the centuries. Engineering on a grand scale, often centred around old Dawn-era structures of the Empire, the bastions and major settlements of Huron are usually wrought from distinctive red sandstone carved out of local quarries. These cities have ensured a certain amount of stability in the otherwise tumultuous inter-clan bickering of Huron; their defences are far beyond the capability of most horse-clans to actually capture should there be a civil war. They have also been key in the continuation of a form of currency still based on the Drakkath Imperial Measures, and have served as a home to the merchant classes of the nation throughout turmoil and conflict in the wider land.

The people of this land are mostly Huronese humans, with a smattering of genasi amongst them - most commonly air genasi. Aasimar and tieflings are both very rare but not unknown. There are a number of gnoll tribes that live in the wilder regions, some of whom are an active menace and hostile to humans; others have long traditions as nomadic mercenaries, serving whichever clan-lord is willing to pay their fees. There is something of a tradition of gnoll janissaries; punitive raids against the gnoll tribal federations at the edges of Huron include demands for young gnolls to be handed over as compensation for gnoll marauders' attacks. These young gnolls are then brought up by the government to serve as elite, extremely loyal slave-soldiers under the Lord-Commander's authority; some are also tithed to the Urazel church for a similar purpose there.

Zhatan and the Great Cliff[edit]

During the latter stages of the Dawn Era, the Elder God Gilam tore the once-unified Great Plain of Huron into two. The Leviathan of Flame and Scale shattered the ground at the centre of the Plain, causing a vast cliff to rise up and seperate it into what is now known as the Great Eastern Plains and the Great Western Plains.

Now, the Great Cliff serves as the bulwark between Huron and the Wasteland, serving as an eternal wall against the beasts of the wastes.

The Cliff runs hundreds of miles, stretching from Carthagia in the south all the way to Myrmec in the north. It is by no means impassable - many gullies, ravines and valleys pierce its barrier - but the massive height of the cliff face does mean that anyone wanting to enter Huron from the west must travel through these passes - and most of the major ones have Huronese watchtowers overseeing them. These watchtowers, perched atop the Great Cliff, can see for leagues out across the desolate landscape beyond. Unfortunately, there are also cave networks that run into and through the system of cliffs; there is no way for Huron to fully plug every gap in this natural defence.

The landscape of western Huron, east of the Great Cliff, is extremely rugged and broken, far wilder than the heartlands of the Eastern Plain; this is dangerous country where the threat of Wasteland intrusions is a regular worry. The provinces of Jaghatun and Oghatan also serve as home to many clans and families that still remember their traditional Western Plain roots, and desire for a Pilgrimage to retake the Wasteland is higher here than in other regions of Huron. In a culture where a military hierarchy and tendency towards authoritarianism only goes so far to counter a tradition of independent clans and internal conflict, the western reaches are also one of the most troublesome and unsettled areas of the Huronese people.

The apogee of this can be seen in the great fortress of the Black Tower of Zhatan - both it and the surrounding city are commonly just referred to as Zhatan - which dominates the surrounding region and stands in defiance of the Lord Commander's authority. Some say the Black Tower is the greatest fortress of this age, standing tall at the edge of the Great Cliff; the surrounding landscape is made up of broken terrain and twisting ravines, while the Tower itself is a marvel of engineering and defensive architecture. Even the city that has grown up in its shadow would be a challenge for any attackers, made of cramped, twisting streets and sloping terraces. Apart from its reputation as a bastion, though, Zhatan also serves as a centre of trade for those caravans skirting the Wasteland, and its Silk-Hooded Markets are notorious as places where almost anything can be had for a price. Zhatan has actually started minting its own currency, based on the old Western Huronese trade-coins.

The Tower is also famous for the thaumineering that has gone into its structure and, most of all, for the Black Knights, the Urazeli templars whose arms and armour are works of incredible arcanomechanical artifice. The Tower has stood watch over the largest breach in the Great Cliff for centuries, and is actually named after the Dragon-Saint Zhatan, First of the Disciples of Urazel, who commanded its creation in the Dawn War to protect against the servitors of the Elder Gods. The Black Knight Commander is the absolute authority in this city; a predecessor in her role, several generations ago, took advantage of weak Lord Commanders who could not enforce their own control of the area to break Zhatan away into an independent state. The secession was fuelled by the old rift between Easterners and Westerners; the templars of the Tower see it as the holy duty of the Huronese to retake the Wasteland and finally tear down Baalshegarath, and see the ongoing obsession of the Lord Commanders with becoming new Emperors as a diversion from their true duty.

The Fractured Coast[edit]

The easternmost edge of Huron is the Fractured Coast, pulverised during the Dawn War into a mess of coves, peninsulas and islets. Several major Huronese ports are nestled amidst the wracked coastline, and it is a major region of shipping and trade; but the rugged cliffs and hidden bays also serve to hide many sins, from sea-raiders to ancient, shattered relics of the War. Lighthouses, often called 'Urazel's Fires', are common and much needed for vessels to avoid the treacherous reefs and shoals that are a feature of the entire coastline.

The Fractured Coast saw a great deal of bloodshed and destruction during the Dawn War; the original coastline was probably ten leagues or so further out to sea, coming to its current reach after being pounded by mountaincracker munitions, earthquake spells and the raging fury of deities made manifest. Even now, detritus from the raging battles can still be found rusting and mouldering in great piles amidst the ravines that stretch for miles inland, and it's no secret that eerie servitors and still-active sorceries make the region dangerous. Zones of safe control have been scoured around the Huronese ports, and there are a few fishing villages dotted here and there, but much of the Fractured Coast remains untamed.

Kura Tun is the greatest of the Huronese port-cities, and also the site of an Elder-era shipyard; much of the vast, arcing skeleton of metallic struts and bones is no longer operational, and only a few of the remaining mechanisms are understood by the thaumineers who attempt to use them, but nonetheless the Kura Tun vessel-birther is a major boon to Huronese efforts to maintain a significant navy. The past century has seen increasing amounts of ship design experimentation by Huronese naval architects, and two years ago the first experimental 'metal-clad' was floated, a regular ship with metal plating over its hull; unfortunately it sank in stormy weather a month later. The recent arrival of Ironjack refugees from Ara will likely fuel a new push in naval technology.

The relics of the past are plain to see along the Fractured Coast. Most of the Ward-Towers, immense old bastions from the Dawn that lined the coast, are no more than shattered piles of rubble now, but in a few places the alien architecture of that era still stands; and, in certain remote areas, some structures that are believed by scholars to be Umbral in design. The dead hulks of innumerable weird Dawn War vessels litter the beaches or lurk just below the waves out to sea. The greatest of these, the Chariot of Light, is an immense city-ship that lies broken and ruined along the Alabaster Shore; the Chariot, once the personal transport for an Elder God, remains undisturbed even after all these centuries due to the truly terrifying defensive weaponry that is still active aboard it. When triggered, the Chariot emits some sort of accursed energy that turns all living matter within a mile into alabaster limestone; tormented shapes litter the surrounding beaches, and each wave fills the air with a great clattering as all the petrified fish and other sea creatures rattle against one another on the sandy floor of the shallow sea.


Myrmec is the name of the increasingly arid landscape north of the Great Eastern Plain; the southern, hilly reaches are now provinces under the control of Huron, but the Lord Commander's authority only reaches as far as the slow-moving expanse of the Usma river and the green belt of arable soil around it. Beyond that, the habitability of Myrmec rapidly reduces further; barren hills, rocky badlands and, ultimately, the unforgiving Myrmec desert itself.

Signs of the beings that once ruled the Myrmec are clear - eerie, crumbling old structures obviously not made for human habitation, worryingly insectoid images carved into rocky cliffs, clay tablets covered in alien glyphs that literally set a human's eyes itching just to look upon them. Here and there, old Elder relics slowly turn to rust amidst the arid badlands; immense black-metal girders just up, long since stripped of whatever structure they held aloft. Whoever once dwelt here, they are long gone; the Myrmecians of today are humans, albeit with an unusually high number of earth and fire genasi amongst them. These Myrmecians traditionally live in small groups of several families, bound together by a particular piece of their culture's philosophies or poetry - that is to say, the word-clan is genuinely the guardian of a given scrap of thought or text. Now, the southern Myrmecians are vassals to the Huronese, but they are grudging and often rebellious. As well as human inhabitants, so too are there a handful of wiry, lean desert gnoll marauder-clans; they have no love for the Myrmecians and helped the Huronese conquerers significantly as scouts and pathfinders, but now that Huronese conquest has slowed to a standstill, they are seen in a more ambivalent light by the new rulers of the region.

The desert proper is a strange, eerie place with a mournful air to it; ash and bone are plentiful amidst the sands and rocks, and it is scattered with the hollow, discarded, eroding remnants of past eras. Vast strange devices, immense twisted bones and incomprehensible towers break the desolation, relics of a past age that now lie forgotten. The beasts of the desert are also strange indeed, including immense, lumbering behemoths that look, from a distance, like great hills themselves. It is here that the terrible Longfang herself is said to hunt from time to time; so too are there stories of the karkadaan, the lords of the desert, mighty creatures with a myriad of pearlescent horns that are said to be the children of behemoths and elementals and which consider themselves wardens of the old, rusting Elder artefacts of their domain.

The northern Myrmecians still live free from the Huronese yoke, and their society has transformed to resist any further aggression from the south. New word-clans have formed, piecing together bits of philosophy and poetry into new, militant interpretations that are carried through by the clansmen and -women in the way they live their lives. A number of priest-leaders have risen up over the world-clans, each the guardian of a number of different pieces of text that they have combined into radical new concepts and from which they in turn take their own names and titles. It's no secret to the Huronese commanders of Usma that the Myrmecians have now fortified several ancient Dawn-era bastions and pre-human ruins in the desert, turning such ancient discarded husks into defensive positions; some claim they've seen desert behemoths turned into walking buildings, their backs holding great howdahs aloft.

Even stranger tales sometimes come from the depths of the desert - rumours of the Shining One, a sinuous, curling serpentine beast of glorious mien but sinister nature that is caught in some sort of eternal battle against demonic beings that stalk the far reaches, in a region where a Dawn War weapon turned sand to glass. So too are there stories of pre-human ruins filled with rows of sealed ceramic pots that mutter and shake, and of a great tower guarded by beings of liquid metal.

The Maritime States of the Longfang Coast[edit]

East of the Myrmec lie the Longfang mountains, lair of ancient Sharaz, and beyond that there is a strip of coastal land running north that plays host to several small maritime states. The southernmost of these, Haraj, is now a Huronese satrap; but further north the states remain independent, largely due to the Demarchy of Cosuna which presents Huron with a difficult obstacle indeed.

The Longfang mountains are utterly untamed; a few passes wind through it, offering access to Myrmec, but the foothills and peaks are only home to a few human enclaves and monasteries. As such, the maritime states here are wedged into whatever land they have available between mountains and shore - which is to say, not much at all. The Demarchy's southern border is a very wide river and delta; the state has actually fortified the entire length of it against Huronese invasion, and the bridges across the river are designed to be easily collapsed and destroyed. More than that, Demarchist mages continue to maintain an ancient pact with several watery elemental beings that was granted to them by the Storm Lady, Ishrak, and these elemental guardians render an assault by sea or across the river a very unwise idea indeed.

The half-dozen states here are largely ruled by hereditary nobility, but the Demarchy is rather different - every three years, anyone in the population of adult age can be selected at random from a lottery to gain a position in government. Rumour has it that this is, itself, another pact - not with Ishrak this time but another, unknown Younger God, possibly Pethio or Ansari, the latter being a female aspect God from further north who is probably the same deity as Naskha. What the purpose of such a pact, shaping a rather random form of government, would be is unknown.

The other notable state is the hallucinogen-fuelled government of Blue Aestus, wherein decisions are supposedly guided by oracular visions induced by seer-ministers during the consumption of copious amounts of drugs. Blue Aestus is rich from its cultivation of the great, aquamarine-blue fields of stormweep, a potent drug-flower only found to grow in the regions of unnaturally grey-white soil that are found in the state. According to religious tradition here, Immar and Ishrak are tempestuous lovers (but not married, as the Huronese believe) and they first courted during the Dawn War itself when Immar tried to persuade Ishrak to join battle; she challenged him to match her passions if he wanted her to fight alongside him, and so the (at that time mortal) Immar and Ishrak lay together for thirty days and thirty nights, the storm goddess's ecstasy wracking the land with storms and floods. The Aesti claim that this rather excessive bout of lovemaking occurred in Blue Aestus itself, and that stormweep grows where the two gods indulged their passions.

The Great Western Plains of Huron (The Wasteland)[edit]

Icons: Baalshegarath

What can be said of the Wasteland? For one, it is nothing like how some southern poetic descriptions of it - or indeed the name it is commonly known by - would have one think. Much of the Wasteland is not desert, nor lifeless desolation; it is as the Plains were before the Huronese left, albeit far, far wilder. Old signs of human habitation have mostly long since crumbled; it is the markings of Elder mastery and the detritus of the Dawn War that still stand, but even these are mostly bereft of any particular activity, left to slowly collapse and rust.

Much of the Wasteland is given over to wild beasts and the occasional servitor being, but it would also be wrong to consider it as uninhabited by any form of civilisation. Goblins are the most common sentient creature found here; their fiery red skin is supposedly an indication that they were an early attempt by the Elder Gods to make true life from fire elementals, but they have established an often quite sophisticated, albeit highly quarrelous, society of clans and tribes that spread across the wastes. More worryingly for the Huronese are recent tales, only spanning the last two hundred years, of a new form of goblin-creature that is emerging; one that stands taller, like a man, and possesses more of a grey hue to its skin. These creatures, sometimes called immuru or great goblins, seem more organised and intelligent than other goblins, but their origin and their agenda remain a mystery beyond a strange claim by a monk that 'immuru are the stone, raised up by Grumand'. As well as goblins, a far greater terror stalks the Wasteland - giants, immense aberrant servitors of the Elders now fallen into barbarity. Even Zhatan and the Lord Commander forget their animosities when giants attack the Great Cliff.

The sheer massive expanse of the Wasteland means that it holds many mysteries and hides many features from human knowledge at this time. A few savage gnoll tribes roam the plain, and it is from their accounts that much current knowledge is gleaned. There is almost certianly a hekatonchiere fastness in the Wasteland, and the farther west one goes the more extreme the signs of the Elder Gods and the Dawn War become. The Iron Mountain is a vast edifice that ripped up from the ground beneath where the last, defiant city of the Western Huronese once stood. An actual lake of blood is probably where the Great Wolf was terribly wounded by Ephras and bled out much of its immanent spiritual energies. Elemental weather phenomena are more common than elsewhere across the entire region.

And the further west and north one goes, so too do more and more signs of another, darker level of organisation emerge. Patrols of draconic creatures that enslave or oversee the goblins and even the giants of those areas; wandering, autonomous spellwraiths that observe and watch; red-winged sky creatures that trail tentacles and drip oily ooze as they pass by on rapid, planned paths through the air. Perhaps, if one went far enough, past where volcanic activity rips the landscape and great clouds of smoke and ash reach to cloud out the sun, one might find fell Baalshegarath, the Pit City of the Elders.

The Central Lands of the Drakkath[edit]

There was a time when the Drakkath was the heart of a mighty Empire, an orderly land carved into administrative Prefectures amongst which the populace dutifully laboured for the greater glory of the Imperial Family. Now, though, this great landscape is a shadow of its former glory. Most of the great palaces have toppled into rubble and dust; ancient roads have been left to decay; once-mighty cities are utterly lost to the wilderness, or harbour a fraction of the population that once dwelt there. One might think that such a picture portrays a lifeless place, a land of decline, but the opposite is in fact the case. The Empire was shattered, but from amongst the pieces a new and vigorous growth of nations has emerged, young peoples who seek new glories and future victories; there is much space in the Drakkath for them to expand into, great swathes of land to flex their strength over, true treasures of the lost Empire to clash and battle for.

The Prefecture of Sukumvarang was the original heart of Imperial rule, but major cities stretched from the eastern coast to the western reaches; the land was tamed and mastered from the Great Sarok Expanse all the way to the Northern Hills. Although often referred to as the Drakkath Empire, it was more correctly a series of three dynasties, each laying claim to a particular elemental bloodline for its legitimacy - chronologically the Rangkun, Laisrean (notable as a Suruni-dominated dynasty) and Khaiman dynasties. The Empire was originally founded at the order of the greater Elder God Gilam, who had decided that the lack of structure and hierarchy in the region (apart from whatever was left of Umbral civilisation) was offensive. It genocided thousands of humans and other species of particular ethnicities or breeds who had migrated out of the zones that it believed they should be confined in; this cleansing done, the first Emperor, Rangkun Yun, was instructed by a draconic servitor to raise up a new civilisation with those who had survived the Elder's mild irritation. It is believed that the cause of the instability and lawlessness in the region prior to the first Emperor was due to a squabble between Shauku and Gilam in the first place; the former used some sort of chronological weaponry to delete most of the organisations that contributed towards civilisation in the area from ever having existed.

The ethnicies of the Drakkath are distinct from the Huronese to the north. The Drak, as the people of the region are generally called, span a variety of appearances but also share common features due to the long years of Imperial unity. The most notable differences are between the Sukumh and the Suruni, the two eastern-most ethnicities. The Sukumh are perhaps overly prideful of being the heart of the old Empire's bloodlines and thus being somehow purer or nobler by simple nature, but it is the Suruni who dominate further south down the coast and who still maintain quite different traditions of naming and culture. The Suruni were originally a people from an entirely different area of the world, but were transplanted to the Drakkath by Hashrukk for some unknown reason and passed Gilam's incomprehensible test for who should and should not be in the region; these days, intermarriage over centuries has led to them being a true Drak ethnicity, but they still hold on to notions of difference, including a sense of identity as smarter, wilier and generally more quick-witted than the Sukumh.

Further west, the melting pot of Drak ethnicities blurs lines further with regional cultures and traditionals, odd little enclaves and a general patchwork of all sorts of different people falling under the banner of 'Drak', largely identified as 'not being Huronese'. Most Drak would consider themselves to belong to the Sukumh, Husaara or Ganjesi peoples, but such groups mean less these days in the face of rising nations and divergent cultures.

(GM's Note: For naming conventions etc, think of it roughly thus: The Sukumh and Ganjesi are Chinese/South-East Asian, the Husaara are Gallic/Saxon and the Suruni are Gaelic/Mediterranean. These are of course all just blurry ethnicities with lots of variation, sub-groups etc etc).

The Northern Drakkath Hills[edit]

Icons: Flame Guildmistress Ceresa

The northern reaches of the Drakkath meet south Huron where the steppelands rise into hills and valleys. Here, the karst landscape makes the terrain extremely unpredictable and rugged, covering a sweep of land that rolls down towards the Central Drakkath Basin and Sukumvarang. Many small rivers wind through this region, and a great number of lakes pockmark the landscape. Many are said to be where Ishrak bled during her great battle with Hammasztu during the Dawn War.

