Click to enlarge. For previous maps, see the World Map portfolio.
Now that we know the who of the Mortal Plane, let’s talk a bit about the where.
Welcome to mortal plane of Falleron. Well, at least part of it. While there are plenty of other bits on the far side of the globe of interest, most of the major doings of the world tend to center around the largest continent, Haust, and the surrounding land masses of Syvantos, Melokia, and the Meridian Archipelago.
Like mortals themselves, the lands of the Mortal Plane tend to have limited lifespans, and rise to power and fade to obscurity on a regular basis. Some have a bit more staying power than others, whether through natural advantages or sheer determination of their people, but in general you’ve got five regions where folks tend to stick around a while. Ovid, Revalia, Brevardrim, Meridia, and Orland are the safe places of our plane and have, more or less, been the bastions of our mortal realms since the beginning or recorded history. That said, safe is a relative term and there are dangers aplenty across each of these realms.
While documenting the political histories of each realm in detail would be the work worthy of a vast library, lets take a short glimpse into the current standing of our world.
It is said that Ovid is the center of the world. While factually inaccurate in pretty much every way, politically the realms of Ovid do have a tendency to dominate the conflicts and stability of all surrounding realms. The name itself is problematic, as it refers to both the subcontinent at the northernmost tip of the massive continent of Haust as well as a powerful nation that, until recently, dominated this region.
One of the most populated regions in the Mortal Plane, its success is largely due to pleasant weather, fertile lange, and natural barriers that protect it from the harsher reams surrounding it. With oceans on three sides defending it from the neighboring land masses, and both the massive desert of the Sandsa and the vast chasm of Escaloni Canyon to the south, invasion from beyond Ovid’s borders is a challenge at best, if not logistically impossible without modern technology and vast resources.
Of course, that doesn’t mean this garden has been at all peaceful. For all that these barriers have kept out invasion, they have also kept in the warlords and wizards that would dominate the region for themselves. The lands of Ovid have been subject to innumerable tyrants, wars, and fragmented petty nations over the years. For nearly 1500 years this paused as the Kingdom of Ovid unified the realm and had relative peace for generations as they sought new lands to conquer and destroy beyond their own borders. For a time many thought that Ovid would remain whole and dominant forevermore. It’s rather funny how a dead king, a pair of rival heirs, and a war of succession can change both people’s minds and the lines on a map.
Now Ovid is fractured into many petty kingdoms and states, each vying for dominance and to restore their own vision of the Kingdom of Ovid. An ambitious goal, but one I wouldn’t expect to see within my lifetime.
Alphabetically, we must begin with the Apothekarium, though were it up to me I would leave them for last, if not entirely exclude from this tome. Wedged between the mountainous Longwood Vale and the Jessup Sea, the Apothekarium was mostly poor territory made worse by it’s sinister masters. It’s survival as a state is half out of fear of what it can bring to the battlefield, and half out of it having ruined most of its territory in making its terrible weapons.
The capital, and really only population center remaining, is Sandford. A densely built, dank, stinking city at the northernmost edge of the vast wetlands known as the Barrelbog. Once it had been ruled by the much larger city of Albertshire, but after rebelling from the King of Ovid a hundred years previous the Apothekarium unleashed a terrible plague upon the city and it’s conquerors, killing both indiscriminately. Now the city is a barren ruin, where not even plants grow.
The Apothekarium continues dabbling in what is, and should be, considered forbidden arts by all sensible people. Poisons, necromancy, and constructs able to withstand both are the favored tools of the alchemists of Sandford. During the era of the Kings of Ovid they were kept under close watch, with a short leash between their existence and the King’s justice keeping them in line.
Of course, with the fall the Kingdom of Ovid, there are neither watchers nor leash, making its citizens and neighbors alike nervous. And they should be.
Poets call many beautiful places in this world magical, meaning to invoke a wondrous beauty to their setting rather than the more precise arcane meaning of the word. With Autumnvale, however, both terms apply accurately. Autumnvale is home to a permanent portal to the Faewild and, naturally, an abundance of Fae creatures taking holiday or permanent residence upon the mortal plane. While most of the Lockwood, the massive forest that dominates much of Ovid south of the Charm River, is a wild and sinister place; Autumnvale is bright, cheerful, and dangerous. Pretty much what one would expect for a realm ruled by the Fae Summer Court.
