Provinces and Prefectures of the North
Though the Heartlands are the center of the Empire, and comprise the former Imperial homelands, the North is the site of the majority of the Empire's population. The temperate lands of the North, though colder than the Heartlands, seem, for Imperials, closer to home than the blazing jungles and deserts of the South. Many of the Northern states lie within the Region of Cold, where days are short and winters are long.
Often called the Center of the North, P'angu Prefecture is a wealthy region of many cities and many people. Here, one can find all manner of people, from Akorti to Zanfal. P'angu is temperate, with a cool, rainy spring (45-55 F/4.4-12.8 C), a warm summer (60-70 F/15.6-21.1 C) with sunny, breezy weather, a chilly autumn with frequent frosts and storms (40-50 F/4.4-10 C), and frozen, snowy winter (10-40 F/negative 12-4 C). The weather is usually somewhat windy, but not terribly extreme. The Prefecture's terrain is hilly, with many thinly forested valleys between the farmed land that surrounds the many towns and cities.
There are many, many people in P'angu, so many that its population dwarfs that of Rain Drum and Riverlands combined. The landscape is everywhere overspread by cities and towns, surrounded by farmed land. The people of P'angu have many occupations, most of them centered in the Prefecture's many urban areas, and are significantly richer than inhabitants of states such as Silver Star, Shever Hills, or Hu-Be. P'angu homes are usually constructed from timber frames with walls of plaster or brick, though the rich often have homes of stone and rice paper. P'angu is famous for tile roofs, and there is nary a home to be seen without one, save the poorest of huts.
The roads of P'angu are reasonable in condition, and are certainly the best in the North. They are usually packed earth with ditch margins, while highways are paved in granite flagstones. P'angu roads and highways also undergo a strange process known as 'smiting' which ensures their weatherproof-ness. There are often checkpoints along P'angu roads, and one must be sure to have ones traveling papers or Letters of Travel handy. The roads are often packed full of people, and bandits roam in full sight.
Adventurers and sellswords are unlikely to find the work they expect in P'angu. Rather, urban dangers are more prominent, due to the tamed countryside and profusance of cities. Crime is common in the cities, despite Imperial attempts to police them, and many things fester in the sewers beneath towns that were better not to have seen light. Hungry ghosts are a problem in towns where the dead are buried in catacombs rather than given the proper offerings, and Demons of disease and filth and other things that breed in cities are apparent. The most likely place to find work for sellswords is as mercenary muscle for powerful crime families.
The Lady Great Minister Loves Her Duty attempts to govern the unruly P'angu Prefecture. Loves Her Duty has previously done very well in smaller states, but the size and population of P'angu have left her in over her head. She is too soft to deal with the crime families, and too hard to deal with the masses. However, she has managed to prevent the crime from spreading overmuch outside the cities.
Heart Forest Prefecture
South of the cities of P'angu, and north of the hills of Imperial Prefecture, there is a great valley, surrounded by great high hills, or low mountains if you prefer, and from the tops of these hills, one can look down and see the vastness of Heart Forest, the greatest forest in the world, and the home of countless Spirits. The Heart Forest is age-old, the last remainder of a mighty wood that once spanned the whole of the North, and it's primeval silence is so still and so deep that it feels almost a sacrilige to disturb it. The air under the trees is not as cold as that of some of the North; spring is mild (50-55 F/10-13 C), summer warm (55-65 F/13-18 C), autumn is cool (45-55 F/4-13 C), and winter is chilly, but not overmuch (35-40 F/2-4 C). The weather is usually somewhat windy, due to air flowing through the gap in the hills in the West, and there is usually a week or more of precipitation each month. The terrain is swathed in dense, primeval forest, with great redwoods and oaks in the central zones, and pines, cottonwoods, and other such high-altitude trees on the upper slopes of the surrounding hills. The Serpent River flows through the center of Heart Forest and emerges out the other side to sweep downward into Rice Grower's Prefecture.
The people of Heart Forest are composed mostly of a few iron and copper miners in the hills, logging camps in the outer edges, and scattered villages of woodsmen, mostly from the local Uti Barbarian stock. There are no settlements in the deeper portions of the forest, where strange beasts and Spirits reign, and the shy Uti stay mostly to the middle regions. The forests yield up great harvests of wood, and this is the Prefecture's main income. There is also some small farmland in the gap between Heart Forest and Serpent River Province, though this is mostly subsistence farmers.
The roads of Heart Forest lead over the hills to the outer settlements, and are usually wide dirt tracks in middling condition. There are no highways, though the larger roads have a few checkpoints. The middle and inner forest has no roads.