Once the Volca and Saijen Prefectures, the Northern Drakkath Hills are now a disputed zone. Much of the region still remains out of the control of any major power, but two Drak tribal federations are currently the main bulwark against Huronese expansion south, while Adhuri influence is expanding north into the region through the medium of harsh conquest and enforcement of authority. Much of the Saijen region is now under Huronese control, but the Husaara people of the Techari and Merrusi federations are providing stiff resistance to further inroads from the northerners.

The Techari and Merrusi both operate from the remaining towns and structures of the Imperial age; the Techari, in particular, use a Dawn-era Imperial winter palace as the heart of their federation of tribes, although it is far from its old grandeur and more akin to a real fortress after the new owners' efforts. However, these loose coalitions of towns and villages under the guidance of dominating warlords lack the resources, manpower and organisation to truly emerge as fledgeling nations thus far - and, if the Huronese have their way, they never will, being relegated to newly conquered provinces instead. Indeed, Huron commanders are turning from blade to boon in their efforts to break the resistance of the northern Drak tribes; envoys carry offers as often as they do threats, promising the petty warlords and independent town-states great gifts and positions of import as part of a new Huronese province.

As one might expect from such loosely controlled and rugged terrain, the Northern Drakkath Hills are a dangerous land. On the one hand, there are innumerable valleys, hidden basins, lakes and wild reaches where all manner of creatures and beings dwell, from cunning goblin clans to the ferocious winged drazhikar. Lacking any central authority, there is little organised effort to push back such threats and civilise the landscape beyond the little circles of control that the towns and old Prefecture capitals offer. On the other hand, it is this confusion of lesser tyrants and inward-looking settlements that can be a great threat for the unfortunate traveller. There is no higher authority to appeal to, no great system of justice or law. In many ways, the Northern Drakkath Hills have crumbled and fallen from Imperial Prefectures to a wild frontier.

The hills have their mysteries, too. By all accounts, the region displays an unusual level of strange, spiritual activity; fey, eerie creatures are commonly said to trouble travellers or plague the settlements in the area, varying from minor mischief by near-phantasmal beings to horrific attacks by flesh-hungry monstrosities. The gnoll clans that roam the forested hills here maintain many sacred sites of spirit-wards and have, upon occasion, been witnessed hunting utterly abhorrent beings that seem to make reality itself spasm and weep with their presence. It's not entirely clear what these beings are, or where they come from, but those who have alliances with the Thornmaiden believe that there may be small areas of of Dawn War damage that still linger, scars and wounds in reality that seep out corruption.

There is also, of course, the Pyre. In the west, the hills level out into the Ashen Basin, where three volcanoes form one flank of a basin of extremely fertile land. Here the Pyre stands tall and strong, bastion of the Flame Guild. Within the mighty fortress burns the eternal, sacred flame of the Guild, an arcane spark that links Guildsmen together into a greater whole. The Pyre can be seen from leagues away at night, its lights illuminating the sky. It is essentially the heart of a city-state that controls the entire Ashen Basin; a highly desirable fief for any of the nearby nations or warlords, but one protected by the fearsome reputation of the war-magi who dwell there. Whatever their former loyalties, it is well known that those who swear themselves to the Scarlet Union now hold loyalty only to themselves and the contracts that they take on.

The White Bay[edit]

Eastern Drakkath is dominated by the wide White Bay, so named for the white stone of many of the cliffs and islets. Here is where the Central Basin's mighty rivers drain out into; here is where several powerful city-states hold sway over coast and maritime trade. The peninsula of ancient Sukumvarang, original heart of the Drakkath Empire, frames the northern part of the Bay. The White Bay sends questing fingers of water into the surrounding hills and plains, meaning that travelling from one part of the Bay to another by ship actually requires navigating round long peninsulas and tongues of land. Innumerable islands stud the White, and further out where the Bay gives way to the Marble Sea the city-state of Pharam Sung stands sentinel.

The White Bay remains as vital to the Drakkath as it did in the days of the Empire. The ports and the waterways that reach far further into the Central Drakkath Basin are vital for trade and transport, and the city-states have thus flourished in the centuries since the Dawn War as a main hub through which traders travelling the east-west routes from far Ara and Vekath to the Masked Kateni cities and the lands beyond the Desolation. Of all the Drakkath, the coastal cities are perhaps the most thriving, bustling markets filled with learning and travellers. Of course, all this wealth and power leads to pride and rivalry; there has been no little conflict between the cities and the surrounding powers, and it has sometimes been a great struggle for these coastal states to retain their independence.

As with elsewhere, the Bay bears the scars of the past. Most of the city-states are the inheritors of the old Imperial port-towns, or are seated nearby to where the old ports were destroyed. Tidal waves and landslides devastated much of the coast here during the Dawn War, to say nothing of actual battle, and in many places it is quite possible to see the ruins beneath the waters when the sky is clear and sea calm. A few Dawn era buildings still survive in the White Bay cities, rebuilt and repaired over the ages, but there is little true Elder technology remaining; some of the islands, however, still play host to slumbering eldritch devices or patches of warped reality. The Bay and the rest of the Drakkath coastline did not suffer the same way as the Fractured Coast did, at least, and is less littered with lethal relics and mementoes of the Elders' madness.

Fishing is a major industry in the bay, covering the full spectrum of everything from simple fishermen netting edible sea creatures to the specialised arcane hunts and dives for such bizarre aquatic creatures as the glittering deepsun or the aqueous and terribly dangerous bayemot; the produce of the Bay is a major source of strange materials, with new and unknown creatures caught in the nets most years. Rumours consistently arise of the presence of a small kraken, one of the grotesque marine servitors of the Elders, which occasionally poaches a fisherman or two; but if one is present, it is being careful to conceal its presence from the concerted searches by city-state hydromancers.

Festivals around the Bay often feature the water; yearly thanks are given to the ancestors, to Ishrak and to the sea by the fishermen, usually involving sacrifices tossed into the deep or floating lanterns released onto the waves. Common rituals also involve pouring a decanter of fresh water into the Bay as a libation for ancestors and those lost at sea; it is also an offering to appease Kevayek, as well as in honour of a lesser-known Younger God called Qinjao, a patron of those who make their living on the sea and who was a great admiral during the Dawn War. He may be an alternative aspect of the mighty naval god Tshunyak of far Vekath; the people of that land consider him the spouse of Ishrak.

There are other, stranger inhabitants of the Bay than just humans. The most well-known are the sahuagin septs who ply the waters; they are extremely dangerous and canny. Despite their ferocious reputation, few actually live as reavers and pirates, but there are a minority who willingly aid marauders - it's rare that a sahuagin ever commands a pack of sea-bandits, though. Still, cross the sahuagin at one's peril; many of the smaller villages have old agreements to offer tribute to the waters in return for being left alone by the sea devils. It has been known for sahuagin to serve as mercenaries in the maritime feuds and conflicts between city-states, although most of the city-dwellers shudder at the notion, and rulers which do make use of sahuagin services tend to be sure to make great offerings to Ishrak at her grand coastal temples afterwards. Sahuagin are also sometimes employed as scavengers to seek out lost treasures in the lost, sunken cities or to hunt specific rare water-creatures; one small sept has quite a name for itself as hunters of elementals and spirits of the deep. And, indeed, there are stranger deep beings than the sahuagin - the insane brine elementals, monstrous sirens and the frankly bizarre grindylow. Most of these eerie entities are only rarely seen in the Bay itself, especially due to the warding efforts of the Nine White Temples of Water - nine isolated monastery-enclaves out on small islets, where the adherents live in ascetic discipline. Each Temple maintains an eternal choir of adherents whose carefully trained and tuned voices are believed to calm the surrounding waters and ward them from sinister presences, in particular those of Elder servitors. Even the sahuagin tend to keep a distance from the Temples, although in the past some septs have made active attempts to assault and destroy some of these enclaves.

There is a rare breed amongst the people of the Bay, a caste of water genasi who are bestowed with a title that is, in full, the Azure Envoys of Shore and Shoal. Water genasi are slightly more common than other types of genasi in the communities around the Bay, although still very rare; many families send children born with the water lineage to the strange floating temple of Pharam Istishia. There they are trained to serve as intermediaries between land and Bay, trained in certain arcane and spiritual practices to enhance their elemental nature. These elemental knights are some of the few people who the sahuagin septs are willing to engage in negotiations with, and so the Envoys are both welcome in all the city-states and often serve as actual advisors to city rulers and sea-captains; they cut a striking sight with their traditional azure and gold robes.


Icons: Hierophant Prachatra of the Temple of the High Host

Although the Imperial Palace itself did not survive the Dawn War, the legacy of the Drakkath Empire has survived most strongly in the ancient Sukumvarang Prefecture, now one of the largest of the new Drakkath nations. It is a major maritime and cultural power in the region, generally seen as a spiritual centre for the south-eastern reaches of the continent and destination for pilgrims from distant lands. It is a major rival and obstacle to Huronese expansion south, especially since Sukumvarang is the ultimate prize for anyone seeking to claim the mantle of Emperor.

The northern regions of the peninsula serve to protect the nation from land assaults; high mountains and extremely rugged foothills offer a perilous approach for any foe seeking to challenge the Sukumvarang legions, who are themselves highly adept in the forested landscape. The spine of these mountains reaches south down the heart of the peninsula for some distance before giving way to the flat, forested lowlands that run to the coast; it is here that the bulk of the Sukumvarangese people live, and here where their great cities and towns are to be found. Phusaratham, the capital of the Drakkath Empire, still stands at the point of the peninsula, albeit with many of the structures and edifices of that era long since lost to the ravages of time.

Sukumvarang is a land of order, its hills and fields well-regulated under the watchful Republic that rules. Truth be told, the nation would eagerly become the heart of a new Empire if it could, and it now has the resources and manpower that give some the hope that this will soon become a reality. The last centuries have seen frequent clashes, finally resulting in the conquest of the former Suruni city-state of Dalwreath, but further expansion has faltered in the face of the Huronese threat and no small amount of internal conflict between major political parties. The temples also hold a great deal of sway here; innumerable shrines to every aspect of every Younger God conceivable can be found here, and the Sukumvarangese make a great deal of the worship of all the Younger Gods as the High Host. This is in part thanks to the Glorious Defence during the Dawn War, when a great number of nascent Younger Gods protected the Imperial Seat from annihilation - one can walk ancient collonades and roads in Phusaratham that were literally the spot that a divinity stood upon, and see strange, corroded flagstones where Urazel drove a spear through the wretched Ashurnagan's chest or the bright crimson stains where Churaphrat tore her own head off to spill forth the Army of Crimson Rage from her blood. Walking the land of Sukumvarang is to feel, even more than elsewhere, a truly direct link to the divine past.

Sukumvarang is a place of learning, although a great deal of its knowledge is split amongst the priestly enclaves and orders - groups and factions that often bicker with one another. Many hold scraps of arcane and eldritch lore that only the chosen may partake of, creating a sacred caste of mage-priests who are considered the most steeped in the mysteries of the divine. Even this fractiousness, though, hasn't prevented successive Hierophants from establishing a firm grip on their insubordinate flock of temples; and it is here that the greatest of religious efforts are put, with entire conclaves of priests entering into weeks-long philosophical efforts to better understand reality and the world. Some say that the deeper chambers under the Temple of the High Host have been the setting of some truly strange theological experiments, and the current Hierophant is known for his delving into the secrets of the divine. Three years ago, a fire claimed one wing of the Temple, and was seen to burn in coruscating rainbow colours; the rumour has it that this was a failed attempt to forcibly invest divine power into a recipient, possibly as an endeavour to directly contact the Younger Gods. Restlessness amongst some wings of the priesthood and public has grown as knowledge of the experimental theology has spread; even Sukumvarang only sanctions going so far.

As well as the extremely rich resources, fertile soil and repositories of art and culture, the Sukumvarangese possess a larger amount of intact Dawn-era technology than most of the neighbouring countries. Much of it was scavenged as the Empire collapsed, and much of it is not very well understood, but it's no secret that the Temples hold quite a number of eldritch devices and edifices in their power. The two old Mercury Towers that stand to either side of Phusaratham's harbour are reputed to have fearsome and still-active defence systems that the Port Authority know how to deploy against would-be invaders, while the immense Shouting Wheels are still put to work gouging great mines in the mountains and hills.

The country is a wealthy one; it is also the producer of a dizzying myriad of different drugs and mind-altering substances, cultivated in temple gardens and in great fields of dizzying hues. Sukumvarang culture is one where such substances are very commonly used; priests enter meditative trances, scribes rub orange paste into their eyelids to keep them awake and sharpen their perceptions, warriors drink deep of pain-numbing brews and the leisurely enjoy rich, sense-enhancing smoke-liquids. Those practicing chemistry, herbalism and alchemy find much to learn in Sukumvarang.

There are an unusually high number of genasi, aasimar and tieflings in Sukumvarang, particularly in the upper echelons of society; bearing such lineages is favourably looked upon. This is because of the old Imperial claims to right to rule from elemental infusion; historically, the Imperial Families were mostly bearers of such lineages, particularly genasi, and practices were encouraged that resulted in more such touched children being born amongst the aristocratic and ministerial castes. Historical accounts vary on whether Rangkun Yun, the First Emperor, was blessed with elemental might before or after Gilam chose him to enforce order in the Drakkath region; whatever the truth, from its earliest generations the Imperial Family was recorded as being made up of genasi.

Pharam Sung[edit]

Icons: The Silver Warder, Khala (all Silver Warders taken this name)

Beyond the embrace of the White Bay, out amidst the cruel waves of the Marble Sea, Pharam Sung rises from the depths as defiant white walls upon rocky cliffs. From here it dominates the nearest trade-lanes, eternally glaring at the surrounding sea from its fortified edges where panopticon-towers vigilantly watch with unnatural scrutiny. Pharam Sung is a naval power and a slaver-state, a city of prisons and strictly delineated districts. It is also the heart of Aasorian worship.

Pharam Sung is an uncompromising nation and this has won it no end of conflict with its neighbours; its depredations, and those of the Silver Warder herself, have earned it even more mistrust. However, it remains a vital figure in diplomacy and negotiations because it serves as a jail for a great number of prisoners from around the world, whether political or due to their dangerous nature. As well as the somewhat more conventional panopticon-prisons and prison-hulk ships, the Aasorian warders guard deep vaults that are heavily protected with eldritch defences against both intrusions and attempts to escape. The city is also a major slave market, dealing with captives shipped from the Drakkath, the northern lands, Ara and Vekath; it is hence quite rich.

Of course, the oddity of Pharam Sung is that everyone in the city is a slave. Every single person has some bond of slavery that ties them to another; lower castes are literally the slaves of higher castes, who are in turn slaves to ministers or generals or high priests, who are in turn slaves to councils or arms of state; even the Silver Warder herself is a slave. Most Sungese wear signs of this in the forms of symbolic manacles or neck-clasps, increasingly ornate and non-functional as they rise in status, although there is nothing ornate about the chains that bind the Silver Warder to Aasor. Some consider this institution of slavery to be only an affectation, but it is rigorously enforced by Sungese culture and the legal system. No man or woman in Pharam Sung is free. They are all, ultimately, enslaved to the great edifice that is Pharam Sung itself, in service to Aasor. This is no affectation, for Pharam Sung is not a kind city or a place of mercy. Silver-clad templars enforce order with brutal efficiency, and even the mightiest minister suffers the same as the lowest labourer should they transgress the duties and limits placed upon them by the Sungese code.

No-one is entirely sure of the full catalogue of just what the Sungese have hidden in their warded jails. Innumerable slaves toil on the docks and in the thin soil of the island's farms, and hundreds of prisoners sent to the island by distant lands (along with significant payments) languish, forgotten and despairing. But in the deep, where Elder-tech bore-cells are literally surrounded by solid rock until called up into secure containment bays, there are weird and dangerous things, including beings imprisoned in fields of true void, entities that must be starved of light to contain their power and insane magi held in arcane earthing engines. Of course, no one believes the Sungese just wordlessly guard these beings; no, it is presumed that they glean all they can from them, and thus build new and stranger technologies and hoard startling revelations about reality. The panopticons are just one aspect of Sungese power that is not fully understood by the other nations; the networks of thaumineered overseer-watchers are an example of thaumaturgical engineering rarely matched elsewhere.

Ultimately, as a naval power, Pharam Sung relies on its stout defences for the protection of the city rather than a vast army; it is the fleets of the state that are responsible for keeping foes away from those walls. Pharam vessels follow a series of very tightly defined patterns and rarely deviate from these designs. They are well-crafted and swift, largely built as boarders in order to take captives, but the grim island lacks much in the way of timber and so one of the state's major imports is wood from the Eastern Drakkath Plains and the Central Basin.

Pharam Sung is known to have developed relationships with all manner of far-away lands, often covert and secretive deals to accept prisoners and keep them far from the lands that have exiled them. Not all prisoners in the city are treated with indifference; some nations pay a great deal for the relatives of monarchs or dangerous but brilliant individuals to be secreted away and kept in luxury. Still, this network of quiet pacts lends the Sungese government an unparalleled understanding of world politics, even if the divine imperatives of the Silver Warder so often serve to prevent them making effective use of this knowledge. They are also known to have pacts and agreements with a number of undersea polities; the local sahuagin septs are generally kept in line and other, weirder entities have also met with envoys. It is believed that the Sungese have a number of pacts with beings of storm and wave that they use to attack the trade routes and maritime efforts of rival nations.


Smallest of the White Bay's city-states, Shatter was once Shamur, a port less than half a league from the settlement's current location. Shamur suffered catastrophe when the lesser Elder God Tervinzarak was metaphysically mortally wounded during a battle on its Chariot; said Chariot ended up crashing into the coast, causing tidal waves and reducing Shamur into a pile of mud and rubble that spilled into the Bay. The Shatter of today is built on and around the crippled hulk of the Chariot and the remnants of its former pilot.

The Chariot itself sticks out from the shore at an uneven angle. Where it meets and punches through the cliffs, more conventional buildings spread and sprawl away from it, but the bulk of the city is a rather ramshackle array of structures that cover the warped surface of the Chariot's deck, spill out from the great rents that tore its flanks apart, stack level after level of abodes within the creaking spars and girders of its innards and climb the sides of the immense smokestacks and towers that rise from its top. Where the hulk's carcass hits the water and begins to sink, innumerable pontoons and piers spread out to form a floating harbour.

