In the common tongue, the world is known as Kire. The elves know it as Avelheim. The major continent is known as Gradallia, which means Gradon’s favorite land. The elves refer to it as Mendelheim.
The Caliban valley of Dagger Rock is set in a valley within the Border Mountains. It is the eastern outpost of Archstedt. Everything past it is unexplored. The entrance to the Caliban valley is set near a continental divide. To the north of the divide, all the water will eventually enter the Ranean sea, an inland sea which is connected to the Western Ocean by a narrow strait. To the south of the divide is the Southern Ocean. It is possible to sail from the Western ocean to the Southern ocean, but the trip is long, and so there is good deal of merchants who travel between the ocean by land.
The southern coast of Gradallia is known as the the Broken coast. Within sight of that are the Shattered Lands, a chain of islands, the biggest of which is Cryx. These are a notorious pirate haven, but that doesn’t deter merchant trade.
Beyond the Shattered Lands is a small continent of jungle called Sinaga. The natives aren’t particularly friendly, but they do support a brisk trade of precious gems and metals.
To the south east of the Shattered Lands are the lands of the Majuur desert. This is at present the only known civilized land to the east of the Border Mountains. It has only been reached by ship, and the large desert prevents exploration of the interior.
The lands further east of Majuur have not been explored by the people of Western Gradallia. The "Cursed Eye" has blocked ships trying to pass beyond the desert.
Archstedt is the greatest country in the known world. It has been at its apex for nearly five hundred years and shows no sign of slowing down. In its infancy it was a monarchy, but when it started its climb to greatness it became a dictatorship. The ruler is not hereditary, but each emperor chooses his own successor, who is renamed Ambrick. So anyone has a chance to become leader. The palace in the capital of Stadoric is where they traditionally rule.
There are three provinces within Archstedt. Northern Archstedt is where the capital of Stadoric is located. Southern Archstedt is somewhat of a lawless frontier area, but still well within the control of capital. Eastern Archstedt is well settled region confined within the Rempladar valley against the Eastern Mountains.
To maintain the stability, there is a great deal of intrusion into each citizen’s life, especially in the cities. The country is well run, but the citizenry in the capital live in terror of the secret police. It is bordered by the nations of Alfheim, and Jaernef. (Possibly others.)
The national sport of Archstedt is chariot racing. There are two main teams, although they have other teams that are used as training for the main two. Everyone has a team they cheer for, with riots happening occasionally when an upset happens.
Adventuring groups aren't common within Archstedt, but they do exist. As such, there are several laws covering freelance adventurers (“lawless freeswords” to many Archstedt).
Any group of four or more adventurers who plan to travel and work together on missions within the “civilized” areas of Archstedt must register with the crown as an official adventuring force. The group must obtain a “royal charter of arms” in Stadoric from the court, usually the current chancellor, lord high marshal, or ruler. The chancellor is available to take applications for charters in Stadoric. As Archstedt has grown beyond the size where this would be feasible for most groups, a charter can also be obtained from the baron of any province.
Within the “uncivilized” areas (mostly the outposts and border areas) there is no legal need to register or declare oneself an adventuring force. This is meant to encourage groups to help civilize the wilderness and pacify any barbarians beyond the borders. All of this has helped the borders of Archstedt to expand faster than would otherwise be possible.
An application must be signed by all members of the group, who must disclose their real names and places of residence, and the group must describe its collective name, badge, seal, coat of arms, standard flag, or other identifying symbols. Any permanent change to the group's title, symbols, or size requires a revision of the charter; charter records are updated on the first of each month. A copy of the charter is issued to the group as a whole, with extra copies available for 100gp each.
A charter for four or five adventurers (forming a legal “fellowship”) costs 1,000 gp, with an annual tax of 300 gp on the anniversary of the date of signing the charter. As of 495 AY, larger groups are charged 2,500 gp per person per month for temporary charters if they are not native to Archstedt. The group's projected date of disbanding (within two months) must be registered and adhered to. Native Archstedt are charged 1,000 gp per person per month. A long-term or permanent adventuring charter for a group of six to thirty (legally, a “band”) costs a flat 5,000 gp per person, for natives and non-natives alike. A group leader must be designated to speak for all in the band in legal matters. The annual tax on the band as a whole is 1,500 gp.