While roving Troll and Goblin bands are common, so too are sheltered glades guarded by Dryads and Summer Elves. Arborkin aplenty live openly under the boughs of the Autumnvale, and in the great palace, for which the nation is named, one can find members of nearly every species engaged in the frantic revelry and trade.
The Summer Court dominates the realm, and unspoken rules of conduct govern the realm. It is a place where one might find joy and healing, or be punished for breaking some unspoken custom. Murder is, in fact, legal in Autumnvale. Though it remains largely peaceful. For those who enter the realm with violence in their hearts tend to be the ones who end up dead in the street, with their corpses ignored by the milling throngs of singing merchants.
Because of this, most careful types tend to stop at the trade stations on the borders. These glades are well guarded and mostly safe for those looking to buy and trade exotic Fae goods. But be warned, stary beyond these sheltered glades and anything could happen. You could be invited to a feast, or become a feast. Possibly at the same event.
The communities around Barrier Bay were a strange lot. Populated heavily by both Clont from Genevia and Humans fleeing the dangers of Ovid, the fishing communities on the edge of the continent were largely content to be ignored by the great governments of the world. Ignored by the generations as being too remote to be worth protecting or taxing, the collapse of the Kingdom of Ovid changed next to nothing about the region save for how others looked upon it.
With war looming over the scraps of Ovid that remained, the people of Barrier Bay realized that, all too soon, their quiet shores might be seen as prime lands free from the terrors running rampant elsewhere. In quiet meetings between town mayors and local lords a form of government was formed, not one based upon codified laws or central government, but of each disparate community agreeing that they generally got on well as is and that they should band together to ensure they kept getting on as time went on.
Each town, castle, and demense in Barrier Bay is its own micronation, some but a handful of miles across, and individually they are frightfully weak. But unified, they pose enough resistance to make it a chore for a greater realm to invade. And so they maintain their quiet, peaceful respite. For those lucky enough to be from here, you might expect a pretty happy life beside the sea, where your biggest worry might be of a passing storm. Of course, you likely also will never leave your seaside town. It is a small place, perfect for small people. And those with big dreams rarely are invited to stay.
As with most nations, as the humans of Ovid grew more powerful with their technology and magic, werefolk were driven out from their prime hunting grounds to the fringes of civilization. In Ovid it was especially bad. In ancient times, the humans of the Heartlands had been hunted as food by roving packs of werefolk for generations. Strongholds like Highchurch slowly spread out to protect ever-growing human farmlands, and bounties on any werefolk of any breed became the law of the land. Until, during the great wars in which Ovidian Kings unified the realm, a band of werefolk found a place in royal court. With their powerful wings and ability to fly, the Aviary were natural scouts for the royal army. Their aid helped the humans of Ovid unify their lands and drive out the aberrations and demons that had long harassed it. For their service, they were offered their own land: Bird Island. A large island of their very own.
Of course, what the Aviary saw as their private home for their tribe became, in fact, something else entirely. Hearing of realm governed by werefolk, tribes of every sort began to migrate towards Bird Island, massing in camps in the forest that would come to be known as the Werewood as they sought passage to their safe haven off-shore. At first, the Avaiary tried to refuse these immigrants access to their home. After all, their island had been hard won through the lives of many of their kin, but in time compassion and practicality opened their borders. Bird Island was a large landmass, but very soon it seemed filled to the brim. Worse, as this migration began to occur, the humans of Ovid began encouraging it, offering or demanding werefolk take a one way pilgrimage off the mainland.
When you lock a lion and a lamb in a cage, the results are usually predictable. Not so with Bird Island. Despite coming from a wide range of lifestyles, natural adaptations, and often conflicting philosophies, the people of Bird Island were unified in their desperation for freedom from human tyranny. Where many expected the island to become a savage kill-or-be-killed prison, it instead became a highly organized, functional utopia for the werefolk. Cooperation and preservation of the island was not only law, but essential. The werefolk worked together because they had to, and in turn their realm remains stable, peaceful, and generally one of the more pleasant realms in all of Ovid.
If you are a werefolk, that is. For everyone else, best to watch your step.
