What is Altherys?

About the Gods – Aspects

Though the Church of the Firstborn is one of the oldest and most widespread standing religions on the continent of Altherys, with its churches and cathedrals often acting as the centerpiece of many towns and cities throughout the known Realms, it wasn’t always a single faith.  Indeed, even today each of the seven deities of the Firstborn are often worshiped independently by individual cults and clergies, with only the main body of the church actively professing their united nature.  Indeed, if one was to delve deeper into the origins of the church, one will find that the common belief, even among the clergy, is that each of the Firstborn were once worshiped independently by the many peoples of Matyr, and that only in the recent years have they chosen to reveal their nature as a pantheon.  One often finds that even today the gods worshiped in far off communities by various barbarian tribes or distant holdfasts are not original deities at all, but rather aspects of one of the many existing deities of Altherys.  Acting as alternate personalities to the existing deity, their worship is often encouraged by the gods rather than included as heresies by the Faithful, though it is important to note that the Church only recognizes their own interpretation as the dominant aspect of that particular god or goddess.

Depending on the deity or demigod involved, one can often recognize which of the Firstborn (or other god/goddess) an aspect belongs to.  The most obvious comparisons can be seen in the form of a deity’s role; for example, it’s universally agreed that all deities of the Sun are aspects of the Firstborn God, Helos the Dawnbringer.  However this comparison is often muddied, as some aspects can be worshiped under many roles rather than a single identifying source, which makes it more difficult to pinpoint.  This can definitely be true in regards to the mysterious Green Mother of ancient Elven religion, whose roles and spheres of influence as a mother goddess that embraces freedom and beauty in all things puts her in similar spheres as the Goddesses Feyra, Andala, and Kyntaya, making her much more difficult to interpret.

When asked why one would choose to worship an aspect of a deity rather than their true, dominant personality, the resulting answers are often mixed.  Some choose to worship an aspect because it is a dominant part of their culture, such as the worship of Tallos by the inhabitants of the Pillars of Tyren in Remes; a guardian deity of storms and war whose obvious spheres place him in league with Falgrim the Lightwielder.  Others simply prefer the aspect due to a natural calling, as if the personality is more in league with their own choices and spirit rather than any of the alternatives.  Still others firmly believe that their aspect is the one true representation of their god and that all others are false, causing no small end of strife between the various cults of a single deity.

The fact that the gods not only allow the worship of their aspects but somehow encourage it continues to baffle scholars both of the sciences and of religious lore alike.  Few can truly understand the nature of these beings who are visibly separate from us yet somehow continue to influence the world around us in their own way.  But despite the obvious positive nature of the gods and their encouragement of religious tolerance, there is always an unexpected catch or downside, as there are other powers in the world that always seek to take advantage of the gullible.  Knowledge that the gods have many personalities and encourage the worship of their alternative guises simply adds to their arsenal, so one must always be watchful and wary.


Further Reading:

The Church of the Firstborn

The “New Gods”

Legends – The Throne of Bronze

He came upon it then, the aged king Zamron.  A great, vast cavern, like the ones he left behind.  A river flowed through its chambers, too new to carve its mark through the stone, and fertile earth flanked across either bank.  Good things grew there; mushrooms, leafless plants, and beds of ruby-colored moss, promising good crop and good harvest.  There were animals there of a sort he had not seen before, and of a sort truly familiar; pogs rustling through the muck, great bats feeding on pale, wide flowers, and blind lizards and newts that swam in the river’s many pools.  And in those pools swam a great many blind fish, who swam and fed upon the lizards’ flaking scales.  And he stood upon his stone in the center of the grotto, and said to himself thus:

“I have come upon sanctuary at last, as promised by my father, and as promised to my son and his sons after.  Let a city be built in his memory, and let our exodus at last end.”

And so passed Zamron the Finder, son of Zamron the Walker who was the last High King of the Duarr, and father to Zamron the Last, who found his father’s bones upon that stone and built upon them his city…


The great citadel of Zamron-Zardûl was one of the first, if not the first, fortress-cities built by the Boroznduar (Bronze Dwarves) during their great exodus from the Deep Realms. The city was built in honor of the last king of the dwarves, Zamron the Last, who led his people from their ancient home. Though his line ruled Zamron-Zardûl as kings, they would not take up the title of High King of the Dwarves (though not for lack of trying).  In Tyrenese, the common tongue of Humans and Altherys, the legendary city was often referred to as the Throne of Bronze.

Its legend grew in status by the latter period of the Second Era when its citizens scattered throughout the world in vast numbers, claiming the citadel had fallen.  Attempts to reclaim Zamron-Zardûl failed, and its location was eventually forgotten.  Dwarves everywhere still lament for its loss and include it among the list of prayers to the fallen and downtrodden, usually side-by-side with mantras revering the memory of Zamron the Walker and his grandson, Zamron the Last, who brought the dwarves out of the Deep Realms and gave them a sanctuary respectively.