A late fee of 20 gp per day, for up to ten days, is assessed on annual taxes on adventuring groups. Failure to pay the tax and late fee within this period wil cause the charter to be revoked. Revocation means that a group (if it has not informed the crown that it has disbanded) has decided to oppose the crown and is now officially “outlaw”. A warrant is issued to the authorities for the group's arrest and detention, though this happens often enough that groups are not automatically thought of as being in rebellion (more likely, they are just preoccupied with adventuring), and so are not attacked immediately by force of arms. The group, once located, is warned to allow the arrest, taken into custody, and given the chance to pay all overdue taxes and late fees. After this, the group can either officially disband at no cost, losing its charter for good, or have the charter reinstated and continue adventuring.
A member of the adventuring group can be striken from its membership by the crown for criminal actions, and a charter can be revoked at any time for any reason by the issuing authority. As travel and communication across Archstedt take time, so any changes to a group's charter will also take time to fully take effect.
If adventurers are hired on a mission for the crown, they are often each given a paper that is legally referred to as a minor writ. This paper states that the named bearer is on royal business and is not to be delayed. Assistance in the form of food, water, and shelter must be provided within reason. Because a major use of minor writs is to get free food and drink from inns, restaurants, and taverns, writs are commonly called “meal tickets” by those who use them regularly. For obvious reasons, many merchants dislike seeing a minor writ, as it means they must write off the cost of any food taken or otherwise suffer the loss of business with no opportunity for compensation.
One of the most often-cursed laws of Archstedt is the one specifying that each citizen must deliver his annual taxes to the Tax Office in the capital city of Stadoric by Midnight, February 30th. In outlying communities, people usually deal with this awkward (and rigidly enforced) law by giving their tax money to the army, which transports it to Stadoric. In frontier towns, hundreds of miles from Stadoric, the deadline for giving tax money to the army is in early November.
A vast, nearly impenetrable mountain range, also known as the Dividing Mountains, splits Archstedt into two sections, tenuously connected by the Overmountain Highway.
Ordinary travelers can only cross Cloudspine at its three passes. From west to east they are Stair of Grief, Seven Gates, and Bagrada.
Few creatures live among the Cloudspine's lofty peaks at its center.
This pass over the Cloudspine is 175 miles long, and has a higher elevation than Stair of Grief. For most of winter it can't be crossed.
Lake Stormunder takes its name from the extensive underwater geysers that boil and churn in its depths. On its shores, fishermen are sometimes forced to take shelter as rocs skim low over the surface looking for prey.
This road connects to northern and southern halves of Archstedt. In the 800+ mile journey between L'Trel and Stadoric, it passes through the villages of Nalv, Grace, P'Arte, Fidirth Ridge, Wath, and K'Pass.
As an aid for travelers, Archstedt's army maintains a series of shelters along the length of the Overmountain Highway. In the valley areas of L'Trel and Stadoric, the shelters are usually spaced about eight miles apart. This spacing corresponds to a quarter-day of travel during the winter. Along the hilly, low mountain areas between the foothills and Wath, the shelters are also spaced every eight miles, which represents a half-day of travel in the winter. In the high-mountain areas of the road in the Stair of Grief, the shelters are spaced every three miles.
The roadside shelters are of very standardized construction. Each shelter includes a common room with a large fireplace, and a barn for horses (or other animals). Some of the shelters have wells or cisterns for drinking water.
The army does not patrol the section of the highway in the Stair of Grief during the winter, but it does see to it that each shelter is repaired and stocked with firewood before patrols cease. These stocks of wood could save the life of someone who absolutely must travel the Overmountain Highway during the winter season.
The code of conduct for the shelters is chiseled in common into the stone slab above the fireplace of each of the shelters. Toce code reads as follows:
Looming nearly 16,000 feet above Lake Stormunder at the westernmost tip of the Kodar Mountains, the mountain called Rimeskull gains its fearsome name from a vaguely skull-shaped formation near the mountain’s peak, visible for many miles on a clear day.
This high pass over the Cloudspine is 175 miles long. For most of winter it can't be crossed. In the warmer months it is a maze of tiny canyons named things like Fool's Pass and Devil's Outlook, for good reason Huge carved throne-idols--their origin lost in time--serve as landmarks for experienced guides.
The easiest to pass cross the Cloudspine, and most difficult to defend is the western Stair of Grief. This pass over amounts to 125 miles of bad terrain. It is the one pass that can remain open in winter. This is the one that the Overmountain Highway passes through.