Freedom, one won, is difficult to take away. For its history, County Carillon has been a story of those seeking freedom from tyranny. Founded in ancient times as a means to escape the Acranocrats of Versity Bay (our unfortunate predecessors in a time where magic was used to dominate rather than enlighten), the pilgrims willing to brave the wild and sinister Lockwood were considered mad. But Hubert Silverbell valued the possibility of freedom over his own safety, and marched ahead, past tree and terror, to find a large island inside a larger lake, surrounded by forested hills. There he built a fortress with a large belltower to warn his fellow settlers of werefolk attacks. Over time, the settlement grew, and more bell towers were erected. Until finally the island became loud and clamorous whenever an occasion called for the bells to be rung. The original name of Hubertville was abandoned and Carillon, City of Bells, came to be.
In the eras that followed, Carillon would settle large swaths of the Eastern Lockwood, eventually having much of it named the Songwood as a means of differentiating the relatively safe forest from the darker, wilder forests beyond. Carillon always had a strong martial tradition of defending its borders, first with knights and pikemen, and then later embracing firearms faster than any nation save for Grandmill. By the modern era Carillon’s musketeers were famous for their marksmanship and discipline and were an essential part of the Kingdom of Ovid’s national army.
And then the Kingdom of Ovid was no more. Well armed and full of civic spirit, the city become the backbone of the provisional government that lasted for a few short decades. When that too collapsed, Carillon realized it had been helping others rule for generations, and decided that now was the time for it to rule itself. The Countess Artimage, Lord Mayor Mowngle, General Preacher and a number of other heroes of the war formed a national congress that now governs the realm, with each town, village, and city district electing its representatives. With the bells of the city ringing proudly and a new spirit of self determination cheering the streets, the city island is now one of the safest, most orderly lands in all of Ovid. While the surrounding forests are as dangerous as ever, the brave riflemen of County Carillon patrol its borders in force.
Carillon is finally free to pursue its own fate. And will fight to remain so.
Some nations exist because they represent strong national interests and powerful governments. Others exist because, if they didn’t, those strong nations would be left in the unthinkable position of total war. So is the history of Eogan. Chester Ridge was historically a battleground region between the kings and queens of the Heartlands and the peoples of the Adairian Hills. Over the past 2000 years hundreds of wars have been fought over the region until, eventually, the Kingdom of Ovid unified the realm.
When the succession crisis destroyed the Kingdom, fighting resumed between the Adiairians, supporting Duchess Sadine, and the Heartlanders, supporting Princess Enzia. Once more Chester Ridge was devastated by conflict. When the provisional, and ultimately short-lived government formed after the death of both heirs, Eogan, a hero of the war who defended the people of the region from both sides, demanded his demesne be declared a free province to keep war from occuring between the Adairiand and Heartlanders in the future. He got his wish, for better or worse.
Eogan as a state is far from successful. Its major population center, Mullenstone, is a major trade center, true. But for all of the wealth that passes through the realm so too does trouble. Adairian and Heartlander conflicts remain close at hand. Carillon, to the south, also maintains its largest garrison just miles from the nation’s capital. The wilds of Chester Ridge and nearby Fallowen Forest are rife with bandits and dragons. In short, there are no shortage of troubles plaguing the realm. Lord Eogan and his knights do their best, but their realm is poor, their forces few, and their problems many.
The southernmost nation of Ovid is arguably its most successful, from a certain point of view. Winterark has vast wealth from the arc mines. Heartlands holds great wealth from vast, safe fields. The Escaloni Guildlands have vast wealth from trade. While almost the entire population of the nation lives in the capital of Waterford, what little doesn’t is either traveling on one of their massive fleet of trade ships or is working on one of the guild properties along the Escaloni canyon. From tin mines to ceramics, baskets to weapons of bloodshed, there is a Guild in Escaloni that specializes in what you need, and will trade it for a price.
Government through trade leads to a certain… flexibility in laws. While there are codified rules of trade in Escaloni, the real power are with the guilds themselves. With the backing of a powerful guild, one can get away with nearly anything in Escaloni. Without the backing of a guild… Well. There is a reason that the slums of Waterford are the largest and most depressing of any realm I have seen.