Zamron-Zardûl was considered to be a near-mythical city, largely due to the secrecy regarding its exact location.  Though most, including the scant records left by its desperate heirs, agree that it lies within one of the dead-end mountain passes running south along the Icespine from greater Fryslon, its exact location is largely unknown.  This was due in no small part to the events occurring to countless Bronze Dwarves over the course of the First and Second Eras, caused by wars with Gray Elves and the recent incursions of their more war-like, Iron Dwarf kin – referred to as the Time of Tears.  Fearing a potential armed incursion and hostile takeover of their own beloved citadel, the kings of Zamron-Zardûl decreed that the citadel’s true location remain a secret, and that all maps regarding the kingdom should be carved in the stones of the mountain rather than written on paper or tablets to ensure they could not be stolen.  It served the city well until its demise, and now only serves as an ill reminder of what was lost for good to the Bronze Dwarves and their kin.

As the longest lasting Bronze Dwarf citadel, Zamron-Zardûl had earned for itself a reputation as a sanctuary for ostracized and downtrodden dwarves everywhere, and soon became a site of pilgrimage for many Bronze Dwarves.  It soon became a near permanent sanctuary for their people during the chaos of the First Breaking, as countless Iron Dwarves and Gray Elves began attacking Bronze Dwarf settlements in earnest, driving them from their homes in the mountains throughout Fryslon and Aredian.  These would eventually make their way to the Throne of Bronze in order to seek sanctuary.  Zamron-Zardûl would have become overcrowded, but the vast cave networks beneath the mountains allowed for various settlements to be formed, thus expanding the kingdom greatly.  Despite this, by the time the denizens of Dagrun’s Deep made their exodus to the citadel they found it barred, for Zamron-Zardûl did not have enough income or supplies to support the entirety of the Boroznduar race.


The Fall of Zamron-Zardûl is considered to be one of the greatest tragedies of the Second Era, and perhaps the first on the long road of misfortune that led to the Second Breaking.  Its destruction was highly unprecedented; considering that under the reign of its last king, Zadrazin XIII, Zamron-Zardûl had entered into a time of recovery and some semblance of prosperity that it had not seen since the First Breaking.  Its destruction sent shockwaves throughout the known realms, causing economies to collapse and entire nations to become bogged down with refugees flooding south.  This was likely one of the many factors that led to the Goblin Wars – a series of skirmishes, raids, and battles between the various nations of Altherys and the newly surfaced goblin races alongside their beastfolk allies.

At the time of its fall, Zamron-Zardûl was ruled by Zadrazin XIII, who had ruled the kingdom for over a hundred years.  His line was a secure line, as he had several children and his eldest son had provided him with three grandsons, one of whom was nearing manhood.  Zadrazin had inherited a kingdom on the road back to prosperity thanks to the efforts of his father, Zarazon V, who founded many new mines to aid in the city’s income.  Zadrazin intended to follow in his father’s footsteps, and so gave many charters to various dwarven prospectors seeking new riches in deeper parts of the mountains.  It was rumored that one of these sites was near the location of the Plinth of the Walker, the rumored tomb of King Zamron.

Some say that Zadrazin’s desire for wealth was fueled less by honest means and more for the sake of greed.  Others claim that the wealth served a twofold purpose; to both raise the kingdom to greatness and to use as tribute to gain allies against the Iron Dwarves.  Others claim that it was not gold or mythril that Zadrazin sought, but iron and adamantine for use in weapons and armor to make war against the Iron Dwarves and reclaim Bronze Dwarf lands.  Regardless of the truth of the matter, most of the legends point to the same thing; the dwarves dug greedily into the earth, and perhaps they dug too far.

It began not with a roar, but a deafening quiet.  Mines once active and full of activity became cut off from the rest of the kingdom.  Settlements began to vanish, its people disappearing without a trace.  And there was a steadily growing stupor of terror slowly creeping into every tunnel beneath the mountains.

When the settlement of Mythrilmere had fallen, King Zadrazin ordered his people to evacuate and called up a state of emergency.  The remaining settlements were emptied and its populous instructed to wait in the vales just outside of the city’s gates.  The court of King Zadrazin soon joined them, along with his sons and daughters, though his heir and his family remained behind.  The army of Zamron-Zardûl stood strong against the threat, and prepared the citadel for a siege.

No one truly knows what happened in those last, darkest days of the Throne of Bronze.  The few survivors who escaped were treated as madmen, for they described a hellish monster as long as the wall and the color of ruined flesh had laid the city low.  Others claim that it was an army; that the goblins had finally found Zamron-Zardûl and sought to claim it for themselves as the first in many prizes during the newly revived Goblin Wars.  Whatever happened in those dark halls one thing is known for certain; the death toll for the army of dwarves was near total, and king Zadrazin XIII was among them. He forever after earned the moniker, Zadrazin the Broken.