Several hundred feet from Lake Stormunder's edge, the land levels off to create a circular hill. Here there is a ring of seven ten-foot tall stone heads that circle the hill's edge, their faces angled inward at each other, mouths agape. To the east, the sheer mountainside of rimeskull rises, icy and windblasted—two hundred feet above leers a carving of an ancient face, its gaping mouth forming a large cave entrance in the mountainside. A ten-foot-wide stairway of stone descends from this cave to a ledge only fifty feet to the east of the circle of stone faces.
Eastern Archstedt is well settled region confined within the Rempladar valley against the Eastern Mountains.
These lands consist of rolling hills. Although controlled by Archstedt, the control is tenuous. Many humanoid tribes live in the rockier areas.
Stretching from the region of Stadoric in a great swath to the southwest, these badlands claim what was once, long ago, prime pastoral land. Now nothing less hardy or more useful than a weed thrives in the Barrier's barren soil. The ground itself gives off heat, making the Barrier much hotter than surrounding lands. Some say this is created by rare earths normally bound to their place by the net of grasses. Some say it's a curse.
The Barrier represents a large difficulty in traveling to Stadoric, because roughly 200 miles of it separates the Stair of Grief and Stadoric. The Overmountain Highway makes a large detour to travel around it. Travelers through the two eastern passes face easier time.
Southern Archstedt is sparsely populated with widely scatted villages and cities. The relatively young city of L'Trel holds sway over this area. It is an 800 mile journey to the capital from there.
Within the area of L'Trel, there are five goblin tribes, Birdcruncher, Licktoad, Seven Tooth, Mosswood and Thistletop. Goblins live short, violent lives. It's unusual for a single goblin to achieve any real measure of notoriety, but when one does, it's well earned. Currently, six goblins in the region enjoy the status of "hero", Big Gugmut, Koruvus, Vorka, Rendwattle Gutwad, Ripnugget, and Bruthazmus.
More than a century ago, the kingdom of Kestria flourished. Originally a quiet agricultural nation, the wise administration of a succession of kings gradually changed it into a commercial and cultural center. Kestria build roads across inhospitable wilderness regions, establishing firm trade links with the lands beyond. Caravans of trade goods traveled down these roads, returning months or years later with fortunes in previous metals, exotic fabrics, spices and items of arcane nature. It was a period of great prosperity for the Kestrian people, and especially (through the virtues of extensive taxation) for the nobility. The wealth of the kings of Kestrian became legendary.
It was only a matter of time, of course, before more warlike nations focused avaricious eyes on the rich kingdom. Kestria was a nation of merchants, not of warriors. Its grip on its outer provinces began to weaken as hostile neighbors repeatedly overran its borders. These pressures from without, combined with corruption and petty rivalries from within, proved too much. Whole provinces rose in rebellion.
Into this chaos, Archstedt stepped in. With Kestria weakened, it was easily able to conquer the divided kingdom.
A swindler sold a large hunk of barren rock to a gullible noble named Brian. Since then, “a Brian’s deal” became the area’s expression for any sort of unfair business arrangement or deception. It is only two miles across, and the same distance from the mainland.
This tangled, overgrown swampland is infested with giant insects, goblins, and other unpleasant monsters. The marshland is relatively unexplored as a result, despite its close proximity to the Hidden Coast Road
The Licktoad tribe of goblins live here, pests who are excellent swimmers.
Rendwattle Gutwad: The obese chieftain of the Licktoad goblins, a corpulent moster who, it is said, never leaves his throne.
Vorka: A notorious goblin cannibal who lives in the Brinestump marsh, a "hero" mostly to goblins other than the Licktoad tribe.
The edges of this limestone escarpment are known haunts for the Birdcrunchers–a small tribe a relatively unaggressive goblins that swell in numerous caverns along the Platter's eastern edge. Deeper in, it's rumoured that the place is controlled by devil-worshipping bugbears who avoid the light of day but emerge at night from their caves to light their fires.
The heavy fog that frequently shrouds the coast for miles in both directions of the cliffs underneath Poisson gives this area its name. Legends about the source of the fog run through many generations in the area but most of them revolve around a dragon sleeping in a hidden cave nestled in one of the cliff faces. Allegedly, each night, the dragon’s smoldering nostrils produce a fog that grows thick by morning. Many ships crash along the coast because of the fog. The most famous wreck was the ship that became the Drunk Duck Inn, located a day’s travel by horse west of Poisson on the Free Trail.
