By the Blade!
The lands of Northeim are full of deep valleys, wild rivers and ancient forests. Northeim is mostly uninhabited, because the Northalders live in isolated clans and don’t farm on a large scale.
The Northlanders aren’t the only dwellers of this immense area. The Cairnlanders, the Nandals, and the few inhabitants of Imperial outposts call this place home.
Northeim is a wild land: wolves, bears, mountain lions and many other creatures roam the land and only the strongest of men can endure life in this harsh place. It is also rich in natural resources, such as wood and excellent stone, but also copper, iron and gold. Yet, the Northlanders are too uncivilized to be skilled in the use of metals. They can barely work them and have no idea about how to build a decent mine. It is easier for them to buy or steal metal weapons and tools from the southerners, although some of them are slowly learning the secrets of metalworking, that fascinates them.
The sages say that the Red Desert was created by the dusts raised by the fall of the Dread Star and it had once been a great forest. Seeing it today, it is hard to believe the sages. Rocks and thin reddish sand stretch for hundreds of miles in every direction, interrupted only by the occasional oasis. Despite its appearance, the Red Desert hides several treasures and marvels, like great forests of petrified trees, plains lined by veins of precious ore and dotted with gems surfacing from the ground and, finally, the Red Lotus, a very precious variety of Lotus that lives as tiny spores on the stone petals of desert roses. It is also a dangerous place, inhabited by deadly beasts. Besides scorpions and snakes of small to giant size, there are Skull Jackals, very dangerous predators, and the dreaded Ulatisha, The Being That Digs in the Sand, a semi-mythological monster.
For what concerns its civilizations, the Red Desert hosts some Independent Cities and is home to nomads and tribes of herders, the only people capable of surviving in this harsh land. They are divided in clans, usually recognized by the color of their capes. Brown and green nomads are quite peaceful, but the red-caped ones aren’t.
Syranthia is a land of low, rolling hills and fertile plains. Agriculture is widespread and it produces mainly vegetables, fruit and grapes (Syranthia’s wine is famous throughout the Dominions). This is why Faberterra conquered Syranthia many years before the Empire.
Its two main cities are renowned for different reasons. Syranthia City, the capital of the reign, owes its fame to the Library, the greatest collection of books, scrolls and tablets in the known world. Legions of scholars spend their lives studying such wealth of knowledge and the city is a place of learning and trade.
Askerios, almost as old as Syranthia City, is the most important economic center of the Empire and the biggest port in the known world. Slaves from Ascaia, timber from Northeim, and Water Lotus from the Brown Sea are only some of the goods that can be found there.
Syranthia is ruled by a council of merchant princes, who managed to become independent from the Empire without any bloodshed. In truth, Syranthia still pays tribute to Faberterra, but it is only a very small percentage of its huge riches and certainly a worthwhile investment, if it helps Faberterra in fighting the northern barbarians.
Despite being mainly farmers, merchants and scholars, the Syranthians know how to defend themselves. Their military fleet is impressive and, on the mainland, they boast a tradition of cataphracts cavalry, the heaviest mounted troops in the Dominions, usually made up of the younger sons of the merchant elite.
Tricarnia is a land of vast plains, crossed by a web of small rivers. The climate is mild and the crops abundant. As said before, Tricarnia is divided in Principalities, each ruled by a Priest Prince, although the day-to-day business is usually supervised by eunuch slave-bureaucrats.
Tricarnians have greatly developed their farming techniques. In the last few centuries, they have used the many rivers of their land to create a great network of irrigation canals for their main food production: rice fields.
Tricarnia is what is left of the great Keronian Empire and the Priest Princes think with the grandiosity of their ancestors. Their cities, usually quite small, have such beautiful and complex architecture that even the best masons of Faberterra cannot imitate. However, the center of all important decisions is the Prince’s palace, which includes all the most important parts of the city. So, for example, the merchant houses are located in the courtyard of the palace, like the temples and other major facilities. This is something that strangers must be aware of: entering a Tricarnian city means entering the Prince’s palace. Everything in it belongs to him and is only temporarily used by the slaves and servants.