Shatter is not generally a place of the rich or the wealthy. Even now, there are those who fear the consequences of dwelling in and on an Elder's personal sea-throne and who keep clear of the city; most of those who dwell here were once, perhaps generations ago, of refugee or outcast origin. But the centuries have brought strength and tradition to the city, and the Chariot has still not collapsed under the parasitic weight of the shanties and shambles that encrust it like barnacles. Still, the innards of Shatter are not a place for the faint-hearted; quite apart from the claustrophobic nature of the dwellings crammed amongst bulkheads and insane pieces of architecture, there remain ancient eldritch guts to the thing that have never been safely disassembled or removed, and occasionally lumps of engine or metaphysical manipulation devices sputter and spark with brief but devastating energies.

Shatter is ruled by a semi-demarchy; a single Prince is elected every decade by a randomly selected committee from amongst the city council, itself made of men and women who captain a vessel, own property of at least a certain value or who have bought their position with an appropriate donation to the city. After nine years, the elderly Prince Urthane is coming to the end of his service, and new elections will soon stir the deck-gangs of Shatter into their most beloved past-time - politics and campaigning. As well as the Princedom, any number of lesser political seats are also elected by a random lottery of people from the common population.

Shatter was, of course, heavily looted and scavenged soon after the Dawn War ended, but a bizarre piece of machinery that was not taken before the city established itself was the Organist Painter, a large device the size of a factory that appears as an assemblage of spidery bronze limbs, immense fluting pipes and gurgling vats. It may originally have been some sort of life support for the Elder God pilot, but now it's been repurposed to printing, painting and dye processing. As such, Shatter is a brilliantly colourful place, a myriad mess of colours, and during election campaigns (and there are many) the Organist is turned to a frenzy of often ridiculous and absurd propaganda-printing. It is technically illegal to repaint or poster the carcass of Tervinzarak, but a particularly notable election campaign for a Prince eighty years ago had the dead, preserved god-horror dressed up in an immense paper image of the Prince's chief political rival. This is fondly remembered by the populace as one of their greatest moments of creativity, even though it resulted in the Lady of Grim Mercy's outraged priesthood having the Prince tried and executed for such desecration.

Amidst the usual riot of shrines and temples clinging to the rusting hulk's flanks, the most powerful cult in Shatter is that of Churaphrat. The famous priestess Mailu Tien established the temple before Shatter was even truly inhabited, and today it forms a partial covering around the immense, withered husk of Tervinzarak that still squats in its seat atop the Chariot, great snaking cables and tubes puncturing its warped meat to tie it into its steed. Even just looking at the lesser Elder's corpse for too long causes headaches, meaning that top-deck-walking Shatterites have a habit of keeping their gazes low. The temple is a monument to Churaphrat, a cold declaration that even Elders cannot match her cold grasp. Cult practices are rumoured to include chipping at the thing's calcerous talon-hairs and grinding at its elephantine skin to produce substances that are then ground and processed to form sinister drugs and poisons. Of course, even just the corpse of an Elder is a dangerous, reality-warping thing, and the temple has had to be rebuilt three times.


Proud Khamar, it is said, does not bow its head. An old port with a defensible harbour, Khamar did not fall into the waves during the Dawn War; it has never been conquered by another city or nation; revolution has never dislodged the line of Khamar Princes. This is a traditional and ordered place, where things are not changed without careful appraisal and thought first. A great tome, the Khamar Codex, dictates the laws and cultural taboos of the city, and to change them requires someone to die.

Khamar is stable and rich; its power is moderate, greater than shambolic Shatter but less than mighty Iril. Its merchants ply the waves far and wide, and the cartels of its economy are not mediocre but neither are they as influential as those of Tergona. Many see Khamar's conservatism, its unwillingness to change its laws and embrace new ways, as its weakness. But as any Khamarite would tell you, you must think carefully before you take steps into the unknown, because it costs.

While Khamar is ruled by a Prince and, below him, a merchant council, it is commonly held that the Khamar Codex is the city's real ruler. Its origin is not entirely clear - it may be Elder technology - but the first Khamar Prince, a very powerful mage, took control of the city in the aftermath of the fall of the Empire and installed the Codex in the city's palace. The artefact extends its influence across the entire city, subtly encouraging a certain mindset amongst the populace and enforcing the cultural and legal norms written into its pages. It is even possible for the Prince to directly focus the book's power on a particular district or even person, increasing the consequences for transgressing the laws written into the book all the way up to instant agony or even death. Sometimes, the book does this of its own volition, seemingly according to whim.

It is not possible to remove the book; it has also remained resistant to attempts at destruction, usually retaliating viciously enough to discourage further attempts (one unfortunate is still decorating a wall nearby the book, petrified and half-sunk into the masonry as a statue caught in eternal agony). It is possible to rewrite what is in the book, though. The scribe must use their own blood, and may add, cross out or amend up to one law, one page of culture or one paragraph anywhere within the tome's pages. They then die, slain by the book's arcana. Of course, there have been those who have attempted to use a hapless intermediary to make a change, generally by forcing a slave to take up the strange, ivory-and-pearl quill and write on their behalf; these usually (but not always) result in the instigator of the change, not the slave, dying. This means that to change how the city works, someone must actually die.

As a result, an odd caste of scribe-monk has arisen in the city. The elderly who feel their time is coming to a close, the despairing who have lost purpose in life, the mortally sick and the truly devoted take up the mantle of the Crimson Scribes, cloistering themselves away in the spiralling heights of the Red Reach in the docks of Khamar. Here the ascetics prepare themselves for death by legal progress, praying to Lliras and Churaphrat and meditating on what is to come. Eventually, the call happens, and a single monk departs to the halls of the palace to ink a new law or change that is necessary for the city's good, then passing away.

Outside of Khamar, the Codex is largely reviled, although tolerated as an unfortunate element of the environment when passing through the city; the gates of Khamar hang with great bronze plates etched with summaries of the current state of law and culture. However, the Codex encourages a stable, conservative, slow-paced culture that many find appealing, willing to trade the risks of life outside the city in return for the safety within - who would dare commit crimes when doing so might kill one in an instant if the Codex happens to be paying attention? It also makes the city rather challenging to conquer or invade.

Khamar is also noted for the sheer luxury of its Princely court, the accumulation of literally centuries of decadent wealth with little desire for change.


A Suruni-dominated city-state, the port of Tergona is a startling departure from its rival Khamar - and that after only being free of Khamar rule for a century. Tergona is a lively, bustling port that is the heart of several particularly strong Drakkath traditions of theatre and poetry, and has embraced a mildly cut-throat form of political and economic competitiveness that can make internal matters rather exciting. Several eastern Drakkath mercenary companies have their headquarters in Tergona, and it is known for its hireling privateers who are just as willing as the mercenaries to take on a contract - the phrase 'Tergona pirate' is used to describe one who opportunistically turns to violence or theft for profit even if it isn't their usual trade.

A number of coral reefs ring through the waters around Tergona, each a beautiful mishmash of bright colours beneath the waves; only on closer inspection can one see that these reefs appear to have grown atop the old walls of the original Drakkath port that once stood here. At the furthest reach of the reefs stands the shattered, ancient form of an old Umbral tower, its eerily biological form apparently hit with something powerful during the Dawn War; now, it serves as the basis for a lighthouse. Several much newer constructions also reach out of the waters, although these look abandoned and rusting - a series of thaumineered storm-towers that were part of an il-fated weather-control ritual two hundred years ago. The port itself, safe behind the coral-covered carcass of its sunken former incarnation, has undergone a population explosion over the last hundred and fifty years and washed out from beyond the old walls to cover the surrounding landscape and river delta. Around it, the fertile lands have proven well suited to the cultivation of grapes and rice, and so Tergona rice wines and grape wines are known for their quality.

Ruled by a merchant council requiring an appropriate level of wealth to partake in, Tergona welcomes an entrepreneurial spirit of getting things done amongst its people. Tergonese culture encourages working hard, playing hard and above all living smart, embracing life and valuing one's wits. A certain level of unspoken agreement prevents Tergonese politics from getting out of hand - it is strictly illegal for mercenaries to be hired for work inside the city-state other than as guards or defence of the state, for example, although they can accept what contracts they like that take them outside of Tergona. In recent years, agreements between Tergona and Adhur have led to an increasing role for Solanthaari-sponsored enforcers holding legal status within the city on the basis of specific contracts or agreements that grant them the right to carry through the consequences of said contracts being broken.

Donation to the shrines and temples is seen as an almost necessary gesture amongst the Tergona rich and powerful, and hence several particularly grand complexes have been constructed in the city - particularly the Storm House of Ishrak and, more recently, the white-walled temple to Solanthaar that dwarfs its previous incarnation.

It is not a secret that the Shadowfury, before she became who she is now, came from Tergona. Her involvement in Tergona throwing off Khamar rule is not entirely clear, but some say she was responsible for the grotesque murderer of the then-Khamar-appointed governor of the city, which first triggered bloody Khamar retaliation and in turn sparked full-on rebellion. In this city, at least, the Shadowfury is sometimes spoken of with admiration as well as fear. She tends to be portrayed as an ambiguous figure in plays and poetry, and rumours of actual cults devoted to her continue to circulate.


Icon: Tewlcroghen Pendarme, the Merchant Prince

Glorious Iril, jewel of the White Bay, is the most powerful city-state of the eastern Drakkath. With a large navy and wealthy aristocratic merchant Houses, Iril has shaped the struggles and conflicts of the White Bay and the other cities look to it for guidance. Now, though, unrest has rocked the upper echelons of society as the royal family has been brutally deposed by the aristocrats, dissatisfied by the expensive ambitions of the king. Now a council of House representatives decides the city's future, struggles to deal with those Houses that would see the old throne restored, and finds that one man has risen above others in deciding the fate of Iril - Tewlcroghen, the patriarch of House Pendarme.

Iril is a populous city but, as elsewhere, the waters claimed a greater port during the Dawn War. Still, the present harbour is ever filled with vessels, particularly those trading on the east-west route, and the city grows ever wealthier with each merchant that makes landfall here. In the new, uncertain future of the city with the death of the king, however, Iril has certainly grown more tense; tempers flare, old alliances are broken, and there are more murders and assassinations. Still, no-one really fears that there will be true anarchy or a further collapse in government - after all, Tewlcroghen is working behind the scenes, and all know that the old, wily politician will manage affairs. The Houses that opposed the coup have mostly now either been suppressed or learned to fall in with the new regime; the toppling of several of them has opened new opportunities amongst the lesser castes in the city, and it seems the hard core of the conspirator Houses are encouraging the creation of new, young Houses that they can trust to support the council rather than restoration of royal blood. It certainly helps that Tewlcroghen expended a vast amount of his personal fortune to contract nearly half of Tergona's mercenary companies to support the new establishment during these early months of change.

Once, red was considered a faux pas amongst Iril society due to the old story of a curse laid on the Irilli royal family; this was rather turned against them when the conspirators wore red for their regicide and to identify their pact's troops to one another. Now, red is quite in fashion, and the new flag of the city has the same design as the old but stained crimson. The old superstition about red has just reinforced the overthrow; after all, things are just as the old curse said they would be.

The marines of Iril's navy are said to be the finest in the world, and with good reason. Ironically, the previous monarch had shifted more and more responsiblity for shouldering the burden of the navy's expenses onto the merchant Houses, meaning that when the coup came, the marines knew precisely who was paying them and stood aloof rather than going to the defence of the royal family. Two generations ago, a dragon marauding the Bay was hunted down by a coalition of city-state naval forces, and it was the Iril marines who claimed the beast's skull; for a long time, it hung over the throne, but has now been relocated to the Turquoise Hall at the water's edge where the Iril naval command is situated.

As is evident from the common names of Iril citizens and Houses, the city-state is mostly made up of Suruni people. Society is divided into fairly orderly units - the aristocratic merchant Houses, the artisan collectives, the lower-caste mercantile cartels, and so on down to the labourer halls. The legal system mostly places weight on these units of society rather than the individual - that is to say, rights and duties stem from belonging to such. Citizens of Iril who lack membership of such a unit lack rights and duties, and are thus looked down on and vulnerable. Family and fraternity are important in Iril; you need someone to watch your back here.

The Eastern Drakkath Plains[edit]

Although quite varied terrain, the bulk of the eastern end of the Drakkath is lowlands and plains; sometimes the land is broken by karst, and the occasional mountain rears up, but the expanse is mostly grassland and wooded hills. A myriad of rivers break up the landscape, feeding into mightier waterways like the iril-Khun and the Djantao that feed into the White Bay. The hinterlands of the city-states are usually fairly well-ordered regions of agriculture, minor settlements and military outposts, but travel far enough into the wilds and one will find independent townships and smaller communities where the lands become more rugged and rough. Old Imperial highways thread towards west towards the Central basin, and these are of very varying states of repair.

It would not be inaccurate to consider the Eastern Drakkath Plains the most civilised and tamed of the Drakkath due to the influence of the city-states, but it would also be a mistake to assume that these maritime powers fully control vast regions - they do not, and even those lands they do control are the subject of frequent squabbles and conflicts. However, as the years pass, the ports are becoming more capable of expanding their reach over the hinterlands and the plains beyond, grasping once again for the power of a past era.

In the south of the plains, the lowlands are split by the brooding bulk of the Khayadan mountain range, a spine of peaks and highland that reaches as far south-east as the borders of Qyashun. As well as playing host to several remote settlements and isolated religious settlements, the wild Khayadan highlands are known for both beasts and monstrosities - the former due to the fact that a swathe of the forests that abut onto the range were once the Imperial Hunting Preserve, and it was seeded with many rare and exotic animals for the pleasure of the Imperial Family. Now, goblin clans and far stranger creatures besides dwell amidst the peaks and crags, and haunt the broken, steep valleys. It is also rumoured that a pair of some sort of spined, winged creatures called 'manticores' that were once part of the now-deserted Imperial Zoo Gardens must have survived to escape and breed, for reports from nearby regions of carnivorous, spiked sky-hunters have been growing over the years.

The Khayadan does have one noted bastion amongst its folded mountains - a Grumandic temple sanctuary. The place is reputedly near-impossible to reach if you do not know the correct path, and this is a secret only carefully given out to trusted Grumand priests. A sect of elemental practitioners dwell in this sanctuary, apparently locked in an ongoing struggle with another faction in the high mountains - a cabal of magi and fleshtwisters. Ascertaining how much of all this is true is a difficult endeavour, but some of the aberrations coming out of the mountain range are certainly stranger even than the cages of the Imperial Zoo ever held.

The deserted city of Ayuthai slumps in the northern region of the plains. Once a powerful city, its population left during the Dawn War and never returned. Now Ayuthai is a mournful place, just tumbled stones and empty collonades amongst which trees rise and creepers clamber. It has a reputation for being haunted or cursed, and few tarry long near the empty city's boundaries for fear of angering ancestral ghosts.

The Central Drakkath Basin[edit]

The Central Drakkath Basin is a wide area including several smaller water-draining basins that merge into a larger whole. These then feed the rivers, particularly the iril-Khun and Djantao, that flow through the Eastern Plains to the sea. The Basin and the surrounding lands were once the heartlands of the Drakkath Empire; the throne may have been in Sukumvarang Prefecture, yes, but it was here in the Prefectures of Adhur, Kubhei and Lunwraight that a great deal of agriculture, mining and industry took place. After the Elder God Ephras dropped a meteor into the Drakkath's heart while the fiercest struggles of the Dawn War were raging, though, the landscape was transformed; the geological damage done by the hate-star changed the drainage patterns and water margins of the region and shattered many of the northern dams, causing the creation of many new lakes in the western end of the Basin and the resultant growth of marshes and fens around the mountainous wound that the meteor left behind.

Even today, much of the Central Basin remains uninhabited wilds. Sporadic settlements are found scattered across it, some gathered into small federations or united under a local lord; there are also a number of isolated enclaves and religious communities to be found. More civilisation is to be found in the lands around the Basin, the forested hills and rising valleys that feed their waterways into its descent. Many of the old Imperial highways peter out or are lost completely in the Basin; some disappear into marshes, while others have had their stones picked clean and carried off. As well as the remnants of human settlement, there are other creatures dwelling in these lands - goblin clans, gnoll packs, Dreadspawn and other beings of the Dread Marches. Despite these threats, for most of the communities of the Basin life is a quiet one; this is slowly changing as the years roll on, the population grows and the surrounding nations look with increasing interest at the resources and lands that the Basin holds.

The valleys and ridges of the Basin do play host to a number of remote religious enclaves and colonies, usually established by groups that have travelled west from the White Bay seeking somewhere isolated to practice and perfect their philosophies and disciplines. Due to the lack of many other authorities or sources of power in the Central Basin, these brotherhoods, warrior-sects and elemental orders have become quite influential in their own little areas of control; in many cases, a village can expect far more protection from a local sect than from any so-called nation. Indeed, some of the enclaves are beginning to grow to a more notable size themselves, spawning daughter monasteries and gaining more power.

There are three minor powers of note within the Basin itself. The trade centre of Halstath is the most widely known; the Five Red Banners are a federation of townships in the south-west of the Basin that is the union of five noble families; and the Drakkadepti are an arcane enclave of magi in the northern Basin who have several towns under their protection, and who were founded shortly after the emergence of the Dread Marches one century ago.

Bizarrely, among the other inhuman inhabitants of the Basin are a small number of bitter, savage sahuagin septs. As far as anyone can tell, the immense terraforming of Ephras's meteor impact caused geological movement that temporarily submerged a vast tract of Eastern Plains lowlands, connecting the now-flooded Basin's heart to the sea itself. Over the course of about a century, further earthquakes and volcanic activity caused the land to rise again, but by then a number of sahuagin communities seem to have made their way into this inland sea - only to become suddenly trapped when a violent earthquake drained the connecting stretch of waters entirely. Now confined to the water margin around Spider Mountain, they dwell in the lakes and marshes and are apparently both extremely angry about their fate while also being too territorially tied to their new home to risk the trip overland and back to the White Bay.

The nearest settlements of the Basin have a complicated relationship with Spider Mountain and its swamps. The marshes provide an excellent hiding place for bandits, serve as a home for surly sahuagin and also provide lairs for other, more monstrous swamp inhabitants, including some ghastly servitors and aberrant fleshtwisted mutants. However, these marshes are also a place of plenty and life, rich with plants, prey animals and resources that the villages and towns make use of. They are also a traditional place that the dead are buried; corpses are wrapped then dropped with weights into the marsh waters. To many, the marshes are a place to be both feared and respected, and shrines to Lliras and Kevayek are common here. In honour of the dead and the gods, the edges of the marsh are commonly dotted with shrine-poles on which locals hang prayers and offerings; they also commonly leave a little tribute for the sahuagin, to stop irritable sept members pulling the shrine-poles down.