Adventurers and sellswords are often hired by logging companies and mining interests in Heart Forest to protect from attacks by vengeful beasts and animal Spirits. Most of the trouble in Heart Forest springs from fractious and jealous Spirits, unwilling to allow Men to destroy the last remnant of the once-mighty forest, though the forest is still mighty. Spirits are very active and outspoken in Heart Forest, and the well-known Spirit known as White Wolf, who, as presumed, leads the wolves of Heart Forest, has spoken with Imperial Priests on numerous occasions, though these talks have only ever lead to more violence.
The governor of Heart Forest is the Forest Overseer Quickened Gaze. Quickened Gaze is a quiet old man who has dwelt in the forest with the Uti for many decades, and understands their ways, and the ways of the forest Spirits, better than anyone else in the Empire. He has helped in negotiations with the inhabitants of the Forest, and has proved a very successful governor since his inception five years ago. There are always grumblers, though, and the grumblers in Heart Forest say that Quickened Gaze is too soft on the forest-dwellers, and doesn't look enough to the needs of the miners and loggers, who, after all, must make money to support their families.
(OOC: For my inspiration for Heart Forest, look to Princess Mononoke. The Uti are As**taka's people, the Imperials are the miners, and the Spirits are almost the same. Remove firearms, and you've got a pretty good idea of the current Heart Forest situation.)
Silver Star Prefecture
Beneath the great cliff of Wind's Edge Province, there is a great flat plain, lying above the cities of P'angu, a plain marked with many lakes and streams, water meadows and stands of pine, a beautiful country of moss hills and squelching water-lily ponds. The water-table is high, and though there are a few bogs, it is mostly grassy water-meadows separated by groups of green pines. The spring and summer of Silver Star are much alike, cool and misty, with much precipitation (45-55 F/4-13 C), while autumn and winter are icy cold, snowy, and clear (negative 20-35 F/negative 23-2 C). The terrain is a high plain with many wetlands, water-meadows, ponds, lakes, and dotted with stands of pines.
Silver Star's beautiful countryside is dotted with small villages of farmers and fishermen, as well as artists and poets who are drawn to the open meadows and starry skies of Silver Star. The region is famous for having been the home of the famous poet and tapestry painter Meet Me Beneath the Star of Fire. Many of the Empire's most famous tapestry-painters and muralists come from Silver Star, and the Prefecture is also famous for the great saga-songs of the File, a Barbarian people who dwell there. The Silver Star populace has a pronounced middle class, something that is absent in most other states, and this middle class is mostly composed of the artists of the Prefecture. Silver Star homes are wooden structures with tile roofs that are raised over the wet ground on decks of wood. They have sliding doors and windows made of wooden racks of stretched leather. They are usually well-decorated, since inhabitants can get ornaments from the local painter or leatherworker.
The roads of Silver Star are in fairly good condition. They are usually raised over the wet ground to prevent water damage, though there is always the chance of sinking. In the swampier areas, dirt tracks are replaced by wooden walkways raised over the water on short wooden posts. The highways are usually paved in brick and raised on packed earth above the wetlands. There are sometimes checkpoints closer to towns. There are also frequent areas to the sides of roads called "imile", a File word meaning "enclosure", circles of packed earth where there are stones erected. On the stones are carved the phases of the Moon. These imile are the File equivalent of roadside shrines.
Adventurers and sellswords can find work in Silver Star, if they look hard enough. The deeper bogs of the place hide strange monsters, and the File often hire sellswords to help and reconsecrate (i.e., clean free of monsters) their holy sites. The File do not war among themselves, but they have a long running war against the Azzu of Wind's Edge, and sometimes send hired adventurers to battle Azzu raiders. The wilder interior regions of Silver Star are also home to strange Spirits, deep shadowy swamps where primeval things dwell, and watery caverns that the File say are entrances to the Underworld.
The governor of Silver Star is a contemplative young half-File woman named Silence Under the Water, who spends much of her time looking out the front entrance of her home at the water meadow and composing short poems. She is rather complacent, and does little actual work, but it really doesn't matter, since her half-sister and assistant, a File woman named Mile-Ileme.
The lakes and rivers of Silver Star drain from their plateau, mixing with the streams of P'angu and tributaries of the Serpent River, and create many channels, flowing down and west to a great basin, forming the great marshes and moors of Hu-Be Prefecture. Hu-Be is muggy and mosquito-ridden half the year (55-65 F/13-18 C), with much rain and constant moisture; the other half of the year it is a chill, frosted mix of frozen mud and icy pools (30-45 F/negative 1-4 C), with biting winds and frequent snow and icy rain. With such weather, and the addition of disease, bandits, monsters, and Demons, Hu-Be is a miserable state in which to live, held only because of the resources that can be gathered there. Hu-Be's terrain is a great basin rising at the edges and sinking towards the middle, where many streams and tributaries flow down into it, slowing into stagnancy in a labyrinth of fetid pools and festering marshes. The eastern part is the site of many squalid villages, but the west all the way to the border is open morass.