The canyon the realm is named for is vast, the largest in the world and miles across. Many settlements of the guilds are built up high, on the walls of the canyon, where one can work safely separated from elementals and beasts that tend to hunt the depths by the river. With the sandsea just to the south and the jungles of Jemai within reach, the guilds of Escaloni want for nothing, save for morality.
Most of the lands of Ovid are fairly young, maybe existing for a few thousand years at best. Not so with Genevia. The stronghold of the Clont people has remained in their sheltered mountain vales since before recorded history. To hear them tell it, the Clont were the branch of the Aligan people, the soul-slaving giants that once dominated all of Haust. Unlike their brethren, they saw the use of souls as fuel to be abhorrent, and isought a refuge where they could hide from the terrors of the Aligan Empires. In Genevia they found this sanctuary, and there they lived in a quiet, fearful hermitage until, seemingly overnight, the Aligan Empires vanished from this world.
Liberated from the terrors of their cousins, and with the strength and power of their race, the Clonts began to explore the world beyond their hermitage, returning regularly to share tales of the strange lands they visited and their adventures along the way. To this day, the nomadic nature of many Clont still allows them to return regularly to their sacred city of Clontstead to tell their tales and see their relatives.
Ove the eras, Genevia has acknowledged and paid tribute to strong neighboring nations, but has never been subject to rule by others. Even in the era of the Kingdom of Ovid, it was a self-governing province and generally left separate in all things. For no one wants the combined wrath of an entire race of people to fall down on their nation. should someone try to invade Genevia, Clont adventures and common folk alike would return to their ancestral homeland to defend it. And such an army would be unstoppable.
Grandmill is the most advanced city in the world. Built over a set of three giant stone and metal pillars that funnel the powerful currents of the Charm River into a massive series of turbines that power the city, from this innovative base it rises in hundreds of towers up into the sky, with vast series of gears and bridges connecting and rotating portions of the city as the day passes. The entire city is, in itself, a massive machine. And that machine produces innovation.
But before the clockwork, the electricity, the constructs, and the city itself, there was an island without a proper name. A leper colony for the neighboring Adairian Baronies, the afflicted of the wasting disease would find solace in their slow decay on the isle. When the Kings of Ovid invaded Adaire, one of the lepers of the island offered aid with an innovation he had created from the dungheaps of the colony, wasted charcoal, and the sulfer that was abundant in the island’s hilly interior. This early gunpowder was tricky, dangerous, and prone to failure. But with Adairam mages being few and far between, and the invading armies having a vast number of sorcerers at their disposal, it became a critical element in Adairian defense. In time, non-lepers began to work in the industries of the island. Driven by the war efforts of their Adairian patrons, the innovators of the island began to create other tools of war. With river attacks common, the island became fortified time and again. When electricity was finally produced without need for a wizard of cleric, the island built its’ new foundation, leading to the name of Grandmill.
While Adaire would eventually fall to the Kings of Ovid, the island would remain valued by their conquerors. Grandmill was the arsenal of Ovid, and from it flowed airships, firearms, constructs, and other tools that came to be feared by Ovid’s neighbors. It seemed there was no limit to the power that Grandmill technology could bring to one who controlled it. That is, until the succession crisis. Grandmill chose to back Duchess Sadine in her claim for the Ovidian throne, and it would prove a fatal mistake. As with the capital of Kingsbridge, Grandmill would largely be destroyed by the weapons it created, sending technology back hundreds of years.
Now the city and its wondrous devices are being rebuilt, ever so slowly. The spires still rise into the sky, and the lights still run from the great waterworks, but there is a long way to go before it is restored to its former glory. And the scars of war pock not only the bodies of it’s people, but the great fortress city itself.
Kendredai, the dark island. For centuries it was a place to be feared and avoided. The mountains on the interior are tall and jagged, and filled beneath with abundant horrors. The thick pine forests surrounding them were filled with terrible abominations that killed prey for sport as well as for sustenance. In Ovid, to go to Kendredai was, for centuries, a way of saying to go to your death. But all of that was before Daytown.