Mosswood's primary inhabitants are goblins, and the Mosswood tribe remains the largest of the goblin tribes in the area. Part of the Mosswood goblin's tenacity doubtlessly comes from the tribe's chief, Big Gugmut. The Mosswood tribes are numerous, and bickering over which of the goblin hero gods is the best god leads to more goblin death in Mosswood then all the adventurers and misadventures combined. Mosswood's trees tend to be larger, mostly redwoods, resulting in much more open forest floor than exists at undergrowth-heavy Nettlewood to the south.
Big Gugmut: This goblin is unusually muscular and tall. He claims to be the son of a hobgoblin and a wild boar for a father.
South of Mosswood lies Nettlewood, a frustratingly tangled forest. Whereas the trees of Mosswood grow tall and stately, those south of the Hidden Coast Road in Nettlewood are lower and share their forest floor with snarls of nettles and thorny underbrush.
The goblin tribe of Thistletop live on the coast atop a small island that some say holds a passing resemblance to a decapitated head.
Bruthazmus: An infamous bugbear ranger who lives in southern Nettlewood and often visits the five tribes to trade things he's stolen from caravans for alcohol, news, or magic arrows. He has a particular hatred of elves, and he has fought with Shaleu on several occasions. To date, neither of them has managed to get the upper hand on the other.
Ripnugget: The leader of the Thistletop goblins and controls what the five tribes agree is the best lair.
This river comes down from the Cloudspine mountains. It crosses the southern plains before spilling out into the Western Ocean. Near the end of the journey, it passes through the capital town of L'Trel. Right at the mouth is the smaller town of Sandbar.
This small pine and eucalyptus forest is relatively small. The goblins of the Seven Tooth tribe claim this forest as their territory. They've secured a place for themselves by raiding L'Trel's junkyard and rebuilding the stolen refuse into armor and weapons.
Koruvus: Koruvus was a champion of the Seven Tooth tribe, as well known for his short temper as he was for his prized possession–a magic longsword sized for a human that the goblin stubbornly kept as his own (despite the fact that it was too large for him to properly wield). Koruvus vanished several months ago after he supposedly discovered a "secret hideout" in a cave along the cliffs, but the Seven Tooth goblins remain convinced he's out there still, a ghost or worse, waiting to murder any goblin who tries to discover his hideout.
This is nominally a mountain range, but could also be considered a range of hills. It goes along the Hidden Coast and hampers travel over it a bit, but not severely.
This is a unruly area where the remains of the kingdom of Kestria was. Although it is part of Archstedt now, it is still recovering from the aftermath of the Kestrian civil war
This is the capital of Southern Archstedt. It is not a large town as the province isn't very populous. It is ruled by the Baron X'Celsiah. It is described in more detail in a later chapter.
There used to be a village at the mouth of the Mermaid’s Tears River, but it was raided so often by pirates that the villagers moved up the coast to the cliffs. The new settlement became known as Poisson’s Village, named after the captain of the garrison that constructed the village’s first fortress. Since the fortress’s construction a decade ago, pirate activity on land decreased and the Free Trail within a day of Poisson is generally safe.
The place is administrated by Kearney who lives in the fortified manor house that helps protect the village from pirate raids.
This town is about ten days travel from L'Trel. It is known for ochre, used in dyes. Unfortunately, in early September it was taken over by zombies created by a blaspheme.
Achler: Sent by Senir Tiriac to steal the Libre Blaspheme. He succeeded in corrupting Danovich to use its powers to bring his son back to life. In the confusion after the zombie epidemic he stole it and attempted to get away. He was killed trying to escape.
Cureoski: Good looking guy who was involved with Kara. Deceased.
Danovich: Village priest. A few months ago his son, Doru, was killed by bandits.
Doru: Son of Danovich. Turned into Blaspheme.
Garovich: Village guard. Deceased.
Henrich: Large black man. Blacksmith. Deceased.
Jorgen: Survivor of the zombie epidemic. He was initially hampered by a broken ankle, but this was healed. He has taken charge of the recovery of town.
Kara: Pretty barmaid. Was involved with Cureoski. Deceased.
Muret: Village thug who took charge of the survivors in the church after the zombie epidemic. Deceased.
This is an elven colony within Archstedt. Many elves have settled into this region and are citizens of the empire. Sandbar is a town at the head of the river and serves as a sort of filter for the larger L'Trel that is further inland. Ships that can't handle river travel, or at least not well, can drop cargo at Sandbar.