Icons: Magistrate Reshaan Purity-of-Fire

In the forested, rugged wilds in the Basin's north, the young and militant nation of Adhur stands guard from a series of fortress-towns amid crags and steep valleys. This federation of settlements emerged over the centuries, slowly coalescing into a solid alliance and finally a unified people under a Sun-Council of town representatives, commanders and Solanthaari priests. Ever since, Adhur has aggressively expanded, sweeping nearby lands into their grasp and engaging in brutal, bitter conflict with the Dread Marches. Now they look north with concern at the Huronese advance, even as they seek to spread their brand of law and order across the Central Drakkath.

Established around a code of laws and responsibilities that has ensured Adhur's survival over the centuries, the culture of this nation is orderly and focuses on duty to the greater whole. Solanthaar worship dominates over others of the Host, and she is considered the nation's patron. Vigilant Inquisitors, ordained and legally empowered enforcers, are given leeway to investigate and hunt out the taint of Adhur's most hated enemy - the Elders and their servitors. The Eclipse Hunt, when the fledgeling federation was nearly undone by vile Hashrukkite cultists and servitors, has never been forgotten - and the Adhuri intend that it never happens again, though they must burn out every nest and enclave of their enemy's corruption in the land. The focus of the Solanthaari faith is the great Sun Cathedral, a Drakkath Empire era structure that has been lovingly maintained by expert Adhuri masons and architects and which still cuts an imposing shape against the skyline.

Indeed, Adhur is known for its masonry and the skill of its builders; the walls of Adhur towns are tall and strong. Another of Adhur's strengths, that of alchemy, also contributes to the nation's defences - Adhuri alchemists have a number of unusual mortar and sealant concoctions that are supposedly much stronger than their traditional forms. Alchemy has advantaged Adhur in many other areas too - chemical concoctions are commonly used for armament fuels, for battle-drugs and to power strange alchemechanical engines that some of the crag-towns make use of for driving cranes and lifts. It is claimed, though not proven, that Inquisitors undergo an alchemical transformation that renders them with strange abilities, including the capacity to smell out Elder taint and the numbing of their ability to feel fear. A dangerous substance known as black powder is also a result of Adhuri alchemical advances, but the alchemists jealously guard the particular process for creating it.

The broken landscape of Adhur is rife with streams and rivers that tumble into frothing waterfalls, and these hold a particular place in Adhuri culture. The Adhur place emphasis on purity, usually that born of purging fire, but many domestic rituals involve participants standing or swimming in the pools that the falls plunge into, letting the waters cleanse them of burdens and worries that they carry - this is a particularly important element of both marriages and also the bestowal of important official positions.

Another feature of southern Adhur are the dams and waterways of old Imperial construction. All those streams and rivers eventually feed down into the Basin, but once a great series of mighty Drakkath dams formed immense reservoirs; many harnessed the power of the water with massive mills and other industrial buildings. The impact of Ephras's hate-star caused earthquakes that wrecked many of the dams, contributing even more water into the ravaged Basin as the previously dammed lakes came crashing down. However, several dams did survive, as well as portions of the elaborate locks and waterways that Imperial engineers had threaded between the reservoirs. Many of these dams are in poor condition but excellent Adhuri masonry has reinforced them and prevented them from collapsing; and while much of the old water-powered industry is long since reduced to rubble there are several repaired mills that serve Adhur even today.

The Dread Marches[edit]

Icons: The Shadowfury

What is there to be said of the Dread Marches? Even now, much of its interior remains a mystery beyond lurid tales of a bleak landscape where plants and trees grow in pained, twisted shapes and where savage terrors stalk the shadows. One hundred years ago, it erupted into being in the hills north-west of the Basin, spilling fleshtwisted horrors and undead out in a wave of conquest; stopped by an alliance of nations, its rage has since quelled. For so long it was a cursed place that no-one dared enter unless fired with a zealous desire to purge corruption and taint, but in recent years that has changed. It has become evident that civilisation still exists in the Dread Marches, albeit in the form of the Shadowfury's authority.

Her true name is unknown, but it is said she looks not a day older than she did when she unleashed the Dread Marches. Fearful whispers rumour that she is a master necromancer, a talented fleshtwister, the owner of terrible Elder technology, a demonologist or perhaps all these things together. Once she fought for hatred and vengeance, but it would seem the years have cooled her madness.

The most reliable tales of those who have travelled into the Marches confirm that it is a bleak landscape, clearly direly affected by the fell magics unleashed upon it; nonetheless, it is not so inhospitable as it might first appear. Several small townships exist amidst farms that are fertile enough to feed the population. The monstrous inhabitants of the landscape, from the gibbering Dreadspawn to the immense ash leviathans, mostly leave the people well alone - indeed, a number of servitors guard and protect them at the Shadowfury's command. The culture here is strange, mystical and reverential of their dark champion, but not half as strange as many of those who come to seek the Shadowfury's teachings in the arts of necromancy, fleshtwisting or the hate-fuelled mastery of the fury's style of martial arts. Others come seeking knowledge of Elder technology, or to acquire actual artefacts of such.

Most stories of the Shadowfury confirm that there is a bastion at the Marches' heart, a likely Elder structure that probably contains the warp-vats and twystcrystal devices the Shadowfury used to create fleshtwisted minions. A few reports by arcane-minded travellers and petitioners also hint that there are Umbral ruins in the Marches, several of surprisingly intact nature. A few surviving accounts from prior to the Dread Marches creation do seem to corroborate this, although the landscape has since changed and deformed so much that it's hard to be certain.


In the eastern Basin, on the edge of the network of lakes and marshes that have grown up around meteoric Spider Mountain, Halstath serves as a major crossing point of trade routes and a bastion of order amidst the wilderness. The town claims no dominion over other settlements and yet several have grown up in its vicinity, emboldened by the stability that Halstath imposes for several leagues around it. Well-defended and with a population who are possessed of a tenacious spirit, Halstath has been a melting pot and point of exchange for many years, and now also has the protection of the Flame Guild.

Mhasurus Shen, a former Flame Guild warlock, is the nominal ruler of Halstath. Having taken the unusual step of leaving the Guild, he has nonetheless maintained close ties with his former brothers and sisters, and Halstath is informally considered a major staging point for Flame Guild operations in the Drakkath. This reputation has done Halstath no end of good, reassuring travellers and merchants about its safety and bringing fresh wealth to its markets. Mhasurus dwells - as previous town leaders have - in an old temple to a lost Younger God; there was a reason for this tradition, but no-one is sure any more what it was, much as they cannot remember the god's name at all. The more paranoid state that the god's name is still etched into the walls but that people simply forget it as soon as they leave the building, but this appears to just be fearful rumour.

Halstath sits on the shore of a wide, placid lake, maintaining a healthy flotilla of fishing boats. However, there is believed to be a presence down in the waters; shapes have been seen flitting back and forth in the depths. No-one's sure what these are, but some say it may be sahuagin.


Icons: The Vault-Keeper Tyanlun Hamei

South of the Basin, taiga stretches towards the Storm mountain foothills. It is here, nestled amidst wild and tangled valleys, that the nation of Qyashun is to be found. Once, Qyashun Prefecture was the site of the Emperor's Summer Palace, and the city at the nation's heart still echoes much of that faded grandeur and luxury. Despite a long and tumultuous history, Qyashun is still known in this age as holding the greatest repository of Drakkath-era lore in the entire region.

The libraries of Qyashun are grand structures, lovingly tended to by archivist sect adherents who train as much in the martial protection of their tomes as they do in cataloguing and appreciating their content. The actual few Drakkath texts are kept within the Great Vault itself, a subterranean complex beneath the Grand Qyashun Library. Defended by a complex array of Elder technology wards and defences, the Vault was once an armoury of arcane devices owned by the Imperial Family; now its rooms contain an unknown amount of ancient lore, valuable and rare tomes, pieces of Elder artefacts and other items of great value or knowledge. Embarrassingly, this veritable fortress has been broken into once, by the enigmatic being known as the Solitary Flame.

Most of the nation is made up of terrace-farming villages amidst steep valleys, a few market towns and a number of hill-clans who pay mostly theoretical respect to the central council's authority. However, the landscape here is extremely rich in minerals and timbers, something that has long brought Qyashun more than its fair share of wealth; more than that, though are the veins of materials that are left-overs from the Dawn Era, raw and unrefined elemental substances that escaped notice by the Elder Gods as they forged a new world into being from the elemental but barren creation of the Great Elementals. These are incredibly hard to work but also incredibly valuable and are, along with knowledge, Qyashun's most treasured resource.

The government of Qyashun is a council of nobles and citizens of import from the nation's sole city; they serve for life, but elect the holders of other positions from amidst the scholarly institutions of the nation. These positions are also held for life, making the seat of the Vault-Keeper subject to some often genuinely murderous power struggles amongst the scribe-halls. For all its pretences to learning and truth, however, Qyashun seeks to serve itself more than it does others - objects of power or valuable knowledge are to be hoarded under lock and key, brought out to be used to benefit the nation or to trade with miserly negotiation for as much as can be gained. The scholar-towers encourage a conservative, static culture rather than one of seeking truth for the sake of knowledge. Still, anyone who would wish to wrest their treasures away from Qyashun faces a difficult proposition; the city, built up around the grand old summer palace, has a number of Empire-era defensive mechanisms tied into the cycle of the celestial heavens, harnessing the power of the turning seasons to provide arcane fuel to arcanomechanical guardians and strange energy-manipulating devices that stud the palace grounds.

The palace itself is a wonder, even with the damage that the passing centuries have done to it and with so many of its treasures lost and looted in the Empire's fall. The great Herbarium is of particular note due to its size and the exotic collection of plants within it.

Qyashun remains a dangerous land beyond the city walls. All sorts of creatures roam the valleys, including some quite human bandit gangs and marauders from the southern tribes of the deeper taiga. Most of Qyashun's military capability is focused on maintaining the routes from the nation into the Basin that it sits on the edge of; beyond that, however, the council has made quite enough money from the trade of valuable resources that it often dips into its coffers to hire mercenaries whenever additional muscle is needed.

An immense statue stands in the northern valleys of Qyashun. This colossal edifice depicts an inhuman, almost reptilian figure. As far as anyone can tell, the vast, weathered figure is far older than even the Drakkath Empire, presumably one of the last artefacts of a civilisation from the earliest days of the Dawn Age. Popular tradition has it that chips off the statue are worthwhile offerings to ancestors, since it reminds them that even the truly ancient are still remembered in this world; touching the statue where it emerges from the rocky ground is also supposed to help combat many a disease. Arcane adepts have confirmed that the statue is still possessed of residual energies infused within it, though what this truly ancient enchantment was supposed to do is not clear.

The Breach[edit]

In the south-west of the Central Drakkath Basin is a wound in reality itself, usually called the Breach. It was once the spot of a Drakath city until one of the sides in the Dawn War detonated a matter-eater weapon over it; the resulting rift tore the city apart, but did not then close. Instead, it stabilised.

The Breach is still visible from miles away as a strange, fluttering tear in the sky that gives a dull, purple or lavender glow as it shifts and flows. Beneath it is a mighty edifice, but this is not the city that once stood there. When the Breach did not close, it was instead used as a gateway into the world by an insane order of creatures that have become known as the Ordinators, biomechanical horrors that seem to follow alien concepts of order and organisation. Over the centuries, they have raised up a great tower-like structure of purple steel towards the Breach itself, a spined fortress of bizarre aspect that spits strange mists from exhaust vents and which opens and closes areas of its carapace, seemingly at random, to release fluttering drifts of winged Ordinators into the sky. Around the tower, the Ordinators are literally terraforming the landscape with strange magic and simple brute force, thousands of biomechanical drones working in unison to move earth and redirect rivers. In their wake is left a weird but undeniably ordered garden-plain, flattened and sculpted according to whatever mad drive pushes the Ordinators.

The Ordinators do not seem to desire to trade or, in general, interact with local inhabitants of this world. If approached, they are not immediately hostile, but any sort of tampering with their 'garden' triggers increasing agitation; and Ordinator soldiers are armed with a terrifying array of claws, blades and mechanical weapons. However, a few brave souls have discovered that the tended orchards of the Breach Garden are like nothing ever seen before, with unknown trees that bear fruit with incredible arcane properties. For some, it's worth risking the Ordinators' wrath for.

Seven years ago, the famed arcanist and traveller Macht Weldrain made a startling new claim. His observation of the Ordinators had revealed that, unlike previously believed, they are not some sort of simple hive-minded collective; rather, the clicks, whirrs and hypersonic, near-inaudible squeals of the region are Ordinator conversation, and that they appear to be highly developed. He now hopes that he can establish communication with the beings. The High Noble of the Five Red Banners has declared Weldrain outlawed now, fearful that tampering with the Ordinators might provoke a more extreme response and worried that the nearby Red Banners lands will suffer the brunt.

The Western Reaches[edit]

Journey even further west than the Central Basin, and the traveller comes to the Western Reaches where the hills rise and the Sarokean Mountains loom on the horizon. The Prefectures are really little more than a vague memory here; local authority is in the hands of the few lords and nobles whose families keep control over small regions, or the philosophical and martial enclaves who live ascetic lives in the higher hills. It is a dangerous land where even the human settlements can be truly remote and hostile, let alone the more dangerous beasts and servitors that stalk the wilds. Gnoll clans dwell in the deep forests; goblins, Dreadspawn and worse breed amidst the canyons and valleys.

The most civilised and well-travelled areas of the Western Reaches focus around the trade routes that pierce through to passes in the Sarokean range, and the north-western region that are often travelled by trade caravans, travellers and mercenaries coming round the northern point of the Sarokeans from Naseria, Carthagia and further afield. Unfortunately, this region is also commonly contested by those nations and the Thorn Circle and are fertile grounds for Dreadspawn and other aberrations, meaning that the towns there are walled and travellers must be wary and vigilant.

Amidst the wild Reaches are any number of strange, isolated phenomena and communities. One of the most famous would be Lliras' Mouth, a great swathe of poisoned, toxic forest that has been warped by rampant overgrowth and mutation - all towards the purpose of providing a lethal, venomous environment. Four centuries ago, the great spirit sent down an avatar - a monstrous amalgamation of flesh and timber bedecked with oozing spines and thorns. This avatar prowled the forest that became Lliras' Mouth, changing the terrain as it passed. Now, the changed trees glow phosphorescent at night with the chemical poisons seeping from their bark, and even the lesser creatures have twisted into aggressive, dangerous things. The reason for this divine intervention is not known.

Little more than a rumour, the Valley of Grief's Death is a high and difficult to reach place by all accounts. Here, the Lord of the Valley presides over a small community of those who were once gripped by despair or woe but who have now found new life through the mildly poisonous flowers that grow throughout their home. These flowers are said to deaden feelings of sadness, and are also addictive. The Lord rules over his drugged people with a firm hand, and those who come to the Valley to find peace are rarely allowed to leave again. Still, a rare few samples of the flowers and their poison have made their way out into the wider world, even if it seems impossible to get them to grow in soil beyond the Valley of Grief's Death.

The Fire Mask are a minor federation of towns and Drak tribes in the south of the Reaches, not powerful or large enough to be considered a nation but certainly possessed of a long lineage. Fire Mask culture places a great deal of import on masks and other face-coverings, especially for ritual and religious purposes, and this allegedly stems back to (of all the strange reasons) the fact that shortly after the Dawn War, surviving communities dug into the ruins of an old Imperial trade depot and found a cache of ornate Empire-era masks. Now these self-same masks are the propery of the upper castes of the Fire Masks, although every person in the region has at least a simple ceramic or wicker mask. The old trade depot has been rebuilt and fortified, serving as the capital town for the Masks; elsewhere, Fire Mask communities are traditionally carved out of stony cliffs and hillsides, leading to a semi-subterranean settlement of homes and storehouses interconnected by tunnels. The Fire Masks are known to include several particularly wise philosophers and priests amongst their number, and the Unmasked, as they call outsiders, often come to seek the knowledge of these revered ascetics.

A number of dams still hold strong in the higher levels of the Reaches, far enough away from the Central Basin to have been spared the aftershocks of Ephras's meteoric strike. They are in terrible states of repair and every generation sees more damage adding up; every few generations, one breaks down entire, unleashing a flood of waters into the lower valleys. However, knowledge of wind power has remained more common here, and several old wind-bastions still stand in good repair - tall towers of Imperial engineering that sprout a myriad of sails, turbines and other air-catching devices, capable of turning to match the direction of the winds. Kites and streamers are also common here, often for ritual purposes but, in some places, using very old techniques to sift strange substances out of the winds themselves, including the ichorous amethyst bile - a material of great value to arcanists.


A truly young nation in a time of fledgelings rising up from the Empire's ashes, Mirayek is a mere generation old. The Mira Prefecture has been brutally and efficiently reunited under the stewardship of a Husaara warlord called Erustun Gallus, aided by the priesthood of Kevayek. Gallus and his warband have systematically gone about conquering an increasingly large area of townships and noble fiefs, hammering them together into a simple hierarchy with himself at the top and buttressed by fear of the Kevayeki, who threaten disease and catastrophe upon those who defy the warlord. It appears that Gallus promised the priesthood both the elevation of their faith and also the restoration of an old Kevayeki holy site, a series of mineral springs and pools that are now once again in Kevayeki hands and properly venerated. Equally, however, the new power structure sits uneasily, and Gallus has taken steps to ensure that he is increasingly less reliant on the Kevayek priesthood.

Mirayek lies mostly in a lower basin, one that eventually feeds into the Central Basin, and as such its settlements are mostly steep, terraced towns and villages overlooking wet lowlands and marshes. It is in those marshes and swamps that several brotherhoods of ascetics dwell, who temper themselves in the hardship of their dismal surroundings; some of them are be dedicates of Lliras. It appears that Gallus has now sought their support as a counterweight to the Kevayeki priesthood, offering them a chance to hold sway in local affairs and serve as enforcers of justice and law.

Speaking of law, the Mira Prefecture has long been beholden to a particularly strange tradition that emerged in the early centuries after the Dawn War. It is said that Churaphrat (or possibly Lliras or Kevayek) gave several precious canisters to the people, instructing them in their use as receptacles of life energy. The original jars are long since lost, but rigorously trained arcanists have made copies over the decades, and these are used in holy rites (usually to all three of the aforementioned gods) whereby truly evil men and women, those who breach society's most fundamental laws, are condemned to have their lives drained into the jars. These ceramic containers can then be used to provide health and vitality to others, usually those who have been wronged or wounded by the executed criminals or, sometimes, for those who are of most value to the community or who have performed great acts worthy of recognition.

From this has grown out another, less sinister but no less macabre tradition - the inheritance of life. It is considered that part of the inheritance a mortally wounded or truly aged person gives to their family is the last moments of their life; when someone knows that their death is close, they seek out the priesthood and have their life drained into the jar, to be passed on to family members as a gift from the departed. A certain (frowned-upon) trade has grown in expended life-canisters, sold as curios to collectors and the wealthy in regions further east - and sometimes unexpended canisters are sold too, inherited life-jars traded on by desperate Mirayeki who need the money more than they need the vitality. This is considered a taboo action in Mira society and hence is essentially a black market trade.