In the eastern part of Hu-Be, the populace of P'angu Prefecture spills over onto the flats, living in squalid villages and towns on stilts to rise above the channels, places of disease and crime where the scum of the Earth dwell and die. These horrible cysts of settlements are called "anemu-ko", which means "mud-town" or "mud-settlement". The people are either criminals or farmers and hunters. The latter go out into the marshes on stilts to harvest crops of wild swamp-grain, funguses, sweetgrass, mudfruit, and other marsh commodities. Most people in Hu-Be are poor, and the most common food is snake meat.
The roads of Hu-Be are usually ramshackle walkways of wood, raised above the ankle-deep, tea-brown water by wooden poles. These paths frequently collapse, and are in uniform disrepair. The highways of Hu-Be are not much better, being raised causeways of packed earth, clay, and a layer of wax, which frequently crumble and sink into the mire. There are checkpoints, but the assigned guards usually mutiny within a few weeks, and the gates become the homes of highwaymen, using them to rob hapless travelers.
Adventurers are welcomed in Hu-Be with a firm hand-grip, but the other hand conceals a dagger. Sellswords are often criminals like most Hu-Be residents, but nobody can be trusted. Work comes in the form of small crime or small anti-crime. In addition, there are a species of river dragon that dwell in Hu-Be that frequently attack mud-towns, and the mires are home to many monsters- huge snakes that sleep under the surface, mud-crawling beasts of all description, and a hundred other dangers. There are one or two tribes of wild Urwhor, a sub-species of the norm with a thicker fur coat.
The governor of Hu-Be is the enormously corrupt Great Swamp Prefect Fire Mongoose. Fire Mongoose is a taller-than-average, dusky-skinned man with long, tangled hair and beard, who can usually be found hob-knobbing with criminals rather than doing his Imperial duties. He is a great opportunist, as well as being in the pocket of several crime families.
Stone Forest Province
North of the peaceful wetlands of Silver Star and the festering swamps of Hu-Be, the land rises into a vast, thrust-up, slanted slope of mountains, descending into watery bogs and shadowy canyons at its base. Atop this great cliff, a foreshadowing of the endless cliff of Wind's Edge, there is a knife-blade ridge, and as one looks down from this ridge, one can look into the vast pine forest of Stone Forest, almost as large as that of Heart Forest, an army of black-furred spears in the snowy twilight, all the way into the distance, where the Thousand-Mile Cliffs of Wind's Edge can be seen like a rampart against the sky. This strange land is preternaturally silent, and the shadows in Stone Forest seem deeper and darker than other places. The temperature is cold, very cold (10-40 F/negative 12-4 C), in summer and in winter, though in the winter the ponds and streams freeze over. The wind blows most of the time, and though it is not the bitter tearing wind of the farthest north, it is chilly, and brings with it icy rains and muffling snows.
The silence of Stone Forest is little broken by Men. There are two camps of natives in Stone Forest: the nameless ones, and the Hautti. There are a few villages of the strange, nameless natives, who are hunched and masked and have deadly soft voices, and these are built atop hills of stone and around the bases of monumental pines. The natives' villages are pine piles where all the houses are constructed atop one another and as a part of one another, like a ramshackle tenement or mansion, though the best word is probably hive. The Hautti, a hunting nomad people, live in temporary shelters made of piles of pine branches. The eastern region, bordering on Silver Star, is the site of several relatively new logging camps where gruff woodsmen dwell, and in the swampy canyonlands at the bottom of the southern cliff, there are a number of Hu-Be mudtowns. The deeper one goes into Stone Forest, however, the deeper the silence is, and the darker the shadows, and the longer the night. Few Imperials can stand the strange darkness and weight of the Forest's atmosphere.
The roads of Stone Forest were slashed decades ago during the long (albeit bloodless) conquest of the Province. They are rocky lanes through the forest, made for the feet of soldiers, and generally lead only as far as the closest native village. There are three highways, and all go no further than the mining camps. They are paved, but little other work was done to them, and there are no checkpoints. The strange natives have been known to erect crazily-ramshackle arches of wood over the roads, and festoon these with the corpses of animals. Why they do this is not known.
The supernatural is very alive in the Stone Forest. Adventurers can find work battling alongside the Hautti against the dreaded Wargs, the man-wolves, and the Hautti themselves often battle amongst each other, with sellswords to aid them. The bizarre, furtive creepings and mad dancing of the nameless ones makes many a lumberman nervous, and adventurers are sometimes hired to drive them away. Deeper in the Forest there are massive artificial hills wherein are buried secrets that even the nameless ones will not touch. Occasionally, the western region, where the forest ends and the snows of White Fields begins, is host to strange, elemental beings of ice and winter. This Province is the home of many ancient and baleful spirits who turn an angry eye on intrusion into their realm.