This is a pleasant community of some 40 houses, most of which are farms. It is bordered on three sides by plowed fields that are neatly arranged behind the houses. The northern edge of the village borders a lush green woodland.
To the east, across the valley is a startling white symbol engraved into the greenery. It appears to be a stylized representation of a sunset and covers about 100' from side to side. This symbol is what has given the village its name.
Witches of the Glade: this is a stone circle situated in a small field on the outskirts of the village. There are currently eight stones, but there were previously eleven. This was a magical prison for a horrible beast. The beast would appear out of nowhere in the centre of a village, bringing death and suffering. An ancient spell stonecase was used on the Beast to turn it into a large stone. Then ten shamans sacrificed themselves by turning themselves into stone to make the prison permanent.
Arris Dreamweaver: Local wizard. He had a pet snake. He was convinced the Witches of the Glade were petrified farmers that needed to be rescued. He was wrong. Deceased.
Betty Haywagon: Formerly Betty Schmidt. Wife of Timothy Schmidt. With her children growing older, she has become very parental of her goats.
Dennis Schmidt: Youngest son of Timothy Schmidt. He enjoys arguing about politics and has many thoughts on the problems with the current Archstedt government.
When he was four he ingested a piece of the centre stone of the Witches of the Glade. He became very sick and began acting insane. Timothy performed an exorcism on him late one night, and then disappeared afterwards.
Father Matthias: A kindly man in his late forties. He is highly respected in the village, and not because he is its only priest. Trying to raise money for the church roof.
Geddi Corncutter: Geddi used to be a warrior when younger, but has retired to run the Witch's Brew Tavern. He recommends the local brew, Olde Goatscratcher.
Gillan: Elder of the village. The farmers look to him to solve their troubles.
Roger Schmidt: Roger is the oldest son of Timothy and Betty Schmidt. He enjoys working in the garden with shrubbery.
Zoot Schmidt: Only daughter of Timothy Schmidt. Ten years ago she dared Dennis Schmidt to eat a weird stone that had chipped off of the centre stone of the Witches of the Glade.
Turtleback Ferry is a small township perched on the rain-drenched north shore of claybottom lake. Three distinctive ferries crafted from the shells of giant turtles slain by Autek Levendy, one of the town's founders, make Turtleback Ferry the central trading town for the region. Nearly 80 miles from Ilsurian, the next town of similar size.
This is the oldest country in the world and is ruled by the Elves of Grey. The boundaries of Alfheim consist of the Val forest, where they have dwelt for millennia. Despite being the oldest, it has never been the greatest. There has always been some other country that is more powerful than they are. Due to their age though, they are known as the most civilized. But they are also considered decadent. They have never referred to any of their leaders as “Kings” and consider it mildly insulting to refer to their leader as one.
The elves have never been good at keeping history. Great parts of their past is unknown to most of the elves. Only a few events have been remembered, despite the huge distance in time between them and the present day. One of these is the Crown Wars that resulted in the Drow being exiled to the underdark. That is estimated to have happened seven thousand years ago.
Jaernef is the country that Archstedt comes into the most conflict with. Jaernef split from Archstedt over a hundred years ago. While open hostilities don’t presently exist, there is a sort of cold war going on between them. If one takes a close look, they are more alike than different.
Jaernef is currently ruled by Queen Ambrose. Security around her is incredibly high because she is responsible for the world's richest treasure, the Regalia of the Jaernef Crown Jewels.
The kingdom of Raensia is controlled entirely from the city of the same name, under a hereditary queen. The country is situated on a peninsula that marks the border between the Renean sea, and the Western Ocean. The capital city borders on a lagoon, and at one point in the past was confined to an island within it. This island was, and still is, a web of canals between all the building. As the town outgrew the island, streets were added, but in the old parts, the canals remain. The city is noted for its baroque architecture, buildings with towering spires and elaborate buttresses, ornamented with scenes depicting scenes from its history.
Raensia has been around for a long time. It is not a powerful nation, but what it lacks in military might, it makes up in architecture. The capital city is considered ancient with old marvels of engineering littering the landscape. The citizenry has attempted to continue their heritage by persisting to build magnificent monuments. Their current attempts aren’t as awe-inspiring as most of their historical ones, but the beauty has still brought men to tears.
The kingdom major source of income is trading. The natives have perfected the art of the deal and have a large navy of merchant ships that travel all over the continent. No major city exists that does not have a Raensian embassy, and there are very few smaller cities that don’t have one either.
