A Snow-Shrouded Land
Far to north in the cold and gray waters is a green and blue jewel, the subcontinent of Saerith. A full third of the continent lies above the arctic circle, rending the land heavy with permafrost a dozen feet thick. The winters are long and often brutal, with blizzards sweeping down from the north to blanket even the southern tip of this land in snowfalls that are measured in the feet. Summers are short and mild, with the weak sun being occasionally blocked out by rainstorms that last for hours and days before meandering back out to sea.
The central, and most arable regions of Saerith are protected from the most violent of the transoceanic storms by the volcanic mountain ranges that bracket them. This chennels the winter storms through the heartlands, but the action of the atmosphere and the mountains keeps the storms from lingering.
The Niar Hannin is the largest river system in Saerith, collecting glacier run-off from the seven glaciers of the Jokulsmorder to the annual snowmelt of the western Chath Reibe, or the Mountains of Fire. Jokulsmorder is the largest mountain in Saerith and also is an active volcano. In the north, freezing every winter, the Nyir Hannin river is the second, and much smaller watershed.
Fire under the Ice
Saerith exists in an odd geologic and tectonic locale. The plate it sits on, a small one akin to terran Caribbean plate, is caught between two oceanic plates that are being driven under it. This has buckled the Saerith plate to create the bracketing mountains around it, as well as providing a massive amount of fuel to fire the dozen or so large and acrive volcanoes and innumerable hotsprings, geysers and fumaroles that dot the continent.
The most violently active region is in the extreme north where over a third of the continent’s major volcanoes are clustered. The Chath-Lu-Xzar-Zith is a congregation of three massive volcanoes, each towering over 7000 feet above sea level. Each is clad in vast sheets of glacial ice and stands sentinel over a sea that froze ages ago and promises to never warm again. The land around the mountains to the south is permanently frozen, a hellish place of lichen and blistering cold.
Yet on a regular basis this cold is interrupted by the voices of the mountains. With a bone shattering roar the three can vent, sending black plumes high into the atmosphere and rattling things even 300 miles to the south, the nearest major settlement. These pyroclastic events shatter the glaciers, crack the ice sheets and launch lahars of superheated water, ash, and lava rushing across the land. The oceanic ice shelf can be cracked by these eruptions, releasing ice bergs into the ocean that are as often tens of square miles in size.
Magic exists in an unusual dichotomy in Saerith. While in the mainland, the arts have developed and flourished, expanding into new branches and new forms, no such branching has occured in Saerith. Two forms have emerged and have been refined to the point of razor-keeness. These are the twin arts of Fire and Ice magic. These draw on the two dominant elements in Saerith, and have no rivals for skill or power.
Fire magics draw on the heat of the volcanoes and magma that boil under the icy hide of Saerith. Such power can be tapped with stunning speed, the fiery essence feeding on itself and billowing outwards. Such pyromantic displays are often used to vent the power build-ups under the volcanoes, such as Jokulmorder. This magic is most commonly used to create spells of fire and destruction, or to carve stone and such into walls, power arcane automata, or the like. It is also used to summon fire aspected creatures.
The power of Ice is something else entirely. It is a pervasive thing that is hard and balances around cold perfection and clarity. Cryomancers tend to be as detached and impassive as the most morbid of necromancers. With their cold arts they can create undead of ice, and draw magical power from sunlight, wind, and even the very coldness of Saerith. The Praxians tend to be more heavily aspected towards the Icy arts, and as such have kept a level head and planned well, enabling them to survive as long as they have and not only survive, but to gain ground as well.
Prax splintered away from the old Kingdom almost a millenium ago. The first Queen of Prax, Sydios Prax, made her abode at the height of the Dolmoth Highlands. There, through enslaved workers, recruited orcs and ogres, and her own arcane sorcery, she lifted up a fortress of black stone. Suilail-Zer was a monsterous edifice with jagged towers, thick walls, and command of its highlands. To attack the fortress was to beg death as spells and mercenaries held the best and most advantagous positions.
The Timber Marshes
North of the Niar Hannin, the land rises to form a great and wide hill. This is called the Dolmoth, the wet hill. North of this mist shrouded highland lie the Timber Marshes. Drained by the sluggish Nyir Hannin this region is filled with vast and deep cold water bogs. These bogs in turn are interspaced by pine barrens and thick stands of taiga timber.
Life in the marshes is dangerous, as there are many ogres, trolls, and brutish orcs who make their lives among the trees and bogs. In the summers, vast swarms of insects boil out of the swamps, as well as bouts of disease and other pestilences. Worst yet, the timber Marshes are home and breeding grounds to the Saerithian Black Dragon.