The two major social classes are nobles and slaves, but a very small group of middlemen exist. They are freed slaves or the children of freed slaves and work as traders and specialized artisans. They are called freemen and their freedom is by no means guaranteed — they can easily be forced back to slavery.
The Troll Mountains mark the northern border of the world. What lies beyond these tall, snowcapped peaks is a mystery even to the sages of Syranthia. What lurks among the mountains, instead, is well-known: Trolls — big furry creatures, with a really bad attitude and a taste for human flesh. Many other incredible beasts live in the Trolls Mountain, such as giant bears, elks, and vicious snow vipers.
When the winter is harsh and hunger torments their bellies, the trolls leave the mountains and go hunting for men in Northeim and the Cairnlands.
There are two species of trolls. The great trolls, or true trolls, are five-yard tall hulking brutes with razor sharp claws and they require dozens of fearless warriors to be stopped.
The small trolls instead, also named Nandals, are a race of primitive cavemen. The shape of their throat makes them unable to speak; they can only emit low sounds and grunts, so they are named Nandals, which in the Northeim language means ‘mute’. Despite being smaller than true trolls, the Nandals are more vicious, because they are gifted with brutish force and a certain degree of intelligence. They usually hunt men for food or kidnap women to mate with them.
Valkheim is the new home of the Valk. The clans faithful to Tukal, first son of Dhaar, followed him here and established a new Valk reign.
Valkheim is a land of grassy plains and rocky hills. It is largely uninhabited, except for some villages of fishermen and farmers on the shores of the Drowned King Sea. This population is a mix of Cairnlanders and more civilized men from Zandor and, generally, they are pacific and quite superstitious. Shortly after coming to Valkheim, the Valk warriors, full of rage over the death of their leader, razed these villagers and butchered their inhabitants. After a while, Tukal, who wasn’t a fool, understood that these people could be used as slaves by the Valk, so he spared the lives of the survivors. The Valk call them “the Cows”, since they aren’t able to fight.
This land is only the first, little chunk of the Far East, where whole hordes of Valk clans and other strange populations live. Very little is known about them.
The area of the Verdant Belt could be a true paradise on earth. It is a fertile land, where farming is easy and the climate mild.
But it is surrounded by vultures.
It is threatened from the north by the Savannah Tribes, who often trespass into the Belt with their herds. To the south there are the dark Lush Jungles, from where the Pygmies and other dark things occasionally come looking for prey. But the greatest evil comes from east in the shape of Caldeian slave traders, who travel down the Slave Route ending in Heavensdoor, in Lhoban. They smile a lot, and bring drugs and precious metal weapons, but in exchange they want a huge amount of slaves.
The Verdant Belt is inhabited by farmers of the Ivory Savannah Tribes. They mainly grow bananas, the basis of their diet, and live in fortified villages. They use a particular farming technique called “fire and plant”: they burn large parts of the rainforest and then cultivate the deforested area for four-five years. After this period, the soil is depleted, so the area is abandoned and a new village is founded somewhere else.
The Verdant Belt tribes are fiercely independent, but in the last few years some of them have been subjugated by the White King of the Ivory Savannah. They pay tribute in exchange for the King’s protection and are starting to trade vegetables for cattle, a business that is mutually profitable. Obviously, Caldeia doesn’t look kindly on the new peace spreading across the Belt and, wherever possible, it tries to bring war to the area.
Zandor is the rotten remnant of what was once the flower of the eastern Iron Empire. Before the Valk Invasion, Jalizar, its capital, was the biggest city in the world, rivaling Faberterra in beauty and riches. During the Empire, the Governor of Jalizar had a power greater than that of most kings.
Then the Valk arrived and destroyed everything.
The immense region of Zandor — once full of prosperous towns, rich villages and well tended fields — is now a mass of crumbling ruins, inhabited only by coyotes and by the unholy beasts summoned by the Valkyries. The fields have reverted to forests and rocky plains, only good as pastures for the Valk’s herds, and twisted trees grow in the deserted palaces.
Today, the Zandorian Valk are too divided to conquer the whole region, but they are strong enough to be a constant threat, so control over the land is virtually shared. The Zandorians live in isolated, independent settlements, with a strong militia and draconian laws, and they can only protect the nearby territories. The Valk, instead, wander the region freely, following their nomadic customs.