The Lord Pine Minister Six-Fingered Hand is the governor of Stone Forest. His name springs from a quirk of his birth that left him with an extra, deformed finger on his left hand. He is a brilliant governor and an amazing orator, and his talents are wasted on this province, where relatively little happens. He has increased the authority of the loggers to expand their territories, while still maintaining peace with the Hautti, though, which is a feat that has set many minds in the capitol working to judge his enormous potential. Six-Fingered Hand is a handsome man, despite his sixth finger, and has charisma by the bucketload.
Serpent River Province
The mighty Serpent River is born as a trickle springing from a mountain lake in the snowy mountains of Eagle's Wing Province. Flowing down through the rocky highlands, the Serpent River begins to carve into the ground as it is swollen by other streams and by meltwater. The River flows down through pine forests and open meadows, and, flowing faster and faster, carves a massive canyon through the land, the Serpent Canyon, a many league chasm with the rushing Serpent River at its bottom, carving down into the Heart Forest. Serpent River Province comprises the Serpent Canyon and the surrounding land, pine-forested hills and swampy fens on the northern border with Hu-Be. This Province is said to be one of the most beautiful states, along with Silver Star. On the south, the trees give out, the soil turns grey and rocky, and the sky darkens, signaling the border-marches of Fallen Dragon Prefecture. The temperature in Serpent River Province is chilly in the spring (30-45 F/negative 1-4 C), the river swollen and white with meltwater, and the sky iron grey with chill rain. During the summer, the land is warm (warm, at least, for the North, 55-65 F/13-18 C), sunny, and the river's height drops, with stones that break the surface in roaring rapids. The autumn is similar to the spring in temperature, but the river's level rises with the frequent rain, and winter is icy cold (10-40 F/negative 12-4 C), with a shield of ice over the top of the river and snow blanketing the upland.
The people of Serpent River are of manifold professions- there are fishermen, woodsmen, loggers, prospectors and miners, and artists and poets in above-average number. Some are rich, some are poor, though most are on the lower end of the economic spectrum. The settlements of Serpent River are numerous, and most are middling-sized towns. Houses in Serpent River are square wooden affairs with plastered walls and mud-packed ceilings, or tile for the more upper-class dwellings. Decoration tends to be very colorful and very obvious, with neighbors stringing prayer flags between houses, and bright lanterns and banners strung from roofs and balconies. This art is often of quite high quality, due to the presence of the more-than-average number of artists.
The roads of Serpent River are well-maintained and staffed with many checkpoints. They are built from packed earth lined with river stones. Highways are built in similar fashion, but they are paved in smoothed river stones and slightly raised. The Authority of Ways often constructs roads along the edges of the Serpent Canyon, taking advantage of the beautiful views of the river and the opposite shore. Bridges across the canyon are few, but the Authority of Ways makes sure to take good care, for the task of restringing such bridges is a daunting one at best.
Adventurers are a necessary part of life in Serpent River. The wild pine forests are home to ravening monsters and supernatural beasts, and there are many Spirits disgruntled by mortal expansion in this beautiful area. In the southern region, the uneasy atmosphere of Fallen Dragon Prefecture prevails, and so habitation here is sparse. These southern badlands are often the refuge of horrible beasts from Fallen Dragon. The whole Province is also plagued with bandits, who find that the canyon and forests serve as good ground for ambush.
The governor of Serpent River Province is the Lady Minister Golden Root. Golden Root is a middle-aged woman who, with her wife, is a famed poet in addition to being governor. Golden Root is quite the environmentalist, and many of the logging interests and mining guildsmen have called for her replacement, but thus far she has managed to cling to her seat and prevent too much "progress" in Serpent River.