The dwarves weren’t totally wiped out by the plague of outsiders. The few that have survived have created a city-state in the mountains. They are a shadow of their former greatness, but they continue to be the finest blacksmiths in the land.
When there was the original dwarven empire, all dwarves were of the same clan. Since the invasion of outsiders destroyed the empire, they split into separate clans.
The lands of Southern Archstedt is split in half by the Storval Rise, a thousand-foot-tall cliff sculpted for much of its length into ancient weatherworn statues, cliff fortresses, and strange portals into eldritch depths. The Rise separates the lush, fertile lowlands from the harsh, arid lands of the eastern plateau. Here, giants and tribes of hard-edged barbarians hold sway, scratching an existence from the plateau hardpan or chasing herds of thundering aurochs across the sparse grasslands.
Although the farms in the valleys along their southwestern edge benefit from the mountains’ rain shadow, the Iron Peaks are renowned as the domain of easily irritated ogres, hill giants, and stone giants. Wherever possible, locals avoid venturing beyond the range’s foothills, and advise travelers to do the same.
Tall and forbidding, the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Kodar Mountains are among the highest in the world. Only the hardiest creatures, such as storm giants, rocs, and several dragons, are able to withstand the extreme climate and treacherous cliffs. Numerous mysteries and legends have origins hidden deep within the Kodar Mountains, such as the quixotic Monastery of the Peacock Spirit, the cloud citadel of Chadra-Oon, and the lost city of Xin-Shalast.
Thousands of feet high, Spindlehorn thrusts up from the shore of the Storval Deep like a needle against the sky, its sides sheer except for the treacherous set of stairs that winds around the crooked spire until it reaches the flattened peak, an open space barely 10 feet in diameter. None know what purpose the mysterious spire once served, but tales tell of dark-robed pilgrims seen climbing the dizzying stairs but never descending.
Filling the entire valley between the Iron Peaks and the Wyvern Mountains, the Storval Deep is a massive lake held back by an ancient dam, Skull’s Crossing, at its southern tip. What’s more, the banks of the lake themselves seem curiously worked, as if carved from the surrounding stone by more than water. Although rumors abound of sunken cities, flooded mineshafts, and relics so powerful the ancients created the lake just to hide them, few have ever ventured into the dark water’s unfathomed depths.
The most notorious inhabitant of the Storval Deep is a creature known as Black Magga, a hideous monstrosity so old, she is rumored to predate even the gods.
The Storval Rise is one of the most unique and infamous landmarks in southern Gradallia; the change in terrain from the fertile lowlands to the rugged stony scrublands of the plateau above marks the lands of giants with an unmistakable boundary. The rise itself often reaches dizzying heights of 1,000 feet or more, but at the location known as the Storval Stairs, the cliffs are only 400 feet high, and feature an ancient monument.
This is described in more detail in a different chapter.
This range’s name says it all, and travelers here are advised to keep a sharp eye out for roving packs of the poisonous draconic predators that subsist on the mountains’ wild goats and free-roaming llamas.
Spanning the breadth of a gorge, this massive wall of stone holds back the waters of the Storval Deep— but only just. Thousands of skulls have been carved into the dam’s face, while five larger ones decorate the middle length.
Although sized for a colossus, the Storval Stairs are still the most expedient route from Archstedt’s southern lowlands onto the plateau. Here, where the Storval Rise shrinks to only a few hundred feet of vertical cliff face, great stairs have been cut from the cliff, flanked on either side by enormous statues. In the thousands of years since the stairs’ sculpting, lesser engineers have cut more convenient, human-sized steps and ramps into their sides, routes capable of handling entire platoons of explorers.
In the pirate-infested coastal waters past the Broken Coast of southern Gradallia, lie the Scharde Islands, also known as the Shattered Lands. Upon the largest isle lies the kingdom of Cryx. The jagged, foreboding coastline of Scharde hints at the realm's true nature– it is a land even more dark and treacherous than it appears. Its inhabitants are fell evil trolls, beastly ogres, evil men, savage goblins, and warped half-breeds. Dwarves and elves are all but unknown in Cryx, except perhaps as cowering slaves in the obsidian palaces of the wealthy, or as expensive livestock at the waterfront markets.