Scholars commonly talk about how werefolk have had a hard lot in life, and it is certainly true. But left ignored is the plight of our construct children. Alive in all ways save for acknowledgement by humans, they suffer silently as our helpers and servants. But not all of them. In centuries past, a group of constructs built in Grandmill sought to be masters of their own destiny. Stealing a handful of ships, and with the help of a small band of repentant humans folk sympathetic to their cause, these refugees fled Grandmill and took to the sea. Their search for a home took only a year, but such a year it was. Pursued by Grandmill for their “stolen property” and rejected at almost every port as too much trouble to be worth accepting, the refugees finally took the phrase “go to Kendredai” seriously. And, with no other options left, landed on the shores of a land that would assuredly kill them.
But after a life of servitude and slavery, and years of fighting to stay alive at sea with little to no support, the constructs and their allies had become adept at surviving. They cleared land and built shelters from the elements, the monsters of the island, even the lengthy shadows cast by the tall mountains that surrounded them. They used gunpowder to blow holes in the mountains to allow for more sunlight to hit their fields, used electricity to light their streets and guns to guard their walls. The innovations they had tirelessly built for others they utilized themselves. And within a generation Daytown became one of the great success stories of the mortal plane. Ruled by the Lords Industrial, and worshipping Selnoir as repentance for their past wrongs, Daytown is a place where humans and constructs live as equals.
So long as they stay within the light of Daytown, anyway. Kendredai is still a nightmare of a realm, and the small villages that crop up outside the walls have a habit of vanishing overnight.
If Ovid is the center of the world, Kingsbridge is the center of Ovid. The massive city is a triumph of what mortals can do when unified. Built under a succession of Ovidian Kings over the shallow marshes in the center of the Brightlake, the city today is a series of artificial islands. Using the natural flow of the water of the Charm River for power, plumbing, and sanitation, it is a clean, prosperous, and innovative city. At least, as it currently stands.
Kingsbridge has been the capital of Ovid for generations. And in those generations, it has seen its share of conflicts. Completely destroyed down to the foundations during the Succession Crisis, it was rebuilt by the provisional government under the protection of the Boarhardt Guild. It is a beautiful city, for some. Some of the older districts, such as the Clocktower District, remain in ruins form the great war, with neither political will nor local permission to rebuild. From here the poor and downtrodden find little comfort compared to the rest of the city. And, as is too often the case in Ovid, the poor are overwhelmingly werefolk.
Still, despite its problems, the city remains a major trade city even with the collapse of the nation it once ruled. It now governs itself, under the protection of the adventurers of the Boarhardt Guild. While not the official Mayor, most of the city acknowledges that while the governing lords in the Newcastle may hold power on paper, the true ruler of Kingsbridge is found behind the bar at the Pig’s Pride Tavern, where Rupert Boarhardt holds court with any who seek to make the world better by risking their lives.
Once upon a time there was a King of the Heartlands who used the lives of his people to prolong his own. Through dark rituals and worship of the Annwynn, his rule stretched to hundreds of years and cost innumerable lives. His people became his cattle, and his court feasted well upon steak and blood. Some saw this as a problem, and in time they tried to redeem their nation. And, at great cost, they succeeded. The vampire king was slain, his castle destroyed, and his court disbursed. But the question remained: what should be done about his daughter? In the final days of the war she helped the people overthrow her father, but she was, of course, also a vampire. Unable to reconcile letting her remain with the lives she had taken and her heroism on their behalf, instead she was exiled south of the Charm river, to the sinister Lockwood beyond.
Such was intended to be a death sentence, of course. Nothing survived long or well in the Lockwood. Monsters and terrors hunted well beneath the dark forest canopy. But such terrors had not encountered something like this exiled princess. The predators soon become the prey. In her hunting, she slew a beast about to kill a group of peasant children. After feasting beast, and with blood covering the rags she now wore, she took the children back to their home. A meagre village clinging desperately to the side of a lake for security. It was a poor place, with its population constantly lost to the dangers of the realm. They were less than pleased to see another monster emerge from the forest, but when the monster returned their children unharmed, they watched her leave without attacking. And so, for decades of her eternal life, she would save the mortals in her own hunts, returning them to their town. In time, she became known as the Dark Lady, a monster looming on the edge of their village. But while she was a monster, she was their monster.