Fallen Dragon Prefecture
South of Serpent River Province, in a vague wedge between Heart Forest, and the Imperial Prefecture, there is a region known as Fallen Dragon, where in time immemorial, before any mortal yet lived, an ancient
something died, or was slain, and its corpse fell to the Earth, and like a corrupted scar or a suppurating wound, festered with darkness, and to this spreading darkness flocked the things of ancient shadows, shades born with the first flashing of the sun, horrible creatures who could not withstand the light of stars or of day, secrets better hidden, Demons of rage and pain. From the ominously baleful forests of the southeast, to the canyons of hissing rivers and black, glimmering sand in the northwest, the whole of Fallen Dragon is wrong, a place better placed in the scrawlings of a madman or the heretical tomes of a sorceror than upon the true Earth. It is unnaturally dark in Fallen Dragon, for there is a dense, black cloud cover that hovers over the Prefecture like a smoke, and holds in the heat, making it a muggy, sticky place (55-65 F/13-18 C) in the summer, while the winter is chill and dank (30-45 F/negative 1-4 C), with many stinking fogs and whispering mists. In the southeast portion of the Prefecture's lopsided wedge, the land is covered in an ominously-thick, watching forest of black-leafed trees and steel-grey bark, where the loam underfoot is thick and tarry, and the air smells of corruption and constant rot. The northwest is a strange region of unnaturally steep and sheer canyons in islands of black, grey, and red stone, with strange smoking rivers of foul water that rushes across beds of iridescent black sand. The tributaries of the Serpent River that flow into this region come out black and foul, and thick with unidentifiable bits of strangeness. The southeast is a region of rising slopes of black talus, where the hissing rivers culminate in pools of still venom where strange things swim. The slopes are carpeted in some places with abominably-itchy gray grass and thorny shrubs, glowing faintly in the semi-darkness. The land drops down into the hills of Imperial Prefecture, where, along a straight line like wall, the corruption ends. Across the center of the Prefecture, like the spine of some great monster, there is a knobbly range of bare, black-stone hills that some call the Dragon's Spine.
There are no people in Fallen Dragon Prefecture, or at least, none that can be identified, truly and totally, as Men. From time to time, foolish adventurers or hapless wanderers who have stumbled into this land of darkness encounter Man-like beings, but descriptions are never sure, and these beings always seem to arrive and depart mysteriously. There is one small village on the border with Flint Hills, a village of convicts, but they are scarcely worth mentioning.
The only road of Fallen Dragon is highways, built from slabs of imported sandstone (local stone is bad luck), quickly laid during the conquest of the North so that troops could pass through Fallen Dragon without having to actually brave its wrongness. The road is in ill-repair, and the evil forest seems to actively destroy it. There is scarcely a place where the highway is not buckled or smashed by gnarled black roots.
Adventurers and sellswords enter Fallen Dragon Prefecture of their own accord or not at all. Few ever go, but for those who wish to make a name for themselves, usually as brave, but most often ending as foolish and ill-fated. The Priesthood periodically sends divisions of its own sohi, along with payed sellswords, to try to destroy the evils of that black land, but, of course, it is to no avail.
The governor of the Fallen Dragon Prefecture is quite obviously Evil itself. There can be no controlling of this land of darkness, even if controlling it was necessary. It is really only an arbitrary portion of the Empire, and serves to some point as a boast and a challenge to other nations; the Emperor once was asked by a Dlanni Ambassador why he kept the foul land as part of his Empire, and replied: "We have the strength to contain this evil. Where does your strength lie?"
Shever Hills Prefecture
Named for the Shever, its Barbarian natives, Shever Hills Prefecture is a rocky highland state on the west of P'angu Prefecture. The deep ravines and rocky cliffs and hills of Shever Hills have never really been tamed by the Empire, and the Shever are fierce and rebellious. The land is cool and very windy but very sunny year round (45-55 F/4-13 C), save during the winter, when the winds bring clouds laden with frost and snow, and the temperature plummets to icy lows. The terrain is rocky, sparsely-forested hills and cliffs, separated by deep canyons and ravines, rising towards a high, twin-peaked mountain in the center called Two Fangs.
The settlements in Shever Hills are generally walled fort-towns, built for protection against the Shever. The people are mostly miners who dig for lead, silver, iron, and platinum. In addition, the forges of Shever Hills are renowned for their weapons, made with ancient Shever forging techniques, and Shever steel is the highest quality in the Empire. There is also a large Imperial Legion presence here, for, in many ways, the Border Wars in Shever Hills never ended. However, deep in the middle of the hills, where the Shever do not go, and where only the most ancient and lost of paths goes, in a small vale beneath the great peak Two Fangs, there is a city, the City of Dreams, it is called, hidden from all save the Gods. This city is a refuge for people from across the Empire who seek to live without the constant eye of the Emperor upon them, to live without the Authority and the Priesthood regulating them, mortals who wish to escape the grit and shadow of Reality and immerse themselves in the Dream World. The City of Dreams is a whimsical, medium-sized town, built in a mishmash of different architectural styles and cultural mediums, centered around a small lake, with it's own gardens, orchards, and crops. People of all races and cultures dwell in the City of Dreams, which is positioned directly under the Star of Dreamer Second in the Dream World. Here, underneath the direct sight of Dreamer Second, the double-image echo of the Dream World is closer in alignment to the Earth than any other place in Creation. Due to this spiritual closeness, and because Dreamer Second has decreed it so, the people of the City of Dreams may send their Higher Souls to the Dream World at will, sinking themselves in fancy and wonder. Dreamer Second does not allow just anyone to come to this hidden city, though. Only those who have forsworn the Empire and the Emperor himself recieve the call of Dreamer Second, beckoning them to the City of Dreams. Before these chosen individuals, the mazy web of dreams that surround the City part like a curtain, allowing them in. Not all denouncers recieve the call of Dreamer Second; he is, after all, the God of whimsy and change. The Emperor seeks to find the City of Dreams, for he fears that the people of this place are a danger to his Empire, but Dreamer Second's dream-maze has thus far thwarted his efforts, and its strands of memory and emotion lead the Emperor on false paths to empty locations.