This is Toruk’s territory, and nature has given way, as if made ill by the influence of the Father of Dragons. In many places the soil is black as burnt cinders, rivers are cold and dark, tree trunks coil like petrified serpents, and brambles choke everything within their thorny clutches. Even where the squalid inhabitants manage to erect a farmstead, the crops are withered and unpleasant to behold, corn of strange colors and bloated kernels, wheat colored purple like a bruise. Even the wildlife is twisted and sickly, and the closer to the dragon’s obsidian fortress in the black mountain, the worse everything becomes.
The inhabitants of the blighted land all live in fear under the shadow of their ruler, an ancient dragon named Toruk. The Lord of Wyrms, as he is known on the mainland, has utterly dominated his territory for centuries, and his privateers terrorize the southern coasts of Gradallia.
Riddleport is a haven for pirates and sea-faring brigands, who find themselves too far from Scuttlecove. Teeming with criminals and rogues of all kinds, Riddleport is full of potential danger and hard-to-avoid intrigue. Also known as the City of Cyphers, Riddleport takes its name from the Cyphergate, a giant stone arch spanning the natural cove around which the city is built. It is covered on both sides with ancient symbols, although their exact meaning is unknown.
The capital of Cryx. It is described in more detail in a later chapter.
Most of the inhabitants of the dark cities pass for normal, at least in the physical sense. Still, the blight has seeped into their minds, for the denizens of the cities are often twisted and cruel and prone to malice, and they all—each and every one—speak as terrified yet awestruck fanatics in reverence of their deity and master, the black-scaled Lord Toruk.
Lord Toruk: Toruk is believed to be the oldest dragon in the world– perhaps even the first dragon. He uses his immense size and power to stay personally involved in the politics of his realm, gleefully putting down would-be rebels or rabble-rousers with claws and fire. His royal court is held in a gigantic black stone palace, warmed by the heat of the wounded earth beneath. For now, King Toruk seems content to rule his remote island realm, but everyone fears the day he decides to expand his borders. It is whispered Toruk's ego knows no bounds and he forces his minions to worship him as a god, forbidding all other religions in the land of Cryx. The veracity of this claim troubles mainland religious leaders, for it is said his clerics do indeed have dark powers.
This small, but prosperous nation isn't actually part of the Shattered Lands, but it is close enough not to make a difference. It is seated in a cultural crossroads between the otherwise civilized Western Gradallia, and the barbaric east of the Tysron peninsula. Rovorhin stretches between the Wyrmwall mountains and the Southern Ocean, where Hivic, the capital, is its only major port. Its western border is marked by the fortified hills separating Rovorhin from Cryx's holdings on the mainland. Rovorhin's eastern border divides the Nograheim forest between itself and the Tysron barbarians, a long-standing informal boundary that has been respected by both sides for centuries and only recently was acknowledged by formal treaty. While these boundaries have isolated Rovorhin from the rest of Gradallia, they have also served to protect it from invaders for centuries.
The small Endzwood lies along the coast between Red March and Rovorhin. Its trees were once much prized for shipbuilding. The site of a great Rovorhin victory over Red March orcs (486 AY), the wood was partly despoiled by nonhumans setting fires (492-493 AY). It is once again a battleground between Rovorhin to the east and orcs and gnolls to the west.
This windswept forest is also known as the "Land of Beasts". The immense size of this forest makes it impossible to conquer completely, and all attempts to civilize it over the years have failed miserably.
But it remains the greatest focus of the realm. It is a hunting ground that produces the pelts and furs used widely in the dress of the nation. It also provides Rovorhin with its greatest bounty, the timber and shipbuilding supplies that drive much of the economic activity of the barony.
These fortified hills mark the border between Rovorhin and Red March. They extend south to the Endzwood.
This endless range of hills hug the mountains to the northwest of Rovorhin. They have been inhabited by dwarves for millennia.
Capital of Rovorhin and the only major port.
There is an ancient statue in the town square of Queen Eve. While examining it it was seen to be carrying the same tiara and sceptre that had been found in the hoard of Flame.
This city rests on the edge of the Nograheim forest. It is a wealthy city as it provides much of the wood for shipbuilding and also receives much economic benefit from tomb raiders who venture into the Nograheim looking for trouble.
To the east of the Majuur desert, there is a maelstrom of wind and wild seas. No seagoing vessel has ever been able to penetrate into its depths. Any that have gone in have not returned, and frequently are seen to be destroyed in the angry weather before they have gone out of sight. Its borders aren't consistent, and arms of devestation have reached out unexpectedly and menaced ships that were sailing too close.