In time, the children she had saved welcomed her into the village and gave her comfort and kinship. In return, she fought the monsters and terrors that loomed at their borders. The town began to thrive, and the Dark Lady was more than happy to simply live as protector to the kind people she had been accepted by. But with their success also came the attention of neighboring lands. Carillon, Tarchay, Ovid; all saw this town as a tainted, horrific land giving solace to a monster. The villagers, in turn, took this as a badge of honor. Maybe they were tainted by their monster, but to hell with that. In defiance they renamed the town to Taintsville and elevated the Dark Lady as their guardian, protector, and one of their elders. Over time, the children that she saved, and had later embraced her, asked to help her in defending their realm. With the permission of the whole village, she granted her vampiric curse to them. And so their ability to protect their own grew in turn.
Such has been the way of Taintsville and the Lockwood in the centuries since. The Dark Lady rules over it all as their own Dark Queen. A protector and guide in a world that wants to kill them. But while outsiders wonder how anyone can willingly live in a city where vampires walk the streets, one must remember that in the Lockwood vampires do not prey on their own. They are honored, eternal guardians of their people against a much more threatening forest. Still, it is hard to have such an open mind with armies of undead are threatening your borders and the denizens of the Lockwood have frequently preyed upon their neighbors, especially County Carillon, for sustenance. There is little love for the Lockwood anywhere in Ovid, and even less love for the rest of Ovid within the Lockwood.
Not far from the southern downs, in the mountains separating County Carillon from the Escaloni Guildlands, was a wide, pleasant valley. Mostly filled with rolling meadows, gentle streams, and beautiful wildflowers as far as the eye could see it was a paradise, until its neighbors went and ruined everything. A quick path between nations, a road was made through this vale, and then a village, and then mines were opened. Soon the flowers were trampled and the rivers clouded. And Lord Fern was not pleased.
A powerful meadowfolk paladin, Lord Fern decided that this vale would be better ruled by his kind than the other mortals about, and in quick order drove the Humans, Clont, and Werefolk from his realm. The mines became the home to Trufflekin, the fields to his Arborkin and Meadowkin allies. The village was torn down, and in its place a palace of living wood was grown to watch the highway.
It’s a pleasant enough place to pass through, so long as you keep to the road. Here stepping on flowers might be the last thing you do.
There are some places that just seem to beg for trouble. Malund is one of them. The western hills of Ovid hold a wealth of resources, fertile land, and gentle weather. A perfect place for someone to set up a home and build a kingdom. When that little kingdom is surrounded on all sides by much larger and ambitious nations, having a little slice of perfection begins to look like an invitation.
Over the generations, Malund has been invaded, conquered, sacked, rebuilt, and invaded again seemingly every generation. The rich mines of the western hills have been plundered for ore by nation after nation. The great city of the realm, Howlia, was wiped off the map by an engineered flood many generations ago. The city of Malund, more of a township boasting a larger than usual slum, is about all that remains of civilization. If you could call it that.
With the flags flying over Malund changing with the seasons, the people turned to the one contsant that remained between armies and rulers: faith. Alethia is worshipped in Malund with a remarkable fervor that makes even the slightly unpious nervous. The current Prefect, Lord Stashe, has a small army of inquisitors seeking to drive out any who would worship the lesser gods from his realm. The most recent tyranny of many, the people of Malund know how to keep their heads down and when to say the correct prayers.
But some are fed up with it. Falloween Forest holds a small army of brigands and refugees, led by Lamar, the Bandit Baron. From the village of Eaton he strikes at Lord Stashe’s realm plundering and liberating what he can. Some call him a hero, most call him just another would be conqueror.
There is little hope these days in Malund. Not that there ever was much to begin with.
Home is where the heart is, and in Ovid home is often the Heartlands. The Heartlands is about as safe a place as you can get, in the larger scheme of things. Filled with rolling hills and gentle streams, the Heartlands is the best real estate you can find for farming or simply living free from bandits, monsters, or other calamities. A few pockets of wilderness yet remain, such as Bentley Forest, Barrelbog, or the Werewood, but those get smaller by the day as farmers and settlers claim bit by bit for the growing needs of civilization.