As well as the marsh-ascetics, there is at least one Umbral tower rising from the mire of the Mirayek lowlands. Inaccessible due to the depth and treachery of the waters around it, the dark sentinel remains mostly untouched by human hands; bands of would-be looters have yet to puzzle out a way of reaching the ruin. The only figure to have reached it in recent years is Gallus himself; stories say that he swam naked through the leech-infested waters and back again to prove to the Kevayeki priests that he was worthy of their aid, surviving the subsequent weeks of sickness and fever to return to good health - seen as a sign from the Kevayeki that the Overseer of Disease approved of the warlord's schemes.

The Thorn Circle[edit]

Icons: The Thornmaiden

The Thorn Circle is not constrained to one location in the Western Reaches; rather, the entire region is where the Circle is at its strongest. Their doctrines are followed in many a remote village; those of the gnoll clans who paint their muzzles red heed the call of the Circle; well-hidden valleys host their gathering points. The Thorn Circle are blood-priests, mystics and wildlanders, followers of certain doctrines of certain Younger Gods (most notably Lliras) that have been blended into philosophical beliefs from a different, old source that the Thorn Circle keeps well protected. Despite the Circle's scattered nature, it has several bastions within the Reaches and can call upon many capable woodsmen and gnoll warriors when it needs to make its point in violent fashion. Some of these bastions are rumoured to be literal living fortresses, great outgrowths of thorns and cancerous bulges of wood, and are home to esoteric orders of Circle warriors and mystics who undertake extreme blood rites of sinister fashion.

The Thornmaiden is the current leader of the Thorn Circle, and pursues an aggressive agenda - seizing sacred sites of elemental energy and hunting out Elder taint regardless of the petty complaints of nations and peoples. The Circle's influence has waxed and waned with the passing of the years but, for now, it is on the rise. Recent large-scale clashes between gnoll tribes and the Carthagians along that nation's eastern border have dragged in the Thorn Circle to aid their allies, and for the first time in a while the Circle is having to commit resources against a genuinely powerful foe - and finding out that it has strengths it never knew in the process. This conflict has the worrying possibility of serving as a crucible from which the Thornmaiden will be able to forge the Thorn Circle into a truly powerful militant organisation.

A number of old stone pillars littered across the Reaches seem to be of particular import to the Thorn Circle. Known as the Storm Pillars, these rocky columns are riddled with crystalline veins and serve as lightning rods during the violent storms that often clash against the flanks of the Sarokean Mountains. The power so gathered is fed into the lines of energy that the Circle maintain across the landscape, presumably for geomantic purposes.

The most well-known of Thorn Circle holdings is Bloodstone Cascade, a town amongst the crags of the Sarokean range's northern point. Here, a series of breathtaking waterfalls crash down out of cave mouths, flowing through a series of pools and falls before feeding into a river far below. What is notable, however, is that the water is all slightly bloodied; not just red-tinged, but actually containing diluted blood, apparently seeping out of a vein of bloody rock deep in the mountainside. The water is drinkable, albeit always possessing the coppery tang of gore. The settlement itself is a brightly coloured place of streaming banners and ornate, ritual kites dancing in the winds that batter the crag-face; temples to both Ishrak and Grumand stand proud atop the highest terrace of the town. A very old community, Bloodstone Cascade's ties to the Thorn Circle are deep and intricate; a strange tree, its bark carved with sigils and its leaves the colour of crimson gore, is rooted at the edge of the crag's high blood-pools and drinks deep of the mystical water, and this tree is apparently central to the Circle's strange doctrines.

The Great Sarok Expanse[edit]

Where the Storm mountains turn southwestwards and the Sarokeans curve aside, the Great Sarok Expanse is the wide corridor between the two mountain ranges that opens out into the Ascarian tundra. The landscape here is a mixture of taiga, steppe and the occasional outbreak of rugged, geologically active hills that vent acrid steam and rumble with the underlying mutters of Grumand. It is a colder land than the rest of the Drakkath, and wilder still than the Western Reaches; the Expanse remained an unconquered region when the Drakkath Empire still faced the full fury of the old Ascarian civilisation.

Now, the shattered wreckage of the Obsidian Wall crops up across the landscape here and there, the vast warding sigils mostly obliterated by the passage of time. The crumbling wall is a mess of shattered pieces of volcanic glass, marking the perimeter of a dead Empire against a foe that has been equally reduced by the passing of the ages. The northmost of the Great Wolf's Scars break into the Expanse - the thrashing, wounded rents torn by the Younger God when vile Shauku shattered its back, quenched its flames and threw it to earth to suffer and die. The ground still rebels at memories of that catastrophic event, burbling lava out in viscous streams that soon cool and mark the landscape with another eerie dribble of solidified rock. Sometimes, the smoky plumes that emerge from the vents have other, stranger properties, forming into cloudy wolf-daemons that howl and hunt, or turning what the agonising chemical mists touch into raw iron.

There are a few regular inhabitants of this remote land; the south-westernmost Drakkath settlements cling to an existence, hardy men and women who live here because their fathers and their forefathers before them did. More than a few mines pockmark the landscape, digging mineral treasure from the earth. Further south, the northern of the Ascari tribes dwell, the tough folk of the tundra who have themselves lived for long generations in this region. Under usual circumstances, the two cultures here rarely clash; the landscape's harsh nature inspires co-operation more than conflict, and both have goods to trade that the others want; Ascari and Drakkath merchants trading ivory, herbs and furs need safe passage throug the region.

Unfortunately, times are no longer normal. The growing wrath of the Ascarian people is being encouraged under the Wolf-Chosen's guidance and thus, for the hapless men and women of both sides in the Great Sarokean Expanse, life has just gotten far more interesting. Already raider-bands have crossed the Expanse to plunge into the Western Reaches and Central Basin; they've mostly left the people of the Expanse alone, but two warlords under the Wolf-Chosen's command have moved into the region to fortify Ascari power there, and have taken to using local labour to create their fortifications - labour that is not always willingly given.

The City of the Hekatonchiere[edit]

There is one power in the Great Sarok Expanse that is unmoved by all that goes on around it - the hekatonchiere. An enclave of these ancient servitors survived the Dawn War when the hundred-handed ones retreated to their bastions and waited out the conflict. With the War past, little changed; from time to time, their towering figures can be seen striding across the Expanse either north or south, off to make bizarre demands, give strange gifts or just travel through the lands of the nations under an unknowable agenda.

For the people of the Expanse, it is considered unwise to bother the hekatonchiere and instead one should avoid their settlement at all costs; the strange beings are sometimes serene and peaceful but can become enraged or violent without any apparently cause, so best not to take any risks. The Expanse-folk often entreat the gods at small shrines to keep the eye of the hekatonchiere away, but they also wear amulets in the servitors' likeness to ward off beasts and evil magic, and most families make a pilgrimage at least once a decade to leave offerings at one of the high ridge-temples that they have established to the hekatonchiere themselves. What the hundred-handed ones think of this fearful reverence, if they notice it at all, is unknown.

The City, as it is known, is an odd sight; a cluster of hemispheres that themselves bulge more spheres out like metallic blisters. Regardless of the scourging elements, the entire structure possesses a faintly red cast, like rusted iron, although close inspection reveals this to only be the natural colour of the metal itself. More than this is hard to ascertain since so few people have ever approached the hekatonchiere settlement, but these accounts do match with reports of other hekatonchiere architecture elsewhere in the world.

The City does have one export, although probably not a purposeful one. Every year, one or two hekatonchiere emerge from their home and deposit large pieces of metal in the surrounding landscape. These chunks of discarded metal are not simply rubbish, however - they are (to human eyes at least) incredible works of art, wonderful mixtures of irridescent metallic alloys wrought into three-dimensional patterns. It's abstract work, not imagery but impression, warped and shaped into intriguing forms that vibrate with fluting music whenever the wind blows through the tunnels and hollows of the object. Locals retrieve those of the objects that they can (some are too large and heavy to move easily) and sell them on; hekatonchiere 'art' has pride of place in many an eastern merchant's or noble's hall.

The Western Kingdoms[edit]

Beyond where the western Drakkath meets the rising mountains of the Sarokean range, three nations that have stood since the Dawn War hold sway. All three are kingdoms, in that they are ruled by singular monarchs, even if not all of these sovereigns are referred to as kings (and indeed, in Grum-Tarath, those called Kings are something entirely different). In the late Dawn Age, the Drakkath Empire held a number of watch-bastions amongst the Sarokean mountains, and a swathe of what is now Naseria was a Drakkath satrap that reached as far as the coast of the Malachite Sea; the people of the mountains are of Drakkath stock, but those of the lowlands of Naseria and Carthagia are of more distinct ancestry that sets them apart from the people of the eastern lands.

The lowlands of the western kingdoms escaped the worst of the Dawn War's rigours, but in the centuries since they have suffered their fair share of strife and disorder. Not only have Carthagia and Naseria long feuded with each other, sometimes going so far as outright warfare to settle their differences, but both have clashed with polities that seem quite distant to those of the eastern Drakkath - trade and maritime squabbles with Masked Kateni city-states, religious conflicts with the Irgut, raids and retaliations with the grim Steel Consulate. All three kingdoms were affected by the emergence of the Dread Marches, and have all faced their own internal and external struggles with servitors and aggressive creatures of strange or dire nature. Carthagia faces the Wasteland itself, while Naseria and Grum-Tarath must now contend with the renewed threat of Ascaria.

It is generally held that the echoes of the great elemental creation of the world are more visible here in the western kingdoms than in other regions of the Drakkath. The reasons for this are disputed, but at least one widely-supported academic theory is that these lands were the site of a great workshop of energy and terraforming where the Great Elementals themselves tweaked and perfected their geological handiwork, and so as the stones of a smithy become cracked and ingrained with soot and ash, so the very fabric of reality here still shimmers with the memory of immense elemental engines. To the eye of a layman there is perhaps little to note, except that elemental weather phenomena and volcanic activity seem slightly more common than in neighbouring lands, but to those with elemental arcane senses, the landscape is one with a rich, vibrant tapestry of raw and fundamental power.

There are several Younger Gods worshipped or acknowledged within the western kingdoms who are less commonly known east of the Sarokean mountains. Reverence of the deities in question is largely due to influence from lands further west; the imposing bulk of the Sarokean range itself may have much to do with why their faiths have not yet spread into the central Drakkath. There is fierce doctrinal debate over whether these gods are actually just aspects or faces of existing Younger Gods or whether they are truly independent figures within the Host of Heaven.

Temeshwun, Younger God of dance, murder and patterns, is said to have been a man from the culture that would become the Masked Kateni and who killed many loyal-mad-kings who sided with the Elder Gods in the Dawn War with his enticing dance and void-edged knives; there is argument that he may be an aspect of Churaphrat, but the Lord of Dance and Murder is commonly worshipped as an equal figure (either lover or brother) to the Lady of Death and Mercy. Phrenesia, the Younger God of breath, metal, embers and artifice, is a powerful matriarch in western depictions of the Host of Heaven but there are very strong indications that she is an aspect of Solanthaar (or possibly vice-versa). Finally, Ishurtar the Lady of Dust and Ashes is the Younger God of corrosion, dust, erosion and entropy - the weathering hand of time rather than the organic rot of Kevayek; she is said to be the child of Grumand and Ishrak, although it isn't clear whether she is a true Younger God or some sort of lesser aspect of Ishrak, Grumand or Churaphrat (or possibly all three), especially since she was said to be born during the latter stages of the Dawn War and only excarnated in the first decades of the Zenith Age, making her the last deity to ever ascend to the Host by a clearance of many years.

The Sarokean Mountains[edit]

The Sarokeans split the Drakkath from the western lands that border the Malachite Sea; a great expanse of rocky peaks, rugged valleys, plateaus and sheltering gorges. This is no thin barrier wall; the range is wide. In the north, it tapers off where the north-western Reaches meet the Indigo Marches; to the south, its bulky line eventually twists south-west before breaking apart into a scattering of lone peaks that pierce far into the Ascarian tundra. Also known as the 'Wall of Sarok' or the 'Work of Sarok', whoever or whatever Sarok may have been, the Sarokean mountains are an ancient range that bear the marks of the very beginnings of the world upon their spine.

Much of the range is uncontrolled by any great polity or nation, but while it is a wild and often dangerous landscape it would be incorrect to consider it as bereft of inhabitants. Innumerable small settlements litter the mountains, from high monasteries to small farming communities eking out an existence amidst steep terraced fields. Many of these settlements cluster around the Trods of Grumand, the series of passes and passable valleys that wind through the range; the Trods are considered to be gifts from Grumand itself, with the claim to status as a Trod being based on particular unusual colours of rock in the passes. Far away from the Trods, other settlements do exist; some are enclaves that desire isolation, a few whispered to be Nephian communities, while others are opportunistic prospector-towns around mines.

The mountains are littered with signs of the past. Here and there, rises and valleys are littered with bones or the last, rusting remnants of weaponry - nameless battles fought in the Dawn War. Several sites identified as Umbral have been located, though most appear to be utter ruins and look like they were destroyed by powerful siege weapons. Ancient temples to forgotten Elders lie empty, the wind howling through their corridors. A series of immense gouges in the earth, the Smoke Pits, mark where once Elder servitors tore vast amounts of minerals from the earth; some still smoke and fume, and travellers' report signs that they are inhabited even now by strange, chittering creatures.

Goblin clans are a widespread presence in the mountains, along with rare reports of giants; both goblins and giants are known to cluster around certain old Elder temple ruins in particular. There are brooding, fuming volcanoes in several areas of the Sarokeans, and a number of lizardman tribes are known to make their homes around these fiery peaks. Dreadspawn and other Dread Marches beasts are another problem; the Shadowfury's vanguard reached as far as the western kingdoms, and when defeated a great number of surviving creatures fled into the mountains. Various winged beasts are known to roost in the mountains; hippogriffs, chimerae, drazhikar, wyverns and even dragons have been reported, though the latter claims are of very dubious provenance.

Trolls, however, are a real danger. Common lore has it that trolls were created from part of the corpse of Hashrukk the Daemonflesh when the Elder was defeated; this may have been the fate of a younger species that was corrupted by the Daemonflesh carcass. Consistent rumours mention some form of 'higher' or 'true' troll found in some extremely remote areas of the Sarokeans, the remainders of whatever civilisation became troll-kind. Unfortunately, the debased, incredibly resilient monstrosities that are the trolls of today are also smart, smart enough to be a real threat to surrounding powers. All three of the western kingdoms have battled trolls over the centuries, with the Great Ember War of some four centuries ago marking the greatest conflict of such a kind - one that scarred the entire region. Scholarly taxonomy of trolls has identified four broad sub-species - fire, stone, iron and the very rare obsidian trolls - but the species in general seems highly prone to mutation and new breeds emerging.


Icons: The Eagle King

The origins of Grum-Tarath are hazy; it appears to have existed even during the time of the Drakkath Empire, although then only as a barely-tolerated coalition of tribesmen and highlanders who lived in regions of the Sarokeans that were too remote to bother conquering. However, the isolated mountain clans acted early in the Dawn War, throwing in their lot with the Younger Gods and beginning a campaign of terror and raiding on the lowlanders of Drakkath. Tradition has it that Grumand spoke to the Grum-Tarathi early in the War as they were the great spirit's favoured people; even today, Iron Prophets claim to hear the faint whisperings and rumblings of Grumand's thoughts from deep below the mountain range.

Grum-Tarath spans a number of loosely interconnected valleys, plateaus and high mountain enclaves scattered through a portion of the southern Sarokean mountains; it's easy for the nation to become isolated even from itself by attacks, bad weather or geological activity. In the face of this, the nation's culture focuses on order, a place for everyone, duty and responsibility; even if cut off from the greater kingdom for months or years, a Grum-Tarathi town will operate autonomously and yet not diverge from the wider nation's society. Young Tarathi are assigned to a caste and role during their coming of age; aptitudes and character play a significant part in this, but so do the needs of the greater settlement. Grum-Tarath is ruled by a Potentate, currently the wily Kurshan Umh-Drage; the royal family is hereditary in nature, forming a caste unto themselves. Something that outsiders can find confusing is that the Five Waterfall Kings are not, in fact, kings of the nation; the Potentate is the ruler and has no equals. Below him or her, society is governed by Elders, many of whom are Grumand clergy. These Elders are all part of the Stone Assembly, although a full meeting of the Assembly is rare and small groups of Elders will gather and discuss matters as is necessary. This shifting, ad-hoc nature of Grum-Tarath legislature is anchored by the Potentate, whose word is final on the Assembly's requests or demands.

This mountain nation is home to an unusually high concentration of monastic and martial traditions, particularly those focusing around the Four Elemental Paths. Grum-Tarath has little in the way of actual military forces, raising a levy from the common people when necessary; instead, the elemental sects are expected to provide their acolytes and adepts to help deal with conflicts. This has resulted in a certain amount of tension between the Stone Assembly and the cloister and sect leaders, in particular the heads of the five most powerful sects, called the Waterfall Kings. The Assembly rules society but the Waterfall Kings are the most highly respected figures in the world of martial practice and elemental focus, and it is they who hold the key to Grum-Tarath's military defence. The Five Waterfall Kings are not beholden to the Assembly nor the Potentate; and these old masters and mistresses include certain capricious or whimsical personalities shaped by a lifetime of dedication to a philosophy or esoteric practice.

Even today, Grum-Tarath remains relatively isolated. It is not entirely cut off from the world, and there is a steady trickle of petitioners seeking the tutelage of the elemental sects and traders seeking the rich mineral wealth of the high mountains (and the ivory feathers of the rare araki-bird) but for most of the Drakkath, Grum-Tarath remains a remote and distant place. Visitors often marvel at the major settlements; Tarathi take great pride and honour in the carving and decorating of rock and stone, and since their larger towns are generally excavated and hewn out of the rock, this can result in some breath-takingly beautiful and ornate structures. The sheer amount of excavation necessary means that it is commonly believed that the Tarathi Elders are sitting on a cache of Elder tunneling technology or some other sort of eldritch science, and some of the deep cathedrals and defensive fortifications hint that there may be truth to this claim. Many settlements have been designed so that, in case of great danger, the entire population can retreat into their chambers and galleries and seal themselves off from the surface world entirely, or escape via long tunnels that emerge leagues away in the mountains. Grum-Tarath culture includes many tales of isolated settlements that held out for generations against outside threats that could not pierce the surface defences.