In the northern part there are nomads who travel from oasis to oasis inhabit this desert. There are a few permanent settlements. The nomads aren’t the original inhabitants of this land. Half-buried monuments give silent voice to some culture existing here long ago. That civilization is dead and gone for eons.
This land is beyond the Border Mountains. Its location is not immediately known to the average Archstedt native, who only know it as a far off, mystical place.
In the southern part there is a civilization on the banks of the Maj'Liath River. This culture has built great works in the past. They still build great monuments, but haven’t built anything recently that compares with their previous great works.
To the southwest of the Majuur desert, past the Shattered Lands, there is a continent of jungles. This is known as Sinaga. The natives are quite rich, due to the large amounts of precious stones and metals hidden within the rainforest. Trespassers in their domain are not tolerated, and are never heard from again.
The best known civilization is the city of Alocotla, which is several days into the continent, up a major river. Although there are some humans there, the vast majority of the citizens are snake people who worship the god Tlaloc. As long as all the rules are followed, they are willing to trade and keep the peace. But they are quick to turn on anyone that has wronged them. People who have upset them are taken away and used in dark rituals that are better not spoken about.
Other countries exist, of course. If a player wants to describe his own country, feel free. Subject to DM’s approval of course.
There are two moons, Dhaka and Baku.
Dhaka has a period of exactly 30 days, and has become the basis of the month within Kire. In general appearance, it is the same as Earth’s moon, except more accommodating to calendars.
Baku is much smaller, but makes up for it by always being full. It makes its path across the sky starting in the east and setting in the west exactly three months later. As soon as it finishes setting in the west, it rises again in the east. There is some speculation among sages and learned watchers of the sky that Baku is actually a group of four moons. In addition to its rapid rising after setting, it also is a different color for during each progression. When the blue moon sets at the end of February, a silver moon rises in March. After it sets to conclude May, a red one rises in June. For September, a brown moon lasts until, in December, the blue moon returns.
In the distant past there was another moon.
In general, there is no concept of “planes” on Kire. Among the educated there is the theory of “realms”, discreet pockets of reality somehow connected but separated by more than geographical distance.
The two realms known to most people are Kire and Urkire, the lands of the living and the dead, respectively. When a person dies, their soul sometimes lingers briefly in Kire, but most souls (except the restless dead) quickly depart to Urkire, where the gods dwell. Many people believe Urkire to be simply another continent across the ocean, separated by great distances from the continent.
Urkire is now understood to be in some reality separate from the world of the living, and almost all the gods of Kire reside there, dwelling in isolated domains.
Outside of the Box of Reality there exists unreality. These are the places that exist outside the domain of gods where unspeakable horrors exist. These are entities that are incomprehensible in their desires, but it is clear that they have an interest in the beings of Kire. These can be broadly broken down into two groups. On one side there are the Infernals that work in the shadows. On the other side, beyond the Dark Tapestry, are what some call "The Old Ones" who work through dreams. These entities are opposed to each other, but the one commonality is their interest in souls. It is theorized that they are unable to create souls of their own, and can use them for their own purposes. This is different from how the gods and other beings of Kire treat souls and their eventual place in the afterlife. These beings are horrors that do not match the natural order.
The Dimension of Dreams lies somewhere beyond the conventional planes of the Great Beyond, a realm both created and fueled by the collective dreams of sentient beings from across the cosmos. This is where nightmares overlap into a strange reality spawned by no dreamer, except perhaps for the dreams of outer beings of primordial madness.
This windswept plateau between the arms of embracing mountain chains descends in an inexorable slope to the Dreaming Shore. Upon the blasted tableland sit scattered villages of stone huts, seemingly the remnant of some immeasurably ancient civilization that once held sway here. Usually long-abandoned, these dark ruins occasionally teem with foul semi-human denizens of Leng going about their own barbaric and unknowable purposes. The few inhabited villages can be recognized from afar at night by the evil fires that burn bright within them, though even villages known to be abandoned often show those same evil flames in the inky darkness of a Leng midnight.
The eponymous inhabitants of this nightmare land, these creatures have a largely humanoid shape that is kept firmly shrouded beneath voluminous robes, turbans, and veils. They ply the waters of Leng, the Dimension of Dreams, and the waking world alike in black ships, trading strangely flawless rubies for slaves and seemingly random goods of unknown purpose.