The years following the Fall of Zamron-Zardûl were among the worst in dwarven history, the echoes being felt throughout western Altherys.  Many nations in the north crumbled, relying too strongly on the promise of gold and other wealth from the mountains to support themselves.  Trade in Remes became erratic as craftsmanship that came from the mountain soon increased dramatically in value.  Worst of all, the Bronze Dwarves now had no sanctuary left to call their own, and so were forced to wander the world in roaming caravans as permanent refugees.  It was the crescendo that marked the highest point of tragedy in the Time of Tears, and a moment that all dwarves, regardless of race or creed, look back upon in anguish.


Of the line of Zadrazin XIII, nearly all of his children who fled the mountains survived its destruction, but their fates would not fare much better.  From the day Zamron-Zardûl’s gates closed for the last time to the present day the last of the bloodline of Zamron continue to seek a way to return to their mountains and reclaim their birthright.  They have yet to succeed.  Thanks to the misfortunes seeming to follow their every step many have concluded that the line of Zamron has become cursed.  The fates of Zadrazin the Broken’s offspring are as follows:

Zadron – Firstborn of Zadrazin XIII to his first wife, Bishyah.  Heir to the Throne of Bronze, would have been crowned Zadron IV.  Deceased, presumed slain alongside his father in the Fall.

Zakir – Issue of Zadron.  Deceased, presumed slain in Zamron-Zardûl during the Fall

Agaram – Issue of Zadron.  Deceased, presumed slain in Zamron-Zardûl during the Fall.

Idon – Issue of Zadron.  Deceased, presumed slain in Zamron-Zardûl during the Fall.  At least one pretender of that name

Zadrazin Tallform/Zadrazin The Beggar – Secondborn of Zadrazin XIII to his first wife, Bishyah.  First monkier in reference to his size, as he was half a head taller than his father and elder brother.  Took a portion of his people and his youngest brother and attempted to acquire aid from the other dwarves to save his homeland.  He was unable to acquire aid from the Iron Dwarves, who did not well like his father for his sentiments against them, and was forced to give up his brother as a hostage during a conflict.  He then attempted to acquire aid from others in Fryslon, ranging from the Fryss, the Reddmen, beastfolk, Gray Elves, even Drow according to one rumor.  He lost many of his followers along the way, who went to seek their kin south when their cause appeared lost.  He died penniless in a holdfast north of the Icespire Mountains during a duel with a sellsword for reasons not yet known, though presumably because the mercenary would not speak for the dwarf to his commanding officer.  For his failures he earned the moniker Zadrazin the Beggar.  He had no issue.

Zarina – Thirdborn of Zadrazin XIII to his first wife, Bishyah.  Wife to Arram of Clan Gorzun.  Went to the Wood Elves of Aryaavaden to seek aid.  Established herself in the court of the Sparrow Kings in Lothomir as royalty in exile while her husband sought to establish/seek records regarding Zamron-Zardûl and its location in the Icespire Mountains for future generations.  When the last Sparrow King died and the kingship was passed on to the dynasty of Jay Kings, Zarina was not invited back into court.  Her husband died in the Great Fire of Lothomir later that same year, likely while trying to save his records.  She was last seen making the climb into the mountains north of the Winterwood to seek aid from the Gray Elf enclaves.  Her cause of death is still uncertain, though most agree it was likely exposure.  By now it was believed that the bloodline of Zamron was cursed.  She had no issue.

Dorin & Jorina – Fourthborn and Fifthborn of Zadrazin XIII to his second wife, Jorrah.  They were twins.  After their elder brother went into Fryslon, they took a section of their own host and sought to reclaim a new home for themselves and their people and reclaim the lost citadels of the Bronze Dwarves as their father had intended.  They took their army east across the Ebon Marches of Aredain, where they sought to reclaim the citadel of Dagrun’s Deep from Iron Dwarves who were rumored to have taken it during the end of the First Breaking.  When they arrived they found that the citadel had been taken not by Feroznduar but by an army of goblins and beastfolk of the Pinehorn Satyrs, who had stormed the citadel and butchered its meager garrison.  The twins and their host met their fate at the Battle of Darunzavor where their army of some 2,000 dwarves and hired Aredani companies met a host of 10,000 goblin warriors and some 5,000 Pinehoof brayers.  Jorina was slain when a satyr attempted to have its way with her in the battle.  Angered at her attempts to spurn him, the beast cut off her head instead.  Dorin, who had seen the foul occurrence, went mad with grief and fled the battle.  The dwarves died to the last man.  It was considered to be the first true battle of the Goblin Wars.

Zarad – Sixthborn of Zadrazin XIII to his second wife, Jorrah.  He took the remaining host of his siblings into Aredain where they sought work and sanctuary.  He is sometimes referred to as Zarad the Lucky, for out of his siblings he had the least misfortune come to him or his clan.  Zarad and his kin would be removed from their kingly lives forever and were reduced to wandering nomads like the rest of their people, though his bloodline never forgot their true heritage.  Most of his lineage exists in the present among the many clans of Aredain’s Bronze Dwarf populations, though only one clan, Clan Zammor, are referred to as the true sons of Zarad.