The roads and highways of Shever Hills are usually high, cliff-side tracks that spiral against the hills, and never enter the lower lands, where the Shever lurk. Authority of Ways crews try to repair whatever damage may be caused by Shever, snow, and rockfall at the beginning of each year, and then, throughout the year, the conditions deteriorate. The most remote tracks of Shever Hills are often totally impassable by the autumn. Checkpoints are not necessary in Shever Hills. The roads nearer to Two Fangs are ancient tracks that are impassable and mystifying, sending travelers in impossible directions due to the dream-maze of Dreamer Second.
Ministry of War and Legion Authorities are often hiring adventurers and sellswords to aid in operations against the Shever. In addition, the Shever, though distrustful of non-Shever, have been known to hire sellswords as extra warriors and pay in silver and platinum jewelry. Deeper in the hills, there are many Spirits and Demons, but they cannot cross Dreamer Second's dream-maze.
The governor of Shever Hills is the Shever Authority Legion General Prize of Wisdom. Prize of Wisdom is a man of the Ministry of War who, as payment for a certain indiscretion in his earlier life, was placed as general of the Shever Hills. He is a hard man who has been steeled by a lifetime of hardship, and he bitterly regrets his certain indiscretion. He has done much to strengthen Imperial security in Shever Hills, and has faithfully done his duty, but to no avail; he will never leave this Prefecture again.
Dragonglass Hills Province
South of the rocky highlands of Shever Hills, and north of the wastes of Thirst Fields, there is a region of great, glittering black hills that slice the sky like talons. These hills, upon closer examination, are great piles of shattered obsidian, called also dragonglass, lying spread across the volcanic landscape. The dangerous, shard-filled fields of Dragonglass Hills are inimical to anything that is not leathery or scaled, and the poisonous gasses and waters of Firefall Province leak their way south into this Province as well. The temperature is much like that of Shever Hills, cool most of the year (45-55 F/4-13 C), with windy, sunny weather, and cold and snowy in the winter (10-40 F/negative 12-4 C). The baked landscape is cool now, the volcanism is gone, but the land is laced with razor-sharp ridges of lava and obsidian, and the ground is littered with sharp chunks of the Earth's spittings. On the eastern border with Rice Grower's Prefecture, there are large lakes and marshes.
The Dragonglass Hills are unique in that they are the site of eight or nine semi-independent city-states called the Dragonglass Cities. The people of these cities offer tribute of obsidian, stone, iron, bronze, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and Green Glass to the Empire in exchange for a degree of independence. The people of the Dragonglass Cities are of Imperial race, but hold themselves separate. They are a prosperous people, enriched by trade in lucrative metals and mined goods with the Empire, and many of them are merchants. Somewhere in the center of this Province there is a mountain of the famous Green Glass, a translucent, emerald green, razor-sharp material that is formed by volcanic activity and forms feather-like blades and masses like great manes of green. This Green Glass is rare and extremely valuable, and the most adventurous of Dragonglass Hillers sometimes brave the wilderness and the beasts to find it.
The roads of Dragonglass Hills are dirt tracks lined with stones that lead between the mining settlements. The highway that runs through Dragonglass Hills and up into Shever Hills is nothing to write home about; it is merely a path lined with volcanic stones. There are no checkpoints.
Adventurers and sellswords willing to brave the sharp-edged wilderness are likely to find quite lucrative jobs in the form of missions in search of Green Glass, ebony, or the killing of the strange beasts that dwell in the interior. The very deepest regions of the Hills have strange ruins built of the local rock and obsidian, temples with windows of green glass and bizarre idols of sharp blades of stone.
The governor of Dragonglass Hills is the Dragonglass Minister Iron Moon Flight. Iron Moon Flight is a warm and happy man, who is slightly irritated by his post at the dangerous Dragonglass Hills, but on the overall not too miffed. Anything is better, after all, than his upbringing in a shanty-town in Hu-Be. Iron Moon Flight does well overseeing the needs of his people and his miners, and has made great strides towards bettering the treatment of slaves in Dragonglass Hills. Iron Moon Flight has one thing that angers him-the insistence of Dragonglass Hillers that they are not Imperials, though they clearly are.