Human civilization in Ovid largely blossomed in the Heartlands. The Kingdom of Ovid was born here, as were most of the great nations that came before it. Now, with Ovid gone, the last of the bloodline of that once great kingdom rules The Heartlands and those loyal to the old nation. Queen Kaitsja Broham-Regalus is still a child, but one with great courage. Her actions have earned the loyalty of her people, and while many of the lands that once followed Ovid have gone their own way, within the Queendom she rules supreme.
The Heartlands has many thriving townships, but the greatest of these is the city of Highchruch. Looming on a dormant volcano high above the surrounding hills, the city has, over time, flatened the mountain into a plateau and built a city of tall towers and dense streets. At the center is the Cathedral of Alethia and the great castle of Faith’s Fortress, both of which rise high above the surrounding buildings. But for every spire in Highchurch, there is a tunnel and chasam beneath. The volcanic tunnels beneath the city are home as many residents as the streets above. Originally a Trufflekin fortress, few know how many tunnles sneak to and fro beneath the mountain. Some say there are entrances from miles upon miles away, making the city one of the least secure in the world. The undercity is a disreputable, dangerous place, a dark shadow to the kindness and generosity often found elsewhere in the Heartlands.
But in the lager scale of things, the Heartlands is a safe place. A kinder land, for happy people. But don’t underestimate these farmers and villagers. They once build the largest empire in the world, and may yet do so again if given reason to look outward from their gentle, kinder lands.
When the Kingdom of Ovid collapsed, it has hardly a surprise to find Adairian daggers planted in the nation’s back. Adairians are known for being opportunists. When the baronies of the Adairian Hills saw weakness in the Lords Council, they struck quickly and decisively. Garrisons all over the Adairian Hills changed flags overnight, some peacefully as soldiers simply switched allegiances to promises of gold or local loyalty, others by the sword in ruthless takeovers. In days, the western-most provinces of Ovid reverted to their natural form, the loose collection of aligned baronies that outlasted all other nations during Ovid’s rise to power.
While called the United Adairian Baronies, those familiar with it know it is anything but. The only thing the Adairian Barons hate more than each other is outside influences. Left to their own devices, the little baronies will continue their great game of backstabbing, political maneuvering, and bankrolling the surrounding nations. Never to the point of open warfare, of course. That would be madness. A knife in the back will do just fine, or better yet, sabotage and purchasing a neighbor’s lands. Their armies and navy are strong, far stronger than most nations in the present political landscape, but are fractured in allegiance. Each baron maintains their own private army that, when unified against a common cause, is a terrible force to behold. But, individually, are kept close to home to prevent their neighboring barons from getting any ideas.
The current Council of Barons has made some handy investments, offering the northern lands of Taveres and Stormhaven into the fold. Their navy has purchased or commandeered numerous islands in the Straits of Fourohate to control and tax shipping. What’s more, they somehow managed to broker a peace treaty between the Orlandian Empire, Winderwood, and Kernaugh that left all three satisfied with the Baronies taking the entire provide of Nodegan for themselves.
But, then. Adairians are opportunists. If they sold Nodgean tomorrow for a better deal, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
By now, you should be at last partially familiar with the Versity Magical Academy and our territory. While most of the campus is in Versity itself, our thriving city of towers and sorcery, numerous laboratories and research facilities cover the larger island, our barrier islands, and the marshlands of Valencia just to the north. Thanks to our network of teleportation portals, transportation within our grounds is quite effective and almost always free of permanent disfigurations.
But our lovely magical campus was once a much darker place. Many years ago, it was the castle home of a cabal of wizards who ruled through fear and insanity. They performed dangerous magics just for the sake of doing it, and used whatever power gained to subjugate and take anything they could find. In time, their cruelty led to the only fate that becomes such behavior: the people rose up and nearly killed them to the last man.
Only a small few wise enough to sense the changing winds of fate managed to turn on their brethren and support the people of the southern realms. They still performed magic for the sake of it, and founded the College of Theoretics. The paladins and clerics that rose against the wizards became the College of Abrogatics, focused upon learning magic to control and contain it. Finally, a new school of sorcery began to be taught focusing on practical magics to solve immediate problems: The College of Pragmatics.
Together these three educate the majority of magic users on Haust and beyond. While other academies do great work, such as Heatherwood Academy in Orland or Miam Acadmy in Brevardrim, for the most part they serve only a local audience and require national allegiance to attend. We at Versity Magical Academy will teach anyone interested enough to risk their lives on the frequently lethal entrance exam.