Durrana – Seventhborn of Zadrazin XIII to his second wife, Jorrah.  Went south to Remes with a small host to seek her fortunes in the early Remesian Empire.  Upon arrival she received a cold welcome at court, and was soon thrown out as a pretender despite her heritage.  Her host abandoned her and she and her kin fell into poverty and became second-class citizens.  Her grandson brought them fortune when he became a merchant and founded a trader clan of Bronze Dwarves.  She died when her hovel in the slums of an unknown city in Remes collapsed over her, though by then she was already elderly with many children.  Her line is still present in Remes today, though their heritage is kept to themselves.

Jorun – Eightborn and last child of Zadrazin XIII to his second wife, Jorrah.  Was not yet of age.  Went to foster under his elder brother, Zadrazin Tallform, during the elder’s attempt to seek aid to reclaim Zamron-Zardûl.  Was captured in a skirmish outside of Helmhold and taken hostage by the Iron Dwarves who dwelt there.  Though some claim he was killed when his brother could not ransom him, it is believed that Jorun’s bloodline still exists in Helmhold today as a lesser house.  His fate is still uncertain.


Further Reading:

Races of Altherys – The Dwarves

Blog – Hiatus (hopefully) over

I’m back, hopefully the hiatus has come to its end for now.  I’m still recovering from my stomach issues but thanks to the medication I’ve been taking I’ve been feeling much better.  I’ve also managed to get myself back on track with writing and worldbuilding for Altherys, which is always a positive.  I was more than a bit concerned that I wouldn’t get the umph I needed to get back in gear and would let it stay in limbo for another few months.  That’s never fun when you were just neck-deep in development literally just a month prior.

On that note, things are going to be a bit Dwarf themed for a little bit.  I figured that it’s been too long since my previous race post, and what better way to follow up a post about elves than one about dwarves?  It might be a step in the right direction, considering that I’m going to have a hard time making maps with Inkarnate since the program has updated.  I may want to consider making a paper or digital map for Shalefort so that I can get the old one replaced.

In any case, I hope you all had a great weekend, I’m gonna get some sleep.  There will be more lore posts tomorrow, and perhaps some updates regarding what I plan to do with any serial fiction or short stories in this world.  No promises yet, I don’t want to jinx things for myself, but I’m hoping that as I recover the drive necessary to get me writing a proper story will build back up.  Until then, me out!

-Kerian

Races of Altherys – The Dwarves

Also known as the Stout Folk, the Dwarves are considered to be one of the shining examples of perseverance in Altherys; though it is a perseverance highlighted by tragedy and misfortune. Dwarves are like Elves and Humans in that they are technically not native to the continent, having come from lands beneath the earth called the Deep Realms. Unlike the elves, however, who were exiles but came willingly to colonize Altherys, dwarves share their tragic plight with the western peoples of mankind.  Like the men of Tyrenmor, the dwarves lost their homeland to a tragedy largely shrouded in mystery, and their culture is believed to reflect what had come before.  As natives of the Deep Realms, dwarves are out of their element on the surface world but have gained an immense foothold in the years following the Second Era’s beginning – a foothold that they intend to keep.

Dwarves are surprisingly nowhere near as diverse at first glance as the other races.  Their numbers are comparatively few, and the largest of their populations prefer to keep to themselves either in their traveling bands or in their mountain strongholds.  Despite this lack of numbers, however, the differences between the various subraces of dwarf are astounding.  Even more astounding is their cultural diversity; at the communal level, individual clans of dwarves are likely to have dozens of traditions unique to their clan alone, allowing them to stand out from their fellow dwarven kin.  It is this cultural and physical diversity that often defines the dwarves, highlighting the mix between being melancholy refugees or stoutly xenophobic isolationists.

Dwarves of Altherys are most likely encountered on the road rather than in their mystical mountains.  In fact, the majority of the race, despite claiming to descend from an underground-dwelling people, tend to live above the ground.  These dwarves can usually be found either in roving, nomadic caravans seeking work where they can find it, or in human settlements where they make their living as laborers, miners, craftsmen, and occasionally hired muscle.  The rest of dwarvenkind look down upon these dwarves, either in general pity or in great disdain, as they are seen as less than their regular kin.  The feeling is mutual, however, for despite losing much of their heritage many of these dwarves remember that it was their mountain-dwelling kin that banished them from their homes in the first place.

Dwarves are perfectly well known for their physical strength, their innate talent in craftsmanship, and their resistance to magic, particularly to the schools of the arcane.


Etymology

The term “Dwarf” is a word of mixed origins, being a mix between a High Tyrenese word for small folk and a bastardization of the dwarven name for themselves; Duarr. The name simply means, “People,” when translated from its ancient dwarvish, and reflects their simple nature in explaining things and their origins. (For example, the word for “Bronze Dwarf” is Boroznduar, and is usually in reference to their much tanner, bronzish skin. Metaphorically it could also refer to the Bronze Dwarves being a mix of peoples, trying to be strong but still not remotely strong enough to match their betters).