Another common claim about the Tarathi, this one far less savoury, is that they practice ritual cannibalism. It's true that in such remote landscapes, the supply of food and resources is a tenuous thing that must be carefully balanced; it's also likely that, at some point, towns and villages that have been cut off probably have resorted to such in desperation. However, these claims probably stem from the Tarathi custom of bone-carving and ancestor ivory. There are various ways by which the dead are reduced to bones; some Tarathi ethnicities offer their dead up to the beasts of the skies atop small sky-burial towers, while other settlements undertake ritual mortuary rites to boil and strip the flesh away. The resulting bones are taken by family members or friends and carved with marks of reverence and memory of the life of the dead figure; these are installed in subterranean ancestor galleries, carried as charms or used as adornment on furniture and other decoration. Promising one's skull to another person not of the family is a major Tarathi show of respect, love and gratitude; several Potentates have, through history, promised their skulls to heroes in thanks for their actions.

Tel-Turathun, the most holy of sites in Grum-Tarath, is said to be where Grumand spoke to the first Iron Prophets and ordered them to take up the banner of war against the Elders. Tel-Turathan is where the Stone Assembly itself is located, an immense subterranean parliament-chamber hewn from the rock (by Grumand's own hands, as per the legend) and is also site of a large temple-complex that makes up the largest centre of Grumandic worship in the entire Drakkath and probably far beyond. It is one of the most accessible and most visited by outsiders of all the Tarathi settlements, and offers a host of wonders for those who come to pray; glorious stone temples filled with gleaming gemstone decorations, vast carved trenches and chasms that split the city into tiers, the rising bulk of the Potentate Fortress and, most shockingly of all, the Conquered - four massive orbs of rock and metal hovering in the air over the settlement, with no obvious means of suspension. The Tarathi say that the Conquered were hurled by the Elder Gods, but Grumand's mastery over iron and stone exceeded even theirs, and he caught them before their moment of impact. Now, the Conquered serve as the most holy and protected of Grumandic sanctuaries, accessed by balloon or the lifts that have been built into them; inside, they have been hollowed out into structures, rumoured to be filled with secure vaults, warded meeting rooms and the personal chapels of the Iron Prophets themselves.

The Iragian Plateau[edit]

In the northern part of the range, the Iragian Plateau is a notorious expanse of high land that is widely avoided by travellers and, upon occasion, referred to as 'the Western Dread Marches' as a macabre joke. Once, in the Dawn Age, a small civilisation known as the Iraji dwelt here, making their home on the high plateau. During the Dawn War, a particularly ferocious series of battles erupted across the Plateau that reduced it to a ruined battlescape, littered with the carcasses and detritus of thousands of humans and servitors and apparently wiping out the Iraji in the process; now, the ruins of their cities and vaults stand as great monoliths of obsidian, mementos to a long-dead people.

In the aftermath of the Dread Marches' rise and defeat, a great number of the surviving creatures of the Shadowfury's western armies scattered throughout the Sarokeans; many of the undead amongst them made their way to the Iragian Plateau, where now they haunt the bone-littered wilds - tormented ghosts, feral ghul-packs and lumbering warp-husks roam the wasteland. Most sane souls keep far from the blighted Plateaul, but a few reports from particularlty brave or foolish travellers indicate that there are a few signs of organisation emerging against these unshackled undead, and that at night one can see baleful lights glimmering amongst the ruins of the ancient Iraji fortresses.

High Caldera[edit]

High Caldera is a mystery - a vast, fortified city besieged by trolls, its inhabitants completely unknown to the outside world. The city is the actual rim of a caldera lake that fumes and steams with chemical mists; the entirety of the ridge around it has been sculpted and carved into a huge defensive position, presumably protecting underground galleries and chambers wherein the defenders dwell - if any still live. From the reports of travellers and Naserian scouts, the valleys around High Caldera play host to a great number troll clans, some of which dwell in settlements wrought from the shattered husks of similar, smaller structures to High Caldera. These trolls are said to undertake irregular and futile assaults on the city's massive fortifications, never gaining any sort of purchase or breaching the vaults within. There is no sign of any military force sallying out to fight them; whoever was within, they are either dead or utterly reliant on the impregnable bastion in which they dwell.

The background of High Caldera is disputed. At first, travellers who discovered this dangerous location assumed it to be a Grum-Tarathi settlement cut off from the kingdom, but the Tarathi themselves deny this and the style of the fortress is unlike that of the Tarathi. Another tale has it that the caldera is where one of the corrupting fragments of Hashrukk's carcass came to rest, and this was the cause of the creation of the trolls; that whoever dwelled in High Caldera were the precursors to troll-kind, utterly warped into the monstrous creatures that now roam the mountains. This, however, does not explain why the trolls are besieging High Caldera. Some accounts indicate that, like the Iraji, the people of High Caldera were a small civilisation that buried itself away during the Dawn War, utterly isolated from the outside world but, unlike the Iraji, successfully surviving.

A very, very few tales of people who claimed to have entered High Caldera exist, mostly presumed fictitious (especially as they regularly contradict each other). Stories speak of galleries of gold and jewels, of a strange human people dwelling within who breath smoke and fire, of some sort of 'noble troll' species within, of massive Elder machines or of crude, primitive caverns covered in paintings, of thick flows of tar and ooze channeled through the city like canals; one fanciful story, probably entirely the creation of a playwright, has it that High Caldera is the domain of the Mephit-King, to whom all mephits pay homage (ask a mephit about the Mephit-King and they're likely to be utterly bemused, though that's not much different from the usual mephit state of mind).

The region around High Caldera is incredibly rich in minerals and the wealth of the earth, but the trolls here are well organised and watchful. Naserian nobles would direly love to claim the region, drive the trolls out and profit from the industry that would follow, but the military might needed to achieve such a goal would be massive; hard to justify with the looming threat of Carthagia.


Icons: The Manipulator-General

Land of the Dark Saviour, Carthagia is a grim, mountainous land to the north of Naseria and the Indigo Marches. To its east lie Huron and the north Drakkath; north and west stretch the unforgiving Wasteland and the Wreck Shores that cling to the Wasteland's southern edges. This is a land of ancient refugees and exiles, a people led through the worst tortures and trials imaginable to find a new home. Outsiders generally see the Carthagian people as reflected in their domain - high mountains and sheer crags, rugged valleys and steep hills, rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls that pour down gorges to the lowlands around. It is an unforgiving land with bitter weather, a hostile landscape and wild creatures roaming amidst the peaks, but the Carthagians do more than just survive - they prosper.

The true origins of the Carthagians are hazy, lost to time and trauma during the Dawn War. Their homeland is believed to lie somewhere in the Desolation, the expanse of ruined landscape north of the vast Myrmec desert that was reduced to its current state during the War; unfortunately, even Carthagian records are poor as their culture, at the time, had little to do with the written word in preference for aural history traditions. During the War, faced with their annihilation if they remained, the Younger God Toran led his people in search of a new place to live. They suffered the worst excesses of the raging War and then, even worse, the harsh embrace of the desert itself; it is believed that around nine in every ten Carthagians perished during the journey. Eventually, they passed through the warring, collapsing Huron provinces and pushed further to the unclaimed mountains where now they dwell; after the perils of their journey, Carthagia seemed welcoming and its threats paltry. This Great Journey has left scars on the national psyche of the Carthagians and has shaped their culture greatly; they are a toughened, resilient people who have undergone the worst and lived. There are rumours that some enclaves of the Carthagian people survived in the north, although most people discount such a possibility.

At odds with the plight that it once faced, Carthagia is an incredibly rich country. The mountains and highlands of the nation are abundant with mineral wealth, and the ores and metalsmithing of Carthagia are one of its greatest assets; it is so metal-rich that men and women of the warrior-caste are known for their heavy plate armour, making up the intimidating warbands of armoured infantry that form the body of the Carthagian military. This is combined with the creations of the Manipulators, the institution of flesh-twister magi who craft and shape bizarre creatures for a myriad of purposes and trade them on to outsiders who are willing to pay great sums for the privilege. As such, Carthagia is a major trade power in the region, particularly with the western lands, Huron and the White Bay. This prosperity is reflected in the homes and practices of the people of the nation; they take great pride in not wallowing in the luxuries that they have won, but rather prizing them and appreciating them greatly as the rightful earnings from the Great Journey, torn from the earth with hard toil and determination. Although outwardly imposing and grim, the bastions and settlements of Carthagia show a different side in their inner chambers, often richly decorated with tapestries, stonework and metal goods. Carthagian art and song tends towards the mournful and the abstract - dirges for the dead of the Great Journey and memorials for the great suffering of the nation that served as its backbone for a new power to rise upon. Glory is in serving one's vassals, one's lieges and the nation with duty and honour, not in making the individual great. Every Carthagian stands on the shoulders of the dead.

Carthagia is ruled by a King (currently Colchis Toranshannur, or Colchis IV) - never a Queen, due to traditions surrounding Toran's sacred role as the First King. Because the royal bloodline is hereditary, this has caused certain practices to deal with situations where the heir is a woman. In such cases, the female heir undertakes a ritual to officially become a man, and must take on the culturally approved roles of a man - they will marry a woman, and so forth, although liasons with men are approved on the basis that there needs to be a new heir coming from somewhere. This practice has trickled down through the tiers of the Carthagian castes, wherein women can, if they desire, officially become a man and be treated as such legally and culturally from then on; currently, this is acceptable amongst the royal, noble and warrior castes, and only rarely amongst the lower castes (where it is considered an oddity). The reverse is not true - men cannot become women, except for in a particular branch of the Toranite church where all castes are acceptable. These practices are generally considered a one-way trip, but a folk hero of Carthagia is Carlovargus the Twin-Bodied, a warrior and slayer of horrors who switched between being male and female some seventeen times in their life - finally, if the legend is to be believed, receiving a blessing from Toran that let them physically switch between male and female at will, leading to a series of tales wherein fools who treated a stranger badly because of their apparent gender were undone upon realising that the stranger was in fact Carlovargus.

Carthagian society is highly feudal, in that every level is built from the personal relationships between people. The highest of the noble caste are the king's vassals; the lower nobles are the higher nobles' vassals; and so on down the great pyramid to the lowest levels of society. This tight network of personal duty binds the entire nation together in a web of mutual responsibility and reciprocation. The warrior caste are something of an oddity, in that they are a special caste maintained at the expense of patrons (usually the nobility) but who do not themselves possess vassals; they are entirely subject to the requirements of their lords without any other duties or responsibilities diverting their attention. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes warrior-caste Carthagians end up unable to find a new master in the wake of an old patron perishing or rejecting them, and these masterless men and women can turn to banditry or mercenary work to keep themselves alive. Caste mobility is possible but generally a slow affair involving the acceptance by figures in the new caste; a warrior-caste cannot simply decide to take up trading one day, as the merchant and administrative caste will not take kindly to dealing with him or her and will not accept the once-warrior so easily into their ranks. In their view warriors should keep to matters of battle, not bead-counting.

Carthagia is a highly fortified nation due to the dangerous landscape and the threat from outside. All sorts of creatures are a threat within the Carthagian wilds, including goblins, servitors and several identified dragons; the Wasteland is an ever-present source of more migrating creatures. Even the least of villages or quarries is walled and guarded. More than that, the Carthagian military is a surprisingly well-oiled machine for such a feudal arrangement, capable of calling together hundreds or even thousands of heavily-armed warriors remarkably quickly, forming serried ranks in their distinctive dark armour. The lower castes also serve as soldiers under certain circumstances, generally skirmishers or light infantry, serving for pay from their liege; only small numbers of lower caste serve permanently as soldiers, most often as scouts. These forces are buttressed by the Manipulators, who provide battlemagi and terrifying flesh-twisted creatures, and the Church of Toran - the churches host a great number of elite temple guard, as well as the infamous Fleshtearers, blessed beasts of Toran wrought by the Manipulators and made sacred by the temples.

The patron deity of Carthagia, Toran, is venerated to a level unmatched amongst other national patrons in other countries. Toran led the Carthagians to survival, and they love the Dark Saviour for his own ultimate sacrifice. A grim deity associated with strength, endurance and battle, Toran's temples and churches are grand but intimidating structures, intended to show power and strength rather than ostentatious wealth - for such a rich nation, the shrines to their beloved god are generally bereft of adornment. The Carthagians see this as a sign of respect, rather than trying to buy Toran's favour with the very wealth that his death, and that of their ancestors, bought for them. Ancestor worship is an equally important part of Carthagian faith as well, although often without involving any physical remnants of the dead - perhaps in echo of the thousands of bodies left to wither and dessicate on the desert sands. The rest of the High Host are worshipped in Carthagia, and their shrines are widespread, but they definitely take second place to Toran, King of the Host. The Church of Toran is immensely powerful in both social and political terms, as well as maintaining large numbers of temple troops and great treasuries of wealth; all castes of society are encouraged to donate to the church and the noble caste in particular see it as a duty of their status. The savage templar zealots of the churches are terrifying foes, filled with fervour and fanaticism, and there have been times when it was the Church, not the Crown, that truly ruled the nation.

The Manipulators are perhaps the best-known face of Carthagia outside its borders, not because they travel but because their handiwork is so highly prized. The flesh-twisters hold several fortified bastions throughout Carthagia, within which their arcane laboratories and training halls produce the next generation of mages - and the next generation of their biothaumaturgically engineered creations. The Manipulators breed a dizzying array of horrors, from minor alterations to common stock animals (like horses grafted with more muscle or hounds with rows of shark-like fangs in their maws) to entirely new species. They breed augmented draft animals, pets, war-beasts and the like, as well as a number of strains of strange plantlife. These they sell on to the people who desire such things, usually for vast sums of money - Huron, in particular, has been a major market for flesh-twisted creations in the past decades. In turn, the Manipulators need great volumes of resources for their work, including alchemical ingredients, test subjects and animal parts. The Fleshtearers, divine warriors of Toran, are constructed from a patchwork of parts in Manipulator labs; drazhikar claws are needed for their talons, and hence a high fee is payed for anyone bringing in a drazhikar, preferably alive (a very difficult task indeed).

Of course, before the Carthagians, these ancient mountains stood tall and strong for a long age, and there are still signs here and there of past masters of the landscape. Several ancient Umbral ruins have been thoroughly looted and picked apart by Manipulator teams and, during their delvings into the mountains, miners have regularly come across strange subterranean spaces - some just small constructions of a few chambers, others vast galleries and networks that stretch for miles. Some of these finds have been placed under lockdown by the Manipulator-General and the Church of Toran; whatever they may have found down there remains under lock and key for now.

The Indigo Marches[edit]

The contested lands between Naseria and Carthagia are known as the Indigo Marches, a patchwork of fiefs and shifting boundaries, wilds and unclaimed territory over which the great powers bicker. The Indigo Marches bear their name from the heath-plants and trees that grow here, known for their purple-hued blooms and leaves during early autumn; it's a major source of dyes of such colours. There are also veins of indigo-coloured rock that stretch through the earth here, sometimes breaching the surface to form entire hills and promontaries of colourful stone. Legend has it that Dharummut, the Great Wolf, stole a large portion of the spectrum of light in his mouth during the Dawn War so that the Elders could not see the stealthy approach of blue-skinned Naskha, and the Wolf hid in the shadow of the Carthagian mountains with his prize; where he drooled, his blue and purple saliva discoloured the stone and the plants.

The Indigo Marches have been the subject of sporadic wars between Naseria and Carthagia for centuries now. This appears to date back to the origins of both nations, wherein they first settled themselves and did not encroach on one another at that time - but both began to move into the Marches during the same period about two hundred years or so after the Dawn War. Since then, an unmappable tangle of grudges, casus belli, claims and accusations have formed an ongoing clash between the two nations that mostly restrains itself to political posturing and the occasional outbreak of hostilities in the Marches, but from time to time one side or the other raises a more significant force and tries to force the issue; most recently, during the Fang Wars about a decade ago, Carthagian armies attacked northern Naseria with the support of a new breed of draconic beasts called 'fang dragons' that had been bred in the Manipulator biothaumaturgy laboratories - and a significant cadre of Flame Guild mercenaries hired on for the assault. This assault reached as far as Corvus itself, besieging the city and breaking its defences, but supply issues, the turning of the seasons and the manoeuvering of other Naserian forces made the Carthagians retreat before they could properly sack the province capital. Since that time, Carthagian interests have dominated the Indigo Marches.

Due to the divine stories associated with the region, there are several religious enclaves devoted to the Great Wolf in the Marches; commonly wearing indigo garments, these adherents and priests are less focused on the wild savagery often associated with Dharummut and more on appropriate veneration of the Younger God for its role in the Dawn War. Generally, these communities remain aloof from the regional squabbles, but since the Wolf Rising of over a century ago, the border lords of Carthagia have agreed to cease deploying fleshtwisted canine breeds in battle through the Marches.


Icons: The Truth-Seeker

Like its neighbour Carthagia, Naseria directly owes its existence to one particular Younger God - in this case, the Laughing Sorcerer, Naskha. After the Dawn War and Naskha's excarnation, his large retinue of cultists and sorcerers settled in what is now modern-day Naseria, establishing their own arcane nation in place of the crumbling wreckage of the Drakkath administration that remained. Thus built by a priesthood of sorcerers, Naseria has evolved into a land of magical bloodlines ruling over the people, wherein sorcery is the highest display of Naskha's blood and the source of elevation to the highest status. Its ethnicities are a strange blend of the Drakkath people who originally lived there and the weird mixture of different peoples who had gathered under Naskha's banner, but these days the population is distinctly Naserian above all else.

Naseria itself is a wide land, mostly lowlands and forests. Its southern reaches, where the lands of House Fayn give way eventually to the wilderness that precedes the Ascarian tundra, are more hilly and wooded than elsewhere, while its eastern regions meet the Sarokean foothills. To the west, the curve of the Malachite Sea's eastern end provides coastline along which several ports thrive and prosper. Much of the lands of Naseria are extremely fertile and it produces a vast amount of agriculture, in particular the shining fields of wheat that cover the central plains from horizon to horizon. A myriad of rivers flow through the land, feeding into major arteries that lead to the Malachite; Naserian bridgework often involves structures that can be easily collapsed, turning these rivers into key defensive lines in case of invasion, particularly in the embattled northern lands of House Corvus.

In Naseria, one is either a noble or not; and one is either a sorcerer or not. The noble Houses are descended from the original orders of the Naskharite sorcerer-priesthood at the time of the nation's founding, and it is from these sorcerous bloodlines that the Houses claim their legitimacy. Numerous amongst the nobles are, of course, not actually sorcerers, as even the strongest bloodlines do not always produce those with arcane power; however, those born to sorcery amongst the common caste are usually offered House membership swiftly. Sorcery is the mark of Naskha's favour and his heritage, and in Naseria that is everything. There is, however, a broad division in the nobility between the Great and Lesser Houses - the Great Houses rule the larger provinces of the land and descend from the inner circle of Naskha's retinue, with House Tarravus supposedly descending directly from Naskha himself, while the Lesser Houses control smaller regions or are vassals of Great Houses.

