By the Blade!
The first Independent Cities were founded by the Syranthians in an attempt to avoid the taxes imposed by Kyros on the goods coming from the south of the world. They were far more successful that the Syranthians had expected. Desert nomads, Ivory Savannah Tribes and, occasionally, Caldeian merchants started to visit them, selling goods from the south and buying products from Faberterra, Tricarnia and other northern reigns. In a few years the Independent Cities increased in number and grew in size, going from small trading posts to large cities. This happened also thanks to the adventurers and other shady individuals who came here from all over the Dominions, lured by the prospect of easy money to be made.
In the end, distant Syranthia lost control over these fiercely independent cities.
Today, a dozen Independent Cities exist, but the most important are Hillias, on the Dread Sea, and Teyerana, on the shores of the Endless Ocean. The first is ruled by a merchant league, similar to Syranthia’s, while the other is a monarchy, governed with an iron fist by Korr, a former pirate from the Fingers’ Islands. The other cities are either on the coast or in the Red Desert. They are not united and often fight with one another — a state of things that Kyros, Caldeia and Syranthia are very happy to support.
Mercenary Life. The Independent Cities are excellent places for any individual who is able to wield the sword. The various city lords are always looking for good fighters to join the city patrol, protect caravans, and, occasionally raid enemy cities. The hierarchy in the mercenary militia is usually very mobile and a skilled swordsman can start the day as watchman of the local latrines and go to bed as Captain of the King’s Guard. But remember: life is always dangerous in the Independent Cities and, no matter how high a man climbs, he can suddenly fall equally low.
Islands of the Maimed Ones
This archipelago in the centre of the Dread Sea is usually avoided by all mariners. The ground here is red as dried blood and the waters are hotter than in the rest of the Dread Sea. The islands are covered in a thick jungle, as lush as that of the Pygmies’ lands, home to strange beasts unknown in the rest of the Dominions and to weird mutations of common animals. Some very primitive barbarians live here. They are hideous to look upon — their bodies full of disgusting mutations and their minds twisted and deranged. There is no reason to willingly visit this accursed place, except to capture some savage beasts, which fetch a handsome price if suitable for the games in the arena.
The Ivory Savannah is an endless land of rolling hills and flat plains. It owes its name to a very common herb that takes on a particular gray color while drying in the autumn. The Savannah is a savage place inhabited by lions, gazelles, the striped horses named zebras, and even stranger beasts. Despite what strangers may think, the king of the savannah isn’t the powerful lion or the mighty elephant; it is the gnu, a particular type of buffalo.
The Savannah Tribes, who are mostly herders or hunters, follow the migrations of the herds that provide them with food. They are organized in clans, some of them small (four to ten members), others as numerous as five hundred strong. The clans are led by local chiefs and are usually independent, though it isn’t uncommon for raids or on similar occasions. The Savannah Tribes are constantly fighting the populations of the Verdant Belt and their relationships with Kyros are even colder.
In fact, the very fertile lands between the Sword River and the Buffalo River are coveted both by the Kyrosian farmers and by the Savannah herders. The latter take their herds to feed on the Kyrosian crops, while the Kyrosians not only fight the trespassers but also attack peaceful Savannah Tribes to catch slaves. Caldeia does likewise in the south.
Kyros enjoys an excellent position in the center of the Dominions as a gateway between south and north, and east and west. It is an ancient land with imposing palaces and well tended gardens. In days of yore, before the Iron Empire, Kyros was ruled by an Autarch, a monarch with absolute power.
The central government has been fighting an eternal war of attrition against the Ivory Savannah Tribes. All the Kyrosian rulers, first the Autarchs and then the Imperial Governors, have coveted the rich lands south of the Buffalo River, as they are the most fertile, but the Savannah tribes have always fought back to retain control over them.
Land of the Idols
The Land of the Idols is an area west of Lhoban, dotted with ancient ruins of unknown origin. The remnants of palaces and roads abound, but the most common are the stone idols — columns shaped to resemble statues, from fifteen to fifty feet tall, representing humanoids, real and fantastic beasts and, in some cases, wholly alien creatures. Nobody, not even the sages of Syranthia, knows who built these idols and why.
The land is very spooky and animals don’t like it, except rats, snakes, and bats. People generally avoid it, because there are stories of caravans that took a shortcut to Lhoban through the Land of the Idols and never reached their destination.
Lhoban is a land of high mountains and deep valleys. Crossing it isn’t easy, because very few passes are open, especially in winter, and only the local guides know them. Basically, Lhoban is a land of mountain men who live in small villages and lead a simple, hard life, tending yaks and goats.
In truth, there is much more to Lhoban. First, in the low valleys the climate is milder and terraced farming is extensively practiced. Second, Lhobanmen love trading and their two main border cities, Heaven’s Door and Lhobanport, are bustling with activity. Lhobanmen produce excellent wool and their weaving techniques are the best in all the Dominions.
The Lush Jungle is an enormous tropical forest that marks the southern border of the known world. Nobody has explored it completely, because it is a very dangerous place. Mortal diseases and beasts like snakes and spiders of any size and degree of venomousness are only some of the dangers lurking under its trees.
The Lush Jungle is the ancestral home of the Pygmies, a primitive race of dwarfed men who withdrew to the shadow of the mangroves shortly after the fall of the Dread Star. According to the Syranthian sages, they are the descendants of Keronian slaves, who came here to find their freedom.
Whatever the reason, they are very reclusive and possessive about their land. The Pygmies are deceitful, just like the spiders they love so much. They let you go deep into their territory and then they attack you with venomous blowguns, traps, and so on. Very few of those going on expeditions into the Jungle make it back.
Why would a civilized man want to go to this wild land?
The reason is simple: greed. The bed of the Anaconda River, the main stream crossing the jungle, it is said, is littered with gold, ready for the taking by those so bold to dive into it, despite its crocodiles and giant water snakes. The mountains are even more appealing, as they are full of precious ore.