Origin

Dwarves originate from the Deep Realms; the vast underground realm that is believed to cover the whole length of Altherys. According to dwarven legend it is believed that they always dwelt there, as there are no surviving records or oral traditions that speak of dwarves living on the surface before the First Era.  (Some scholars disagree with this line of thinking, given how similar in appearance dwarves are with humans and elves). What is known and recorded is that dwarves once held a vast empire deep underground whose size rivaled that of ancient Remes.  This was not a traditional empire ruled by a single king, however, but was based around several city-states bigger than any known city in the world, each with territory stretched for many leagues in every direction. This empire had lasted for untold generations in the time before the First Era.

The Dwarven Empire would eventually come to an end, however, during the time known as the Goblin Wars (though not the same conflict that occurred in the Second Era, many Dwarves believe that to be an extension of their own war many centuries prior). Goblins were also a race native to the Deep Realms and had no empire of their own, keeping their distance from the dwarves for centuries. This uneasy truce ended when a series of raids and skirmishes escalated out of control, forcing the normally peaceful dwarves to defend themselves. Hundreds of thousands of goblins took part in attacks on Dwarven strongholds, using monstrous beasts they tamed from the great dark to aid them. It was a war of attrition that the dwarves found that they could not win, as citadel after citadel was destroyed by armies that seemed to be without end.

The war would come to a head with the siege of Orzan-Zardûl, greatest and oldest of the dwarven cities.  When the city fell and was sacked, the goblins slaughtered all within down to the last woman and child, forever staining the surrounding earth red from the blood.  It was then that the last dwarven king, Zamron the Walker, realized that the Goblin Wars were lost.  Fearing the extinction of his people, Zamron declared that the empire was no more and asked his people to follow him into exile, seeking salvation from the destruction left behind by the goblin race.  Most followed their desperate king upwards, guided by their king’s proclamations of a rumored land above that was covered in a ceiling of lights instead of stone.  Some followed much more slowly, choosing to harass and harry any goblins that would dare try to follow, becoming hardened as they separated themselves from their fellow dwarves.  Others outright refused to leave their homes, and so chose to remain behind and commit themselves to a last stand against their enemies.  Of those who remained behind, none know of their fate.

It was roughly halfway through the First Era, two centuries before the Third Kin War of the elves, that the Dwarves finally emerged from mountain caverns to a new and alien world. Zamron would never live to see the day, having died on the journey and entombed deep within, though his grandson, Zamron the Last, would build a grand city in his grandsire’s name over the site where they emerged.  Most refused to go further than the mountains, as the light of the sun was blinding and terrifying to them. Thus many decided to secure their footing at the edge of this new frontier, venturing out at night to seek out supplies and food under the cover of darkness so that the light would not blind them.

Despite emerging and attempting to settle peacefully upon the surface world, it was not long before the dwarves encountered new troubles.  Many of the mountains they emerged from were already home to a race of fair-haired, gray-skinned elves who used the mountain’s caves as sacred tombs to inter the dead.  Their encounters with the squat, hairy beings escalated into violence when their tombs were violated to make room for growing communities.  Dwarves found themselves hunted like common animals, while Gray Elves found their sacred places defiled and many of their own number killed in retaliation.  Though peace would eventually come between the two it would cement a near-permanent distrust between Dwarf and Elf for ages to come.


Physiology

Dwarves are easily the shortest of the Five Races, their height ranging anywhere from four to five feet on average. They are also the stockiest (for their body size), as much of their body mass is composed of strong, thick bones, powerful muscles, and broad chests built for heavy lifting. It is not uncommon for a Dwarf of modest size to be considered heavier than a human of similar averages. Their height is believed to be a result of living nearly their entire lives underground, as even today many dwarves make it a point to find work near mountains wherever they can, taking up jobs as laborers, quarrymen, miners, prospectors, and so on. Dwarves are a physically robust people whose strength lasts even as they reach old age, with even the oldest of dwarves being able to lift their own body weight with little difficulty. Dwarven constitution even allows for their race to have longer lifespans than most, with some elders occasionally reaching nearly their third century in age.

One advantage of dwarven constitution that marks them from all other races is their strange, natural physical resistance to magic, particularly the arcane arts. Dwarves are physically immune to many spells and magical effects that normally would harm others, which makes them ideal hires in situations that requires cleanup of hazardous materials that are the result of spells backfiring. Unfortunately this immunity comes at a cost, as dwarves are also unable to tap into most magical powers, making them blind to such concepts as ley lines or auras. They are completely blind to the source of Arcane magic, unable to even touch it, and the number of individuals who can access its sister source of Spirit magic are few and far between.  While many dwarves are just as likely to access the power of the Divine or the Dark Arts as what one would normally find amidst the other races they are largely cut off from magic altogether.  This has led to many in their culture having a distrust towards the strangeness of the Arcane.