The Black Dragons
Large and foul of disposition, these winged reptiles are a bane of Saerith. There were once other breeds of dragons to be found, but they were either weaker than the blacks and hunted to extinction, or were more included to leave the frozen lands of Saerith to the Blacks who desired it so much. The black dragon is known for its greed, is sickly green flame, and its acidic saliva.
Denizens of the Bog
The Bogs are a fertile place, and despite the swing from winter iceland to summer swamp it is heavily inhabited. The most numerous of the inhabitants are the stooped and gnarled limbed marsh goblins. These twisted and foul creatures are shunned even by other goblins who live beyond the swamps. they are filthy even by goblin standards and indulge in cannibalism, sadism, murder, and incest on a regular basis.
The Great Orcs, or Orkin Giants are also found in the Timber Marshes. These giants reach a height of around ten to twelve feet and a stupendous weight of as much as a ton. They are not particularly fast, or smart, but are very tough. The only things that prey on the giants are the black dragons and the rare band of knock-toothed Pine Trolls.
The Pine trolls are vicious predators, eating anytihng alive, and quite a few things that are not. While smaller than the average troll, these beasts are fast and agile, pouncing with leonine grace. They are as likely to attack pack animals as people, and oddly enough shun the marsh goblins and do not indulge in cannibalism, though humans and elves are certainly still on the menu.
The Grand Duchy of Nyir
The city of Nyir, largely human in populace was built long ago by traders and fur trappers and gold miners seeking the wealth of the northlands. This wealth was there, and many became wealthy on jewels from the snow, river gold, and other resources. They also became adroit at surviving in the harsh northern climate as well as fighting the ogres and other denizens of the timber Marshes.
Nyir is nominally allied to Prax, as the Praxians have been a closer threat and pay well for levies of Nyirian mercenaries. The goals of domination and sorcerous power make the Nyir a little reluctant to side with the Prax Kingdom, but in the end, the Praxian Matriarchs generally make concessions to Nyir to keep them as allies. If the Nyir were to side with Elvindorm, it would be hard for the Prx Kingdom to survive a war on its northern and southern borders.
The Black Wings
It was an enventuality that the pragmatic Nyir would find a way to tame the black dragons and break them to being mounts. These mounted knights ride their scaled steeds as scouts ahead of the armies of Nyir, and Prax after the coalition between the two powers. In actual combat the Black Wings make strafing runs with fiery blasts and then guide their mounts into close combat against mounted troops, auxiliaries, and support troops, leaving the main army to crush the heart of the enemy.
Once the sole and uncontested leader of Saerith, the Kingdom of Elvindorm has been faced with organized opposition for the first time. Before the creation of Prax, the only foes the elves and their human allies faced were the motley bands of trolls and orcs who came out of the northlands, the uncommon rampaging dragon, and occasion raid from outlander humans who nomadicly wandered the tundra.
The Marshes of the Moon
South of Jokulsmorder in the east, the Marshes of the Moon are an idyllic locale of volcanic springs and heated marshes. This region is densely populated by the Elves and their human consorts and allies. The region is also steeped in enigmatic sorcery, the magic of the moon, the druids and or women. The source of the regions water and magic is from the Karst Head, a region of pourous stone that channels water from glacial runoff into the hotsprings of the marshes as well as tapping into the latent power of Jokulsmorder.
The Walls of Koryl
The heartland of Elvindorm is protected by vast granite walls that were raised over two millenia ago by now deceased elven magi. These great stone bluffs have protected the heartland from the lahars that sometimes roar down the faces of the volcanoes and choke the rivers with muck and debris. Following the splintering of the Praxian Kingdom, the walls took up a second role, protecting Elvindorm from the iron clad armies of the Matriarch of Suilail-Zer. The Walls are breached in several places by the Rainbow bridges, delicate spans of stone that connect north and south across the Niar Hannin. These bridges are easily defended and now are host to regular patrols.
Beyond the walls lies the splendid city of Elvindorm proper. Settled many millenia ago, this city is a monument to elven hortaculture, careful geomancy, and social planning. It is equal parts a garden, wilderness reserve, and city. The structures are built along natural lines, crops grow in careful arrangements that are as practical as they are ornamental. Wheat sprouts in decorative fields that ripple in the wind while apple trees and cherry trees fill the air with fragant pink and white blossoms and red fruit. Also known as the White City, the majority of the structures are built of native limestone and marbles, creating a shining white city surrounded by green and gold fields, and an absolute winter wonderland when the fields lie barren.
The greatest and tallest of the Saerithian volcanoes, this behemoth rises to a sky dominating 16,000 feet, making it the highest of all of Saerith’s mountains. Clad in pristine glacial ice, this mountain has been quiet for a long time, but many of the elves remember the last time the volcano cleared it’s mighty throat. The plume blotted out the sun, as they remember. The flows of ash and water reached as far south as the storied Walls of Koryl. Many died as the ash and fire fell from the skies in a rain of stone and death. But that was several centuries ago.