In theory, all of Naseria is dutiful to the Sorcerer-Queen of House Tarravus, but in practice rivalry between the Houses, both Great and Lesser, dominates internal politics and even erupts into outright conflict from time to time. The Great Houses keep a lid on the worst of it, but as each House is expected to provide its own complement of troops in times of war, this also means that each House has a complement of troops to cause havoc with in feuds, struggles for economic gain or just petty malevolence against rivals. Naseria is a large land and much of it is far from the guiding hand of the Great Houses and the grand cities, and so in the provinces there are plentiful examples of petty corruption, near-lawlessness and other such problems. The emergence of a new sorcerer amongst the common caste is often an instigator in change in some way, as Houses attempt to snap them up or they lash out against local injustice with their new power.

The faith of Naskha is dominant in Naseria, but often in a less fervent way than that of Toran in Carthagia - the people of Naseria are comfortable in the knowledge that they are Naskha's favoured children, and while they pay him homage as their patron, other gods are given appropriate deference and due worship. Veneration of ancestors is also commonly practiced although with a twist from other regions; it is of vital importance to know the lineage of the ancestors from the original Naserian retinue of sects and orders, as important as the actual ancestors themselves, and there are a number of official lineages to which people attach their ancestral line to - sometimes regardless of the actual veracity of such a claim. These sacred lineages form the backbone of ancestral worship but also form links between families and communities that share them, and can even become a significant factor in the wrangling and arrangements that surround marriages or even business contracts.

There are, as one might expect, a great number of Naskha sub-cults in Naseria that exist as children to the primary cult of the god. One of the best known are the Cerulean, priests who tattoo themselves with the holy scripts of Naskha in a blue ink, written so finely that from a distance they look like they are actually blue-skinned in mimicry of the Great Sorcerer himself. Of course, some are less accepted; splinters and heresies have been common over the years, and occasionally have thrown up some particularly malign groups like the Godling Blood (a group who believe in the extermination of non-sorcerers) and the Azure Mouth (biothaumaturgical heretics with some strange ideas about the nature of sorcery and its inheritance). Matters are made more complex because Naskha, having been a mortal sorcerer, wrote a great deal of arcane and sorcerous tracts alongside later philosophical treatises, orders and instructions for his retinue, teaching guidelines for the apprentices he took and his personal diaries. Only some of these are officially holy texts, but there are always cultists eager to latch on to the others as holding some divine truth as well, spawning new little schisms and schools of thought (epitomised derisively in a line from a work of the great poet Seranius Fayn, who famously said 'the desperate will find truth even in the contents of the Great Sorcerer's chamber pot'). Rumour has it that the High Golden Seat, the grand temple to Naskha in Tarravus, has a particular holy book hidden in a secure vault which apparently includes truths and concepts that are considered too dangerous to be publicly known.

Naseria generally prides itself on being a civilised and learned land, even with the bickering and rivalry amongst its Houses. Indeed, this nation is home to a number of major libraries, academic guilds, scholarly fraternities and so forth. The widespread use of sorcery and magic has given the Naserians great opportunity to further their understanding of the world around them, and there is much to be learned in their storehouses of knowledge. In particular, the most prominent crafts-guilds maintain their own specialist scholars in the subject matter of their work, an unusual step in maintaining their own lines of craft and advancement. Donations and favour from the Houses to such guild academics is a common and approved way for nobles to buy themselves some respect from the artisans. Books, scrolls, crystal memory records, god-inked leathers and other sources of recorded lore are generally considered high-status gifts amongst Naserians, given to show off wealth or indicate respect and love for the recipient. Literacy is extremely widespread, well beyond that of other nations, and the writing of prayers and offerings of worship is a key element in showing reverence to the gods; Naserian shrines to the gods are usually hung with great reels of prayer-script.

Economically, Naseria is a strong nation sitting on the major trade routes that come eastwards from the Malachite Sea. Trade goods and wealth flow through its ports and towns, and rivalry with Carthagia on this front is a significant source of tension between the two nations. In the face of powerful rivals on the Malachite, Naserian naval strength has been slowly bolstered over the years; in the modern age, the nation has a significant maritime military presence, reinforced by the elite sorcerous practitioners of the Tide Knights. In general, the maintenance and protection of the trade routes through Naseria is a key focus of the administration, and so the highways are well preserved and well patrolled; messing with the routes is generally considered a step too far in internal squabbles amongst the Houses, likely to result in harsh sanction from uninvolved Houses or even the royal line itself.

The mage-knights of the elemental orders are famed well beyond the borders of Naseria - the four elite organisations of elemental sorcerer-warriors provide specialists for the Naserian military, a reliable force that will answer to the royal family's commands, and a stabilising element that is not tied to the Houses and their power struggles. The Iron Knights watch to the east from their great bastions and serve as heavy infantry in battle; the Flame Knights mostly watch the north and south borders and operate as elite strike troops during war. The Tide Knights shore up the naval power of Naseria; the Storm Knights offer elite light cavalry for the armies of the nation, as well as serving as secure and loyal messengers and lines of communication across the nation's heartlands. All four orders combine elementally-channeled sorcery with martial prowess in a devastating combination, and in times of strife entire units of these warrior-magi take to the field. They are popular figures in Naserian culture as well, both due to their hallowed status as loyal servants of the line of Naskha and also because of the practice of knight errants, knights who undertake personal journeys as individuals or small bands in search of enlightenment or on particular missions for their Orders. Folklore and stories often include the noble Elemental Knight who deals with a corrupt official or unjust local headsman; their apparent seperation from House politics makes people generally idealise them as incorruptible. The truth, of course, is rather different, but the Knights have generally remained a loyal and reliable tool of the state over the generations rather than devolving into House factions or becoming embroiled in such squabbles.

In past ages, the land that would become Naseria was under the yoke of a changing roster of rulers and masters. The immense but ruined Gedastrian Road marks what was once a major Drakkath Empire route for the movement of troops; now, House Corvus seeks to rebuild it once again. The famed ruined temple-city of Xaifun, consumed by the forests that have grown through and around it, is a surprisingly popular site for scholars and academics who wish to examine Empire-era structures; its beautiful carvings, wrought by the hands of thousands of slave-labourers, are a reminder of the grandeur and decadence of that fallen civilisation. The Sunrise Pillar is an immense, flowing structure of marble-like stone that erupts up from the western plains, an isolated, huge structure that looks like it is fluid frozen in the moment of its fall; the origins of the Pillar remain utterly mysterious. The Forever Pools, on the other hand, are known to be of Elder make - a series of eerie wells of what appears to be petrified water, solidified (but not frozen) with the very ripples and waves preserved on the surface. These weird installations are clearly arcane in nature and a myriad of theories have sprung up around them, including that they are locked portals (and the arguments about whether the strange, silvery things spotted a little below their surface are fish go some very weird directions).

The Malachite Sea[edit]

The green waters of the Malachite Sea reach out for leagues to the west, ending in Naseria's coast to the east and enclosed to the north and south by other lands. Eventually, the westward reaches open out into the expanse of the Garnet Sea, and thence can a ship reach other, distant oceans and continents. A great deal of trade and commerce runs along the sea, particularly due to the influence of the mercantile Masked Kateni city-states along its southern coast. This can also sometimes result in blood muddying its viridian depths, as privateers and raiders spar on the waves for supremacy over the flow of coin and wealth. Worse, there are powers in those depths; the sahuagin septs are few, but submarine servitors seem to have survived and thrived here, and some are sentient and mighty enough to influence events that occur on their sea.

The sea is scattered with many small islands; some are home to minor communities or island nations, but many are uninhabited or home only to Dawn-era ruins. A series of immense, toppled skytowers, originally the handiwork of the Elder God Ephras, dot these islands; their half-submerged bulk makes them a great danger to passing vessels. Consistent rumours speak of largely intact Umbral ruins still standing on some particularly remote islands. Solid land is not the only feature to break the monotony of the waves in the Malachite Sea - this is the home of the weird sea-forests, great tangles of wood and branch that rise up from sheer water and which can stretch for miles of timber-floored 'island'. These sea-forests are said to be the hair of Lliras, rising from her scalp deep below the sea; above the water, the tangled timbers create an entire forest ecosystem, with only the occasional boulder tangled and lifted from the sea floor by growing trees as a source of stone. A number of sea-forests are inhabited by odd lizardman tribes; the forests tend to have an eternal layer of mist below their canopy, rendering the lower levels gloomy and slick with moisture, while over the mist there is an eruption of colour amongst both the native flora and fauna. Upon rare occasions, sea-forests have broken from their timber root-moorings and been cast adrift, eventually ending up slung ashore as an entire swathe of new woodland.

The Wreck Shores[edit]

Running along the northern edge of the Malachite Sea where it is closest to Carthagia, wedged between waters and Wasteland, the Wreck Shores stretch for dozens of leagues before civilised lands once again claim hold. Fierce battles that were waged in both the Wasteland and the Sea during the Dawn War (and before it) have caused this shoreline to be littered with debris and detritus of long-forgotten empires and ancient feuds. Vast, rusting hulks, toppled obsidian towers, immense dredging systems bound by broken chain-links the size of elephants... the salt-encrusted, corroding Wrecks run miles inland along shallow, flat grasslands and dunes, split by innumerable rivulets that dribble out of the southern Wastes. Despite its inhospitable nature, the Wreck Shores are an important land-based lifeline of trade from the western lands to the eastern, and a number of small, fortified communities and ports have grown up along the coast here; most are independent trade-towns, but many in the eastern reaches pay at least lipservice to Carthagia (if not outright tribute payment) in return for which Carthagian troops aid in the patrolling and protection of the Shorelands.

Life clings to existence rather precariously in this region. The Wastelands occasionally cough out raiding goblins or wandering servitors; the waters themselves play host to other dangers, including tribute demands from oozing, flopping sea-beasts that communicate with their thoughts, the servitor-children of either Hashrukk or Shauku. The Wrecks themselves offer danger; rusting vessels serve as crude fortresses for bandits to operate from, while some still hold payloads or cargoes that are slowly corroding over the years, spilling out toxic or arcane materials that warp and contaminate the surrounding landscape. An entire wreck-town was destroyed only five years ago when an intrepid band of scavengers hauled a number of containment pods out of an Elder warship mostly buried in the sands; unfortunately, when opened, it turned out the contents were a weaponised servitor-species held in stasis, still fully alive and operational after the centuries that had past.

Despite the desolation, the Shores do produce goods; scavenged materials are the best-known, but so are a number of seaweed-based products, strangely transmuted sands and water found in the vicinity of crumbling old wrecks. Most notable, though, are the glass shards taken from the Vitrine Streams, which are resilient and fashioned into glass-pages by Shore artisans that are highly prized in the Drakkath.

The Southern Lands of High Kyros and Ascaria[edit]

South of the Drakkath lie the vast, rolling steppelands of the northern Ascari tribes and the broken, mountainous highlands of High Kyros - two peoples caught in a conflict that is reshaping the region. The two are radically different; the Ascarians have lived in this landscape for untold centuries, stretching back deep into the Dawn Age, while High Kyros is a colony of another, distant nation that has taken its own independence and now seeks to becoming a dominating power. Neither of them hold a common language with the Drak of the north, and their traditions are distinct from those that have descended from the fallen Drakkath Empire, although the centuries have seen a certain amount of intermixing between Ascari and Drak in bordering areas. There is a similar mixing of bloodlines that has occurred in High Kyros, although this is by dint of Kyrosi conquerors integrating Drak and Ascarian tribes into the fabric of their own society during the initial years of colonisation.

A common and misguided view of the south lands from those of the northern Drakkath and Huron is that it is a vast, flat, cold landscape, broken only by the mountains of High Kyros which are equally cold and snow-covered. The truth is, however, that while the southern reaches are certainly colder than the Drakkath, there is much relatively temperate steppe, taiga and mountain before one reaches the true tundra. Even the Ascarian steppes are broken by mountains and regions of hills, and the northern parts of both nations feature plenty of taiga forests as well. Still, winters are long and cold here, and the people have adapted to the bitter temperatures of the seasons.

The Storm Mountains[edit]

The rising Storm Mountains mark the southern boundary of the Drakkath, a mighty wall of peaks reaching for the sky that runs west from the Marble Sea, eventually curving south-west before tapering out in the steppelands; the gap there, between the Sarokean and Storm ranges, is known as the Sarok Expanse. For much of its length, the Storm range is a relatively narrow band of foothills and mountains, but in the east it billows out southwards into the Kyros Plateau, a broad mass of highlands and peaks that shelters the heartlands of High Kyros and runs down along the coast. Here, too, it eventually diminishes into lesser hills before finally reducing to nothing in the far southern permafrost.

The Storms are a savage landscape hammered by rough weather; the Roost of Ishrak, as the range is sometimes called, sees brutal storms, howling winds and thick blizzards far more regularly than the lowlands around it. Meteorothaumaturgists offer a large number of explanations as to the weather systems causing this, but most people accept that the mountain range was the home of Ishrak in the Dawn Age and leave it at that. A number of dangerous passes wind through the Storms, but the threat of the mountains' inhabitants and the unpredictable weather mean that most would rather take ship down the coast or travel through the Sarok Expanse to reach the southern lands. The Storms outside of High Kyros are not entirely uninhabited - a few hardy villages cling to the high valleys, mining towns eke out an existence in the shadow of the mountains and the rare township manages to survive - but the area is generally poorly charted. Travellers have reported various phenomena and strange sights in the Storms - ruined cities built high on mountaintops, immense crackling lightning-towers of the Dawn era that blaze with light during vicious storms, and remote sects of Ishrakite priests and elemental practitioners perched amidst the peaks.

The mountains play host to plenty of wild beasts and the occasional servitor. Goblins can be found here, small and hardy clans of survivors that have evaded Kyrosi slavers. Both they and the local humans speak fearfully of a truly sinister threat in the mountains - strange frost and wind spirits that can weave illusions and glamours with ease, living in palaces carved into the peaks' and toying with mere mortal lives that fall into their clutches. These predatory, malign spirits can change their shape with ease, but are said to naturally look like hybrids of man (or goblin) and mountain beasts. They rarely seem to be any sort of danger for High Kyros caravans and travellers, however; presumably, the Frost Council have made a pact or treaty with the beings. Ogres are also a problem in the region; unlike their kin who were shackled by the Shadowfury's dark magic, the ogre phratries of the Storms still retain a great deal of their ancient culture and traditions, some even maintaining the titles and organisation of actual Elder-era servitor regiments. These ogre phratries rarely fight amongst themselves, which makes them all the more dangerous; their numbers have been slowly growing during the Zenith Age and they have a knack for violence that makes them a real danger for both the south lands and the Drakkath.


An island of substantial landmass in the southern reaches of the Marble Sea, Thunderbreak is a province of High Kyros that consists of jagged peaks, smouldering volcanoes and fertile ash-plains that sweep down to the crashing waters. Masyra's Landfall, the provincial capital, is the main port on Thunderbreak and a key naval bastion. Much of the island remains a savage, untamed place where the menaces of volcanic activity and brutal weather make the idea of escape for Thunderbreak's extensive slave population an unlikely notion; chain-gangs of prisoners work in relentless conditions to hew out valuable ores and minerals from Thunderbreak's rocky skin. The ash-plains provide the townships of the province with farmland, but the winds and storms that hammer the island during the stormy season mean that it is not the abundant breadbasket that it could potentially be.

Thunderbreak is where the first of the High Kyros colonists made landfall, and served as a staging post for the further journey on to the Drakkath landmass. While it remains an important port location, it probably would have mostly been left undeveloped were it not for the discovery of the mineral wealth that the island hoards beneath its surface. Even administrative duties on Thunderbreak are often considered a punishment assignment for magi and officials; it is a remote post in a bleak landscape. That said, the shipments of minerals and ore from the island are important to the economy of High Kyros, and for the canny there is money to be made. The naval defence force for Thunderbreak is a potent flotilla that has in the past repelled attempted invasions from White Bay city-states and Ara polities, and even held strong during the internal turmoil of the Two Councils a century ago that temporarily plunged High Kyros into civil war.

Outside of the High Kyros settlements, there are few other inhabitants on the island. Occasional small bands of escaped slaves manage to make little enclaves for themselves in the remote, broken northern coastline of Thunderbreak, but it's a poor life; Thunderbreak is too far from the mainland for any hope of escape without a proper sea vessel, and sahuagin septs have no compunctions about raiding such poorly defended settlements. There are several sects of elemental practitioners, adepts of storm and tide, scattered around the peaks and coasts of the island, and a single famed order of flame practitioners who live a perilous existence amidst the fuming volcanic vents of Thunderbreak's most active volcanoes. A few inhuman beings lurk in the island's more distant reaches, but the greatest threat comes from the elemental entities that sometimes emerge from the lava or the storm-wracked skies; for some reason, Thunderbreak seems to attract many such beings, and they can prove difficult to comprehend or deal with when invigorated or enraged by the primal energies around them.

High Kyros[edit]

Icons: The Frost Envoy

During the time of the Drakkath Empire, what is now High Kyros was a handful of minor prefectures of little consequence; small ports, mines and little more. With the Empire's fall, the Zenith Age first saw nothing more than a few Drak tribes and townships clinging to existence; over the following two centuries, the bulk of what population remained migrated either north to the Drakkath or west to Ascaria. The people who now rule this mountainous domain came afterwards, journeying from an entirely different continent.

The far northern regions of Ara largely remain a mystery, though the continent reaches far enough north for a swathe of marshlands to merge into permafrost. Somewhere on the western coast of this region, the progenitor civilisation of High Kyros survived the Dawn War relatively intact, forming a militaristic magocracy. The colonisation of High Kyros, a region as far south as this civilisation was north - and across the sea, to boot - was ordered by the ruling magiarchs according to particular occult and arcane designs. The scale of conquest and population movement that they had in mind would never be achieved swiftly, not even over several generations, but the arcane organisation allowed the magiarchs to take a long term view for their grand effort. In their judgement, the eldritch resources that lay in High Kyros were worthwhile.