Despite the fact that they are resistant to magic, dwarves do have ways to inadvertently touch the Arcane through Enchanting.  For reasons still unclear, certain dwarves are capable of casting runes made of various metals and forging them into symbols, sigils, and wards of incredible power, which are traditionally made into icons, weapons, and armor to grand them unique effects.  No one truly knows how this is possible and few outside of dwarven circles have studied it, as the gift is kept secretive by the many powerful Enchanting Guilds that exist throughout Altherys.  It is believed that this same skill is how many dwarves take up a profession in Alchemy, as the process of transferring raw magic material into potions for consumption works on a similar level (though this is unproven).

Dwarven skin and hair color has varying ranges, though their skin is naturally a paler color.  This is believed to be due to the race’s lack of contact with natural sunlight, and it is not uncommon for a Dwarf to easily sunburn if they aren’t wearing proper protection. The only exceptions are Bronze and Copper Dwarves, as both of these races have regular contact with sunlight.  Despite this, however, their own skin tones are looked upon as unhealthy compared to the other dwarven peoples. Hair color has a slightly wider range, from dark blacks to silvery whites, though more often than not their hair is a shade of red or dull brown. Dwarves also have long, proliferate hair that grows nearly everywhere on their body save for their chest, face, digits, and private regions.  It is not uncommon for dwarves to cultivate this hair and braid it as a combination of status symbol as well as a way to keep it in check.  An immense part of status among dwarven men is the growth and cultivation of their beards, whose length, texture, and thickness are all graded as a sign of health and wealthiness.

Lastly, and perhaps as a consequence of their immense constitution, dwarves find it difficult to interbreed and have offspring with other races.  With the odd exception of humans (which is still largely little understood) dwarves are incapable of having trueborn, half-breed offspring with other races.  The few pregnancies recorded often do not end in fortune, as the ones that do not lead to miscarriage or stillbirths are often deformed and/or incapable of reproduction.  Despite this, human/dwarf hybrids are surprisingly healthy, stable, and fertile, which has led to no small debate on the nature of mankind’s virile nature.  This hasn’t stopped dwarves from looking down upon relationships with other races, especially those between dwarves and non-dwarves which often finds the most discrimination.


Culture

Despite the fact that dwarven culture becomes widely varied at the communal level, its root culture is nearly unanimously similar regardless of subrace, perhaps having changed little from the root culture they shared before the conclusion of the Goblin Wars. As the truest of strangers in a land filled with blinding light and political intrigues, dwarves have learned to keep largely to themselves; acting as isolationists unless dealing with matters of trade, alliances, or war. Even the Bronze Dwarves, who are a largely nomadic people wandering the roads from town to town looking for trade, keep mostly to themselves whenever possible; a fact that has only further managed to ostracize them among both dwarves and the other races alike.. Despite this fact, or perhaps because of it, Bronze Dwarves remain the largest ethnic group of dwarvenkind whose numbers cover much of Western Altherys from Fryslon to Vaelenor.

Dwarven craftsmanship is an aspect highly desired by many, including in particular the rich elite of many lands.  Due to their surprisingly deft and nimble fingers, dwarves have been known to create immense detail in their work, often taking simple tools and granting them their own particular flair in the form of runes, patterns, and carved reliefs of legends and/or important events in dwarven culture.  Many a dwarf has learned to take advantage of the positive stigma regarding things of dwarven make, and so choose to become smiths, jewelcrafters, carvers, and other sorts of artisan work, while close kinsmen take it upon themselves to act as merchants to sell their cousins’ products at a high price.  The term, “from rags to riches!” may get its origin from this fact, as even Bronze Dwarves have learned that to other races the color of their skin matters little so long as their craftsmanship can be claimed as dwarven make.

Though dwarves have endured centuries of war and strife at the hands of other races, and though much of their best smithwork includes weaponcrafting, they are not a warrior people by tradition.  Indeed, if the legends can be considered true, war was an alien concept to the more-or-less peaceful dwarves of the Deep Realms.  Due to the suddenness of the Goblin Wars, it was believed that the first weapons used by dwarvenkind were simply tools modified and sharpened for use in war.  This reflects in the weaponmaking of dwarves today, as most of their weaponry today are still occasionally used as tools of trade when not used for war.  Many of their most proficient weapons include battleaxes, warhammers, polearms, scythes, knives, and a number of throwing weapons.  One of the most common dwarven weapons in particular is the warpick.  Referred to as a crowbill by some, warpicks are often used to poke holes in enemy armor and to drag foes off of horseback in the middle of battle, where they are soon either flattened by a hammer end on the opposite side or skewered by one of the two spiked ends.  Though dwarves do occasionally make swords thanks to aid from human and elven smiths, they rarely use them for themselves, preferring instead to rely on traditional weapons that can serve multiple purposes besides combat.


Altherys Dwarven Races

Dwarves are not as diverse as the other races of Altherys, but their kind have made a notable presence throughout the continent from north to south, frequenting wherever mountains can be found. Bronze Dwarves, the most common ethnic group, are said to be found throughout the known world due to their nomadic lifestyle, their image becoming a mascot for the common image of dwarves to other Altherysians. The largest number of them are concentrated in western Altherys, which is believed to be where they first emerged from the Deep Realms.