After all, just because we will take anyone from anywhere doesn’t mean we don’t have standards. Magic is a dangerous business, better commit to risking your life before walking down these hallowed halls of learning.
The tall mountains and frozen glaciers of Winterark hardly seem like the perfect place for a nation. At least, before the Arcmines opened. Long ago, a Malundi prospector was mad enough to travel north through the Tuskwold to delve into the Winterark Mountains. Inside, he found a vast series of caverns lined with seams of ore and precious gemstones. What’s more, in his dig he managed to plunge through the walls of the glacier rock to find a sheltered valley filled with geothermal hot springs. It wasn’t long before the wealth of both of these lands was noticed by others.
The first to fully colonize the Winterark were the Malundi. Over time they blasted through the thin eastern mountains to open a passage into the sea, emptying out the geothermal lake into the ocean and creating the vale we now know. Soon after, gems and wealth began flowing out from the vale. The wealth of the vale attracted the attention of the Orlandian Empire, just across the Straits of Semoran, and soon their merchants and soldiers outnumbered the Malundi miners. The miners became a second class, living mostly underground and out of sight, while the value was built up into the most beautiful city in the world. A paradise of warmth and wealth hidden in the ice. The Fourth Duchy of Orland, it became the most wealthy of them all.
But the Empress of Orland was far away, and in time the Dukes and Duchesses of Winterark decided that they might better govern themselves. Great gates were built over the channel to the Staits, the Beacons of Winter, which upon need can close the entire channel with a gate of silver-gilded iron. Their fortress complete, Winterark became free for generations. Only at the height of the Kingdom of Ovid did they join, and then on their own terms. Offering wealth and fealty in exchange for self rule and a place at the King’s table. The Kings of Ovid gladly agreed, for taking Winterark Vale is next to impossible.
Even after the Orlandian Empire lost its hold on Winterark, the social castes remained unchanged. Winterark remains beautiful, wealthy, and warm, for those who can afford it. For those that keep the mansions clean, the food cooked, the streets clean, and the mined producing, daylight is a reward, not a constant. Not that a visitor would notice. So well hidden are the servant classes that most manors connect to the mines through underground servant gates and secret corridors. Showing your help is considered a great social faux pas, of course. A trait of the newly rich or senile.
Under the current Duke, Vincent DuBious, a number of banks and casinos have opened across the city of Merrydale, bringing new sources of wealth to the vale. Not that it
Wedged between the Genevian Highlands and the Lockwood lies a quiet, steep-walled valley known for ancient forests and wild magics. Witchwood Vale long has been a sanctuary for those seeking to understand the more abstract forms of spellcasting. Hedge Witches, impulsive-sorcerers, and those who find magic to be part of their being in an unknowable, uncontrollable way frequently do not find a home at Versity Magical Academy. While we do many things well, too often do such innate spellcasters find our studies to be limiting or detrimental to their long term abilities.
And so, they make the pilgrimage to Witchwood Vale. Such a trip is a dangerous undertaking. If they manage to make it through the Lockwood to the Witchwood, there is no road directly through it. One must make their way up the vale from the Charm Headwaters, facing a series of three challenges placed by the Witches to test an applicant’s mettle. Often these challenges are designed specifically for the initiate, making them face their own failings and fears. Should they succeed, they will find their way to the hidden village at the top of the vale. Should they fail… well. We don’t hear much about those folks.
The vale is governed by the greatest Witch of the age, which for an unusually long time has been the oddly perpetually youthful Lotte the Lucky. As with her, witches of the vale gain a nickname describing how best to manifest their powers. The former high witch, a Trufflekin Witch named Agarica, worked her magics on the mountains that bind their vale to create a narrow cave through the mountains to Barrier Bay. Through this passage traders may come and go, often with witches traveling to and from the vale. But initiates seeking quick and safe entry are denied.
While we are not precisely rivals with Witchwood Vale, they do represent a form of magic that is dangerous, unpredictable, and plagued by cults of personality rather than order or skill. We at Versity discourage students from seeking the vale as a means to get around their studies, as all to often it is a fruitless endeavor.