High Kyros covers a region of the Storm Mountains that runs along the Marble Sea, going as far west inland as where the Kyros Plateau gives way to the lowlands of the steppe. To the north, more of the Storms seperate the country from the Drakkath; to the south, the mountains eventually give way to a hilly landscape, then to tundra. The first wave of colonists were no more than a handful of vessels, an expeditionary force establishing a beach-head on the eastern coast, and over the coming decades the initial Kyros settlements clung to the coastline. A century of support from the homeland bolstered the population of the ports and their hinterlands enough that the colony began to push inland, having received an influx of new Kyrosi driven by a desire for a new life, seeking opportunity, sent there as slaves or convicts to serve as labour or just hapless enough to be in one of the provinces that were depopulated to feed the new colony's hunger for manpower by magiarch orders. Two hundred years after first landfall, the highly organised Kyrosi military had pushed the colony's control throughout the mountainous region, subjugating the native Drak and Ascari communities and engaging in a series of battles with ogre and goblin warlords, breaking the back of local resistance to their power. Another hundred years, and High Kyros was almost an established nation in its own right, one grown with astounding speed from almost nothing. The jewel in the crown of the Kyrosi homeland, the rich mineral resources and - more importantly - arcane resources of the landscape were being plundered and shipped back over the sea to the satisfied magiarchs. Their discipline and foresight had proven wise - three hundred years had passed, and the rewards of the great effort were worth it after all.

This reward, however, came at the cost to the colony itself, the payment of its dues for the resources and mapower pitched into the colonisation over the centuries. High Kyros was indeed almost a nation in its own right, nearly as populous as the homeland, and the magiarchs who had come to prominence in this new land found that the tithe they had to shoulder was one they begrudged. When civil war erupted in the homeland, the opportunistic arcanists of High Kyros took advantage and declared independence, protected from effective retaliation by distance - and it seems the old Kyrosi homeland has truly fallen apart, ripped asunder by brutal internecine conflict amongst the duelling magiarchs there.

In the modern day, High Kyros is a land of stern order in the iron grip of the Frost Council, the ruling conclave of cryomancers that oversees the grand sweep of Kyrosi operations. The power-seeking arcanists have never rested on their laurels; the generations that have passed since the independence of High Kyros have done more than just consolidate their hold on the mountainous realm, they have looked to expand it. The Frost Council are jealous of their influence too, and magi who are not cryomancers are few and far between, watched carefully by the Frost Council if they are given license to practice magic at all. As for the steel-masked cryomancers themselves, all are trained to hold their own in combat, and it seems that the Kyrosi mages have either unearthed lost ritual lore or developed it themselves, for Frost Council group rituals seem to be capable of far greater feats than spellcasters in other lands can manage. The most terrifying and potent of these rites are the weeks-long incantations of entire circles of magiarchs that sculpt and animate immense ice golems from amidst the southern glacier-valleys, juggernauts of destruction that they have not hesitated to unleash on the Ascarians.

Of course, the arcane overlords of the magocracy have higher matters to attend to than the lesser functions of running and administering the nation's machinery. The transplanted society of the Kyrosi is, in some ways, quite egalitarian - the state below the Frost Council is somewhat meritocratic, and there is no hereditary noble caste. Centuries have given rise to prominent dynasties and families, of course, but skill and competence go at least part way in determining an individual's path to prominence. Law and order are harshly enforced, and rank offers little protection if the Frost Council determines that an example needs to be made. The Kyrosi bureaucracy has developed various examinations and tests for assessing potential candidates, and the cryomancers themselves also take advantage of this - certain promising examinees are taken as apprentices to magiarchs for a period not exceeding three years. Of course, many fail to reach the level required to become a cryomancer, and after the three years of training are instead given roles as agents, mage-hunters, elemental mage-knights and assassins in the employ of the Council.

The towns and cities of High Kyros are bustling places with booming populations. Most major settlements still lie on the coast of the Marble Sea, including Jormung where the Frost Council sits in government; here, the fjords and craggy valleys offer sheltered ports and harbours for the vital maritime trade that comes to and from the nation. Further inland, the valleys are dotted with small agricultural villages and mining towns, punctuated by occasional administrative centres and military bastions. The rapid expansion of the colony resulted in most of even the most important buildings in Kyrosi settlements being made from timber rather than stone and, adapting to this, the Kyrosi have evolved a tradition of very ornate woodcarving that they employ on their structures; some of the coastal cities have buildings made from great sea-beast carapace, but the local population of the massive house-crustaceans was quickly annihilated in the early years of the colony. Much of the farmland in eastern High Kyros was originally forest, cut down to clear the land and feed the Kyrosi expansion's need for lumber. Further inland, and even the Frost Council cannot entirely tame the wilderness; most major threats to civilisation have long since been expunged, but ogre phratries and goblin clans still exist in significant numbers and are a source of occasional raids. Far to the south, where the mountains give way to tundra, the many-limbed and carapaced 'men of ice' and their concrete-and-chitin nests provide a vicious frontier for High Kyros interests.

High Kyros society and culture is rather strange in many ways, due in part to its nature as a rapid-grown colony and nation. Almost in challenge to the ordered, stern nation, the placid and lawful surface of Kyrosi society masks an simmering confusion of cults, conspiracies and mysteries that the Kyrosi seem to take a certain glee in indulging. With few internal barriers from caste or nobility, the Kyrosi have instead given form to a clutch of alternate, adopted secretive subcultures known colloquially as the Red Societies - often tending towards the religious, philosophical or outright criminal, Red Societies unite the Kyrosi members in a group to which they feel a sense of belonging and which offers them purpose in the form of the Society's agendas. The Red Societies thread through all levels of High Kyros; officially the Frost Council opposes their existence, but some cryomancers belong to Red Societies and the Frost Council probably makes active use of these secret societies as political pawns. The thriving power of the Red Societies probably stems from the growing tensions within High Kyros; the population explosion taking place is straining the landscape's ability to support them, and the common people seek to use philosophy and faith as means to understand their place in the world and whether the magocracy that reigns over them is truly what they want. In the long term, the development of the Red Societies, and the growing social awareness surrounding them, may threaten Frost Council authority. This perhaps explains the Council's drive to establish the national idea of the Kyrosi as rightful rulers and conquerers, that they have a manifest destiny - through conquest and aggression, they can stem the tide of unrest within their people and sate it with the spoils of war and rule over other, 'lesser' peoples.

High Kyros also includes some rather more exotic people within its society. Some of the inland basins and valleys of the mountains hide marshes or lakes, and here the initial Kyrosi colonists encountered well-established communities of lizardfolk. Rather than conquest, these swamp people were taken into the fold of Kyrosi society, offered full rights and trade benefits through a series of treaties that has since caused small lizardfolk quarters to spring up in the major High Kyros cities. In return, the lizardmen are highly respected for their service in Kyrosi scout units and, on very rare occasions, lizardfolk have reached the high status of the magiarchs themselves, finding a place on the Frost Council. The other, more mysterious side of the Kyros people is also somewhat reptilian but far more secretive than the publically embraced lizardfolk - there appear to be certain bloodlines amongst the Kyrosi, lineages stemming back from the Ara homeland, that are for want of a better description serpentine. Even the Kyrosi themselves seem to have little knowledge of these reptilian bloodlines and investigation into the rare sightings of such figures are heavily discouraged.

The Kyrosi are not, as a rule, inclined towards the reverence of ancestors; instead, they believe in a minor pantheon of national spirits that have guided their nation throughout the ages, and these twenty or so patrons are worshipped and petitioned as a more worldly, lower caste of divinity below the true Younger Gods. Amongst the Younger Gods themselves, the Kyrosi naturally tend to revere the deities of sea, storm, mountain and war more than others, and Ishrak's church in particular has become a prominent power in its own right. Most Kyrosi see Ishrak as the foremost and most powerful of the Younger Gods, one who is a natural fit to their harsh mountain homeland and the seas that crash against their shore. In recent decades, both Urazel and Toran have seen a surge in petitions as well, mostly due to the military expansion west into Ascaria.

Kyros Lowlands[edit]

West of the mountains of High Kyros lies the steppe of Ascaria; here, the armies and settlers of the Kyrosi have carved a new dominion, their provinces expanding over what once were the lands of Ascari blood-clans. The military machine of High Kyros has rolled inexorably westward, sacking settlements and chaining communities as it has gone, a decades-long expansion that leaves pallisaded towns, dirt roads and farmlands in its wake. For now, the lowlands run as far as the broad, deep Praga river, a border guarded by outposts and mustering grounds for Kyros raiders to stage new attacks from.

The invasion has been driven by several factors; the growing population of High Kyros, the general desire by the once-colonists for expansion and wealth, and the Frost Council's hunger for arcane resources - the Ascarian lands hold many sacred sites and spots of elemental energy, all of which the cryomancers wish to take for themselves. Unlike the early stages of Kyrosi colonisation, where Drak and Ascari tribes were assimilated, many of the Ascarians conquered in the current expansion end up enslaved, with the most unfortunate or rebellious sent to Thunderbreak. Mines and industries erupt across the lowlands like a rash, tapping into resources that the blood-clans have not fully exploited.

Central to the lowlands provinces is the city of Verdigris Hold, formerly a major Ascarian town before the Kyrosi conquered it and rebuilt it. Sitting amidst a network of hot springs, geysers and mineral lakes that are awash with copper-rust and other chemical substances, Verdigris Hold taps into the heat and steam of the earth through a series of complex thaumineering engines. Now a centre of trade with expansive slave-markets, Verdigris Hold as attracted a burgeoning population of mercenaries, merchants and opportunists clustering at the skirts of the Frost Councillors who rule over their new domain. It seems that whatever elemental energies run under the region, the cryomancers have found a key focusing point under Verdigris Hold and the city regularly shudders and groans from the arcane powers that are being called together in the subterranean ritual-chamber that the Council have drilled down at the heart of the settlement.


Icons: The Wolf-Chosen

Ascaria is a vast landscape, home to innumerable blood-clans of Ascari tribesmen connected together by trade-towns and Ash Lodges. In past ages, the Ascarians were a huge and terrible army, united under the banner of the Steel Lion, who crashed against the walls of northern lands, sacked their cities and reduced their lands to ashes. They danced and slew in honour of the Steel Lion, they drove themselves into the frigid southern wastes to offer the heat of their blood to the Lion's own progenitor Shauku, and when the Dawn War came the thundering legions of the Ascarian praetorians were amongst the most terrifying of the Elder Gods' servant-armies; once Dharummut won their loyalty and slew the Steel Lion, they strove with mighty effort against their former masters and won great victories at vast cost of Ascarian lives. But the Ascari of today seem a pale shadow beside that terrifying horde from the distant past; they are numerous, yes, and they are brave, yes, but they are not united. Before the great advance of the iron-disciplined war machine of High Kyros, they fight with glorious strength and, with tragic inevitability, they lose.

The Ascarian steppes are an immense swathe of rolling steppelands and taiga, broken up by hills and occasional proud mountains that rear up from the landscape. To the south, the landscape eventually chills into the tundra, where the far-flung Ascari still roam; further south still, where more mountains erupt and the frigid southern coast can be found, where glaciers hold court amidst the crags and where icebergs clamour and clash in the waters, even the Ascari blood-clans give up and leave the wilds untouched. West, far west, and the Munerik hold sway; a different people with different traditions, alternately allies, kinsmen and enemies of the Ascari over centuries of feuding, trading and squabbling. The steppes and tundra are so vast that even though the Ascarians are great in number, one can travel long beneath the open sky and never see another human being.

The blood-clans are strung together by a network of bloodlines and marriages that create small federations, each led by an arslan, a 'lion' who serves as overall chieftain of several clans. Arslans contest with one another over grazing lands or feuds, maintaining an ongoing, internecine series of minor conflicts that largely keep Ascarian society from truly unifying. Many Ascarians have long though a unified nation would be a grand thing - and they all believe their arslan is the one who should rule it. This has served them poorly in the face of Kyros aggression; the superior arcane science and discipline of the Kyros advance has been met with loose alliances between desperate arslans, but nothing like the steppe-wide federation of arslans that could actually halt and even drive back the mountain-people. Mobility is another issue; unlike the Huronese far to the north, the Ascarians are not a horse-people; horses are common, but many Ascarians still fight and travel on foot, accompanying their herds in great migratory patterns around their grazing lands.

Ascarian life is one filled with ritual, fire and sacrifice. They are an immensely devout people, honouring Dharummut above all but revering every Younger God they know of in the appropriate element of life for that deity. In the course of the year, the migratory patterns of the blood-clans lead them to various sacred sites on their territory, most of which will be sanctified to a given Younger who is then offered appropriate devotion and sacrifice. On a regular basis, especially around battle and warfare, sacrifices of beasts (and, very rarely, people) are made to the gods. The ancestors are deeply, deeply revered, especially what is known as the Eaten - the event that turned the Ascarians from loyal Elder servants to rebels was when Dharummut tore open the belly of the Steel Lion, revealing that the immensely powerful servitor had actually been devouring the spirits of the dead Ascari people. The eating of sacrificed animals is an important part of Ascari rituals, as animal flesh consumed in this way is thought to go some measure towards restoring the souls of the Eaten.

At the centre of Ascari spirituality is the organisation of the Ash Lodges. These shamanic priests of Dharummut hold sway as intermediaries and advisors amongst the Ascari blood-clans; they maintain the most sacred sites of the Great Wolf, and oversee the cross-clan ceremonies when the people come together in winter to partake of the fire dances and the reading of old memory-wolves. Ash Brothers and Sisters are commonly thought of as some sort of savage mystics by northerners, but the truth is that they maintain libraries of lore and storehouses of relics of their people; they take on a fierce appearance as suits their patron deity, but they are by no means bestial of mind. They have long held together the society of the Ascarians; now, under the leadership of the fire-scarred Wolf-Chosen, they look set to transform it. Having defeated the fiery avatar of the Great Wolf, this high priest is set on aggressively unifying the arslans, planning to force them into a federation that seeks not just to fight the Kyrosi but also to remake the entire people into a powerful, aggressive nation.

The most sacred site in Ascaria is the Wolf Excarnate, the carcass of Dharummut. When flung to earth by an Elder God, the grievously wounded god crashed through the Sarok Expanse and on into the Ascari heartlands, tearing a series of gorges, canyons and craters until it came to rest and excarnated into true divinity; here, the remnants of the body are zealously guarded by the Ash Lodge. To eat of the flesh of Dharummut is to gain great power, and it is an honour only rarely gifted by the Brothers and Sisters to great leaders and heroes. The scrimshawed claws and bones of the god are amongst the most holy relics of the Dharummut faith, enough so that grand thearchs and high priests of far distant lands have come seeking such precious talismans for their home countries.

Since the death of Dharummut, wolves have become a common animal in Ascaria, and they are considered as holy creatures; hunting wolves is a sacred act. A peculiar rite has grown up around the notion of 'memory-wolves' - the capture of a wild wolf, followed by dying or scarring it with patterns and words that tell the name and story of a recently dead man or woman whose life has been worth recording. When Ascari come across a dead memory-wolf, it is their duty to capture a new wolf and copy the old tale across to the new one, preserving it for future generations. In this way, a great number of Ascarian wolves have painted or tattooed hides, their flesh bearing words in scars; to kill a memory-wolf, or to ritually capture one for a great ceremony, brings the memory of the dead man or woman back to the fore of the minds of the living, letting them reread the tale of the deceased and remember it afresh.

Other unusual elements of Ascarian society can be seen in their magic and warrior-traditions. Certain warrior-brotherhoods exist across blood-clans, often long and storied associations of fighters, martial exponents and hunters that have ther own traditions, tactics and folklore. Some rare few are associated with the Ash Lodge, and these practice esoteric and spiritual techniques of the furies. In general, the Ascarians make more use of ritual tattooing and scarification to open up the body's elemental channels than the Drak people do, and an extensive body of lore has grown up around using and manipulating these channels to heal - and to harm. Ascarian magi are rare, but the elementalists that do emerge amongst the blood-clans often use extensive scarification to further strengthen their magic. In recent times, faced with Kyrosi arcane supremacy, many elementalists have voluntarily engaged in dangerous levels of scarification, acupuncture and alchemy to fully open their elemental channels to a dangerous, consuming level, making them incredibly potent arcanists for brief periods of time to battle the Frost Council before their flaring magic overwhelms them.

Despite its disunified nature, Ascaria is as a whole a serious economic element in the Drakkath region. Trade in hides, pelts, furs (especially the precious seremat), herbs and drugs from steppe-plants and flowers, ivory and woven cloth are important for both the Drakkath and the Ascari people, as well as trade with the Munerik and Masked Kateni farther west. Amongst the lands of the blood-clans, permanent trade-towns have grown up, and certain routes through the steppes are so well-travelled as to be roads with waystations growing up around them - and, unfortunately, raids on caravans and travellers by the more lawless blood-clans. Further south, in the tundra itself, the trade-towns peter out; once per year, the southern blood-clans drive north to the towns to trade and sell their goods.

The Ascaria blood-clans are not the only inhabitants of the steppe and tundra. Savage gnoll bands roam far and wide, selling their services to the arslans for their feuds and battles, or just pillaging and raiding. These gnolls have a distinct culture from their kindred in the Drakkath and further north; they still offer propitiation to the Elder Gods in strange, remote shrines and are sometimes accused of encouraging and aiding the sporadic Elder cults that lurk in Ascarian society. They also have a tradition of selling the self; band-members take on a contract of service wherein they render themselves another's property, voluntary slavery, an act that is apparently of important significance and personal development in their spiritual code. Most commonly, this comes in the form of making themselves the bodyguard of an Ascarian willing to pay the band the appropriate price; gnoll slave-bodyguards are devoted and willing to die for their chosen master, and their ferocious and dark reputation earns their owner a great deal of respect and fear. Beyond gnolls, the steppes also see goblin clans and the occasional ogre phratrie lurking amongst the hills, timelong enemies of the blood-clans where both sides have often tested each others' mettle; far south, in the tundra, a series of goblin towns stand in a confederation that has enough strength to seriously threaten the nearby Ascarians. Other creatures terrorise the great expanse; winged beasts strike the most fear as there is no-where to easily hide from them, and hippogriffs and drazhikar are both held in high esteem in Ascarian culture as symbols of terror, strength and speed.

Signs of Ascaria's past still scar the landscape; from the wounds carved by the Great Wolf's death, to the rusted, collapsed fortresses of the Steel Lion. Several regions, damaged badly during the Dawn War, have become geologically active spots with geysers and steam vents, chemical pools and steaming lakes; some hold ancient meteorites at their hearts. A few examples of Ephras's library-forests still stand - woodlands of strange, gnarled trunks and boughs interlaced with one another, where the bark is twisted into the forms of bizarre words and the soft wood beneath can be scraped away into pages and pages of weird, babbling text. A rare few areas have eerie 'hidden hills', where the air itself seems to warp and twist light; from a distance, one can see a great hill, but on getting closer said earth formation fades away. Surviving warbands of the Steel Lion's servitors often lair and lurk in such places of broken reality. Immense, lumbering behemoths with fuming vents on their carapaced backs slowly prowl the southern reaches, where steppe becomes tundra; their shells, metal-threaded internal organs and ivory are highly prized, and an arslan whose home is a behemoth shell is a powerful figure indeed.

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