Boroznduar

Boroznduar translates to mean ‘Bronze People’ in the Dwarvish tongue. Officially the name references the color of their skin, though metaphorically it is often used to describe them as a people – a mixture of many that forms the image that is Dwarvenkind, but lacking in any strength great enough to match that of their betters.  Over 90% of Bronze Dwarves are descended from the first refugees who emerged upon the surface of Altherys during the First Era, with the remaining 10% being of distant Iron or Gold Dwarf descent.  Due to losing their homelands through war, overexertion of resources, or from being banished from their homes by Iron and Gold Dwarves who emerged from the Deep Realms after their arrival, Bronze Dwarves now live a primarily nomadic existence.  Commonly looked down upon and disregarded by other dwarves, Bronze Dwarves live melancholy lives in hardship, seeking work wherever they can find it and doing their best to uplift themselves through song, dance, and good manners. Due to their nature as wanderers, Bronze Dwarves can be found throughout Altherys, though like all other Dwarves the greatest concentration of them is along the western coast. Bronze Dwarves have darker skin than their other dwarven kin, described as being overly sun-kissed or just a shade lighter than sunburned, which is remarked by other dwarves as unhealthy. They are also among the tallest of the Dwarves, having lived generations on the surface.

Feroznduar

Feroznduar translates to mean ‘Iron People’ in the Dwarvish tongue.  Of the dwarven races, the vast majority that still remain in their native mountain strongholds consist of Iron Dwarves, and as such they carry the name with a sense of fierce, stoic pride.. Of course, this pride is often remarked with a sense of dishonor among many Bronze Dwarves, as the Iron Dwarves were largely responsible for driving the Bronze Dwarves from their homes, having descended from latecomers to the surface used to living for generations harrying and harassing the goblin races.  Due to their aggressive approach to the surface, Iron Dwarves are largely isolationist who brook no nonsense from others, choosing to defend what’s left of their culture any way possible, violently if necessary.  This has put them at odds with other races, though they are not above the idea of brokering trade and good relations with their surface neighbors.  Iron Dwarves have populations that exist throughout Altherys, but they are mostly found in the north and in the west where their numbers are strongest, with the majority of them living in their traditional strongholds where they had first ascended to the surface world.  Iron Dwarves have paler skin equivalent to human skin such as those of the Fryss, and tend to also have paler colored hair than most other Dwarves.  They have the second largest population of dwarves on the continent.

Augoznduar

Augoznduar translates to mean ‘Gold People’ in the Dwarvish tongue, though rarely is it referred to in the literal or metaphorical sense any longer. The Gold Dwarves first appeared in the Second Era, claiming to be the trueborn descendants of the high kings of their ancient empire who finally returned to join their people. When they first appeared they attempted to unite the dwarves under a single banner, preaching xenophobic propaganda against the other races while to conquer or destroy any who stood in their way. Despite the attitude of some dwarven clans, most dwarves were not interested, and later sought the aid of the newly arrived humans when the Gold Dwarves began to grow in strength enough to be a threat.  The Gold Dwarves were soon routed in battle and driven off, their clans making their way across Drogoroth Glacier and into the Dragon’s Teeth mountains, where they are believed to remain to this day. It is unknown if the Gold Dwarf civilization managed to survive the coming of the Twin-Tailed Comet that hailed the end of the Second Era, as little word comes from the direction of those mountains.  Gold Dwarves exist in rare few pockets throughout Altherys, though the greatest of their numbers can surprisingly be found near Valenor in the south, where they remain highly xenophobic and isolationist in temperament.


Further Reading:

The Five Races

Update – Temporary hiatus

Gonna level with you guys, I’m a little upset that I haven’t been posting lately.  Normally I’d attribute it to laziness, lack of desire for the world or for what I’m writing, or just letting stuff get in the way.  This time though I’ve had a legit excuse and I have been hating every moment of it.

In the last couple of update blogs I’ve done I have mentioned that I have been having health issues.  Most of it is my fault; I can determine that all of this happened thanks to a toasted sandwich with one slice of cheese too many slathered on it.  The sandwich was delicious, but the month and a half nightmare that’s followed thanks to bad acid reflux and a potential ulcer has not.  It’s affected much of my health and unfortunately a lot of what I’ve been trying to do to make it better has just made it worse.  Thankfully I’m seeing a doctor about it now but it’s taken me way too long to try and get over a hump with a spoon when I needed professional climbing gear.

In any case, this is definitely throwing a wrench in the gears.  I’m pretty much stuck drinking boxed chicken broth (which is gross) and munching on applesauce and unbuttered toast for about a week while my meds do their magic.  However the meds are definitely working (lessening my stomachache immensely) so I’m looking forward to feeling better.  Until then though I’m putting all my writing projects on hold.  Hopefully by February things will get good enough that I can get back to writing things again.