North of Shever Hills and East Coast, east of Silver Star, the great Letu'rano, the Mountain of Fire, a massive, flat-topped peak that, in the past, vomited forth flame and ashes and liquid rock. Because of the Mountain of Fire, the surrounding state came to be known as Firefall, hence Firefall Province. The Mountain of Fire ceased to belch forth the Earth's flame long ago, and the Province has since become a pastoral land, where herds of goats, sheep, and bo'te graze on fertile slopes of grass among scarred, stone remnants of the volcano's fury. Firefall is cool and sunny through most of the year (45-55 F/4-13 C), with a period of chill, windy weather (10-30 F/negative 12-negative 3 C). The slopes and surrounding hills of Firefall and the Mountain of Fire are known as a beautiful, peaceful country, with a few, newly-growing woods and long open fields. However, there are two rivers that flow off of Firefall, and in them are boiling vents that blast forth poisons of the Earth and unhealthy gasses; these rivers flow from Firefall into the Dragonglass Hills and also into Thirsty Fields, and are the reason for those unlucky provinces' barrenness.
The people of Firefall Province are mostly simple farmers and herdsmen who have forgotten the dangers of Letu'rano above them. They are quite content, and they are somewhat better off than most of the surrounding people, for their crops grow fast in the ashy soil and the grass is good for the herds. It is common knowledge among them that the rivers that flow of Letu'rano are poisonous, and that there is a great fire in the peak, but periodically they make offerings to the Fire Gods and to the Stars, and the old stories about the Mountain vomiting flame are just wives tales, aren't they? Firefall is scattered with small towns of square plaster structures. These houses have roofs of sealed wooden planks and leather curtains over windows and doors. The people of Firefall Province, now quite Imperial, were once a Barbarian people, and the colorful, tentacular patterns with which they paint their plaster homes speaks of this.
The roads of Firefall are well-tended, rocky paths, lined with margins of brick. The Authority of Ways issues special Licenses to herdsmen to widen the paths that their herds trample into proper roads. The highways of Firefall are narrower than most others, but they are paved in flat bricks, and frequently repaired. Checkpoints are common throughout the countryside, and so are roadside shrines.
Adventurers and sellswords will probably find calm and boredom in Firefall. The land is pastoral and tamed, and the Letu'rano seems to have erased whatever ancient evils may have lurked upon its slopes before the eruptions. However, every once in a while, a shepherd's boy will uncover the entrance to a dark temple that has withstood the Mountain's ancient fury, or a farmer will be attacked by monsters that emerge from the crater of the Mountain of Fire.
The Lady Minister Cries In Happiness governs Firefall Province. She is a matronly woman of late-middle-age, who juggles the tasks of her Authority with that of raising her children. Periodically, she will switch with ther husband, a File man from Silver Star named Lian, who will rule in her stead while she takes care of the children. If this situation were ever revealed to Authorities in the capitol, she would be immediately reprimanded and justice would be done, but those who know of this see nothing wrong with it; Lian is just as proficient as Cries In Happiness, if slightly less knowledgeable when it comes to Imperial law.
In the uttermost north of the Empire, where the Sun is cool and pale over the land, and the sea filled with ice and rime, there is a land of high, jagged peaks and massive glaciers, where foggy fjords slash through the coast and a fierce Barbarian people called the Ffolkki roam the land, there is Iceheart Province, one of the most recent acquisitions of the Empire, and a land of frost and snow. The land is bone-chillingly cold (15-25 below zero F/negative 26-negative 32 C) and snowy year-round, with a few days of pale, warmth-less sunlight. The terrain is divided between the inland mountians, deeply furrowed razor peaks, sparsely coated in pine, where glaciers creep through the snow, and the lowland tundra, where herds of bison, mammoth, and packs of wolves and snow lions, roam the landscape.
The people of Iceheart Province are mostly the Ffolkki, who Imperials call Blue Eyes, the Barbarian people who have dwelt there for thousands of years. The Ffolkki dwell in villages of hide tents on the tundra and lower slopes of the mountains, hunting mammoth and bison. They are a fractious, warlike people, who chafe at Imperial intrusion in their domain. The majority of Imperials in Iceheart live in the walled town of Se-Ne, which is also the provincial capitol. There are several other settlements, but these serve the function of mining or logging camps. The people of Iceheart are, for the majority, soldiers, protecting the workers who log and mine. There are few middle-class folk here, for they get in the way of the important operations and province-building of Iceheart. There is a small majority of huntsmen, who dwell on the tundra in the Ffolkki manner, and hunt mammoth and snow lion for their valuable pelts (and in the case of the mammoth, meat.).
The roads of Iceheart Province, all three of them, are brick-lined roads that run across the tundra to Se-Ne, carrying goods to and from, and allowing the Legions to send troops north. There are no checkpoints. In the mountains, there are many game trails and paths blazed by Ffolkki, narrow, winding tracks that often lead to Ffolkki holy sites.