Also known as the Forest of Black Daggers, this massive and ancient coniferous forest swaths much of the lower portion of Saerith. The forest grumbles and groans as many of the trees are wise and often move about. They call to each other and in dire times have moved to defend the great wooden bulwarks of the Keese (pronounced Keys). Many of the more rural and rustic elves make their homes in the boughs of the elder trees and live a life of arboreal cohabitation. They are known for the unique black lacquer that they produce and use to coat their blades and spears.
This material is derived from plant resins and is used to seal the metal weapons used by the elves and their human allies. It has a side effect of giving the metal a matte appearance, making it easier to hide while wielding, something that the other races have yet to master, their steel weapons still betraying them with glints of light.
The Inyk Huerro
Not all of Elvindorm is pristine old growth forest and idyllic city. South lies the verdant and green shores of the Inyk Huerro. This region sandy and warm longer than any other place in Saerith. Many elves and their human allies make their homes along the coastline, sheltering in the many inlets and bays. Fishing villages are the norm and the terrors of Nyir and Prax are far from the mind of the common man and woman.
The humans of Saerith arrived roughly three millenia ago, bewildered and lost on the sea. Their ships were broken and none dared back onto the sea. Many took up a nomadic lifestyle, adopting local animal totems as their spirit guides. Those that tried to keep the old ways or repair the ships all eventually perished in the harsh climate. Those who took Bear, Wolf, Dragon, Panther, and Falcon as totems flourished and became the Five Tribes.
The tribes ranged across the northern tundra, following herds of elk, caribou, and other game animals. These became adept stalkers and hunters, and warred with one another over rights to various herds and sacred places. The elves were rather horrified by this seemingly pointless barbarity, and considered the tribal humans as being bestial as the goblins and orkin giants they hunted in the Timber Marshes.
Nyir was founded by a coalition between several minor clans who tired of the great chase across the frozen lands. The lesser clans of Scorpion, Bat, and Owl settled in a sheltered inlet and began to build. This gross dereliction of the Tribe laws was challenged in several years of war between the new encampment of Nyir and the tribes. Eventual Nyir won out by simply surviving and the tribes returned to warring with each other.
All of the tribes are basically the same sort of barbarian, being a leather clad folk. They favor elkhorn bows, iron tipped spears, leather shields and heavy axes. They have a honor and glory culture, spend a great deal of time boasting, drinking, and fighting. They keep a general motif in their gear and rituals that mimic their chosen animal totem.
GM Note: The Barbarians are a wildcard in the Prax/Elvindorm equation. They are most commonly used as battle fodder by the Praxians and by the normal elves as per the Vlos Mzil Abbanen style of Elven warfare. The primary difference being that the elves will generally march into battle with…or behind their allied humans while the Praxians send the barbarians in as raiders and skirmishers to live or die as they will.
Allies in Spirit and Blood
Not all humans joined into these tribes, a great number were taken into the care of the Elves of Elvindorm and were granted places to live among the elves, becoming servants and loyal guards for them. Some were even enlightened enough to learn elven magics, create their own human communities, and the like. Many can even trace their bloodlines back to an Elven Lord who did lay with one of their great great grandmothers. The tribes see these humans as weak and contemptable and for this reason most of the barbarians have remained either neutral or have sided with the Praxians for battle.
At last…a plot!
The fragmentation of Saerith into Elvindorm and Prax was not a subtle one, and since its birth the two have been at war. Unlike many wars, civil or otherwise, the birth of the Praxian Kingdom broke many things. Families were split in sentiment, with siblings fighting one another, children fighting parents, and spouse fighting spouse. Most of the time, this war simmers, a few skirmishes among the borders, a few probing raids from Praxian allied barbarians or goblinoid warbands. Other times, it flares into massive clashes between armies. The time of smoldering peace is coming to an end, and a new wave of violent war is coming to Saerith.
Yet there is a new vitality in the Kingdom of Elvindorm. The King has since overcome his grief as Prax was founded by his own direct blood, the Matriarch being his eldest Daughter. No longer paralyzed by his emotions for his child, he has decided it is past time to act and before the land is again plunged into war Prax must be defeated. It will not be an easy task, her allies are many, her sorcerous skill is great and she commands an entire wing of black dragons. The allies of Elvindorm are not so large, being the disinterested Inyk coastal people, the humans of Elvindorm and a small number of lesser tribes, such as the Tribe of the Hare.
While Prax has the dominance in numbers, Elvindorm still holds the hearthstones of Jokulmorder and their fire mages can call the Seething Song, a power to call forth the fire and smoke of the mountain. Perhaps this balance of power can hold long enough for Prax to be defeated…