Adventurers and sellswords can find work in Iceheart battling with Imperial soldiers against the wild and warlike Ffolkki, or vice versa. The mountains are home to strange monsters of Ffolkki legend, as well as Gods of frost and winter, and a sizable cult of Korag-Herne, with all the additional Hounds and Wargs. In some of the higher portions of the mountains, there are mysterious ruins, similar to those which can be found throughout the North, and the Ffolkki consider these sites the homes of Demons and Gods.
The governor of Iceheart is the Lady Ice Minister Broken-Glass Sparrow. Broken-Glass Sparrow is half-Imperial, one-fourth Ffolkki, and one-fourth Caatjun. A small woman in her late 20s, with long brown hair, Broken-Glass Sparrow has the long nostrils and brown eyes of her Caatjun parent, and the pale skin of her Ffolkki parent, and little Imperial look at all. She has many languages (Ffolkki, Caatjun, Imperial, Uwonath), and is considered by many to be one of the best governors in the Empire. She has done much to help the civilization-process of Iceheart, increased the economic output of Iceheart by triples, and has recently performed successful diplomatic talks with the Ffolkki. Regardless, she is very unhappy, and very lonely, her Barbarian looks being a barrier between social contact with many Imperials, and the cold weather is increasingly glooming upon her mind.
Wind's Edge Province
At the northern edge of the Empire, stretching between the mountains of Iceheart and the granite escarpments of Stone Forest, across the fields of Silver Star and the rocks of Shever Hills, there is a mighty wall, a hundreds-of-miles-long cliff, towering above the surrounding land, called the Thousand-Mile Cliffs. The top of the Thousand-Mile Cliffs is the land known as Wind's Edge Province, a wind-lashed scrub-steppe, populated by a few garissons of Imperial conquerors and by the fierce, hardy Azzu tribes, warlike rebels only recently bypassed by the Border Wars (which are raging even now on the north of Wind's Edge), and the tranquil, peace-loving Qi, who dwell in cities in the mountains of the farthest Wind's Edge north. The temperature is usually cool, but the constant wailing wind, and the chill it bestows, guarantees that Wind's Edge is bitterly chill in the summer (10-30 F/negative 12-negative 3 C) and marrow-freezing cold in the winter (15-25 below zero F/negative 26-negative 32 C), with dry weather. There is rarely snow, though what there is is crusty and frozen, blown into crackling mounds of ice by the wind, which never ceases its blowing from the North. The terrain is a long, frozen steppe, punctuated with rocky hills and small rivers and lakes. Most of the step is carpeted in scrubby, dry grass, and herds of yak and ku'we roam.
The majority of the population of Wind's Edge is Barbarian. The Imperial presence dwells mostly in small fort cities near the edge of the Thousand-Mile Cliffs, especially near the Northland Stair, the only entrance onto the cliffs save climbing them. These Imperials, who are mostly soldiers or mercenaries waiting for their shifts at the Border Wars in the far North, have a tendency to live life while they can, for every day might be their last; only metropolitan states have more brothels and taverns than Wind's Edge. Homes are built from stone and plaster, and there are usually tarps and curtains of oiled leather throughout towns to shield from the wind. The Azzu are on of two Barbarian races on the Cliffs. These fierce nomadic tribes war constantly with each other and with the Imperials, though recent rumors of a unifying chief have been worrying. The Azzu dwell outside and each tribe has it's own herd of yak to follow. Yurts made from yak-skin and fur are their dwellings. In sharp contrast are the "Barbarian" Qi, a reclusive, spiritual folk, little encountered by the Imperials, who dwell in monastic cities in the mountains.
The roads of Wind's Edge are dirt tracks stamped across the steppes by marching Legions, and all generally lead between towns or north to the Border Wars. They usually stay in good repair, though they hav a tendency to disappear into the bland, empty landscape. There are no checkpoints.
Adventurers and sellswords are common in Wind's Edge. The Legions are always in need of more swords for the Border Wars, and they pay in jade, not copper. Many a sellsword has made a great reputation fighting in Border Wars. Also, adventurers are often hired to put down Azzu tribes, or as emmisaries to the mysterious Qi. The monsters that dwell on the steppe are well-known beasts, and adventurers are often hired as part of monster-hunting parties to clear the way for marching Legions.
The Wind Minister Violet Dawn Leaping governs Wind's Edge. He is a soldier by trade, a strategist of the Legions who was picked out of service to be the governor, by order of the Emperor himself. Violet Dawn Leaping does not at all understand why a humble strategos such as himself should be given so important a station, but he has faith in the Emperor. So far, he hasn't had much chance to do much, but he hopes to be a good governor to please his superiors, and has managed to secure peace talks with Chizzu, the leader of an Azzu tribe.