Until then, keep warm everybody (or keep cool if you live south of the equator).  Until next time, me out!

-Kerian

The Free Cities – Shalefort

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Author’s Note: Map is courtesy of the website Inkarnate, which is a great tool for creating fantasy maps.


While not a Free City in its own right, Shalefort is still considered by many of the Free Cities to be an important outpost in Northwestern Aredain due to its strategic location between the Wyrmtooth and the Icefang Mountains.  The fortress itself, a citadel surrounded by thick walls that shelter both itself and the nearby Shaletown, is a vital defensive point against the northern realm of Fryslon and has never fallen.  It has commonly seen off armies of marauders, reavers, and other raiders/bandits, and in times of great crisis its walls are capable of holding the entirety of its neighboring countryside with stores that can feed its extended populace for two years.  As a citadel of importance it is commonly allied and aided by the Free Cities of Reddport and Stonegate.


The original fortress was built initially as an outpost, though who built the outpost is still a question up for debate.  Some claim that it was originally one of the many failed colonies of Tyrenmor that had been abandoned due to hostilities with local Elf populations or due to the difficulty in developing sustainable farms due to the region’s poor soil and difficult terrain.  Others claim that the fortress was built by Aryaavaden, though this has been debated due to the old Wood Elf kingdom’s traditional borders, which have always been south of the Wyrmtooth Mountains even during its height.  Still others think that it could be of Dwarven construction, though this theory has little backing.

Shalefort gained importance with the coming of colonists from the Isles of Redd in Fryslon.  Said colonists were attempting to escape the turmoil of the region due to the increased number of pirate and raider activity as well as the struggles of dealing with the influx of refugees that came from Tyrenmor during the beginning of the Second Era.  Most of the colonists made their way to what is now Reddport, though a few settled along the coast and established moderate fishing villages, which would later grow to become the three coastal towns of the region.  Eventually settlers coming from Stonegate would begin to intermix with the local Reddmen and Fryss, creating the human populace recognized in the region today.

When raiders began making their way south along the Great Northern Road and pirate activity began to climb to new heights within the Sea of Tyren, both Aredain and Reddport saw the need to defend the northern coastline, as it acted as both a buffer and a gateway that would lead into greater Aredain.  While early Stonegate was being fortified with its massive wall, construction of the Shalefort began over the foundations of the old outpost.  By Year 220 of the Second Era the Shalefort’s citadel and first wall was built, with construction of its secondary wall and the nearby Shaletown coming underway.  Officially Shalefort was loyal to the Crown of Aredain, while unofficially its houses answered to nearby Reddport which helped to keep it stocked, manned, and supplied from its vantage in the sea.

Shalefort was dealing with raider incursions during the Fall of the Second Era, and so its garrison could not come to aid the Broken Crown during the War with the Sorcerer King.


The Shalefort has passed hands many times over the centuries, though today it is ruled over by House Shayle, formerly of Reddport.  Though not a Free City of its own, it is included in their roster as it is heavily reliant on the trade of the nearby cities of Reddport, Scalehold, and Stonegate, and otherwise functions as an independent entity.  The Shalefort is perhaps the last existing form of the old Aredani government from the Second Era that is still kept in operation, though it does not involve itself in the politics of the Petty Kingdoms.

As a former Reddport house, House Shayle keeps close ties with their former liege lords, the Reddmars, and occasionally sends sons to squire and daughters to wed the Reddmar houses.  This continued reliance on House Reddmar is both House Shayle’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness, for while it can always rely on the resources that Reddport has to offer it will likely never extend its strength beyond their current holdings.  House Shayle’s standard is composed of a gray castle composed of three towers linked by a wall, behind it a slab of dark-gray stone, together over a sky-blue field.  The current head of their household is Jared Shayle, the Lord Commander of the Shalefort.

House Shayle’s predecessors, House Stonne of the Shalefort, was briefly considered as a replacement candidate for the crown during the tentative peace following the establishment of the Third Era.  This came to an end during the failed Council of Duskend.  For its part in the infighting, House Stonne was evicted from the Shalefort and its titles were given to House Shayle instead.


The region surrounding Shalefort has a varied populace, though it largely consists of Humans, Elves, and Dwarves.  The races of the region are as follows, according to the highest number of their populace:

Humans

  • Humans of Reddmen descent are considered among the highest population numbers, due to being the original settlers of the region.  Reddmen are a minor subrace of humans native to Fryslon, calling the Isles of Redd their home, and are noted for their stocky build and strikingly crimson hair color, often remarked as the color of blood.  Houses Shayle, Reddstone, and Pebble are of Reddmen descent.
  • Humans of Aredani descent are the second highest in population, given that the region is part of the Realm of Aredain.  Most of these are settlers that came up the Causeway and called the region home, though others also came from Reddport and Scalehold.  Many of the merchant families in the region are of Aredani descent.  Aredani are characterized by their darker hair and longer lifespan due to having intermarried with Elves in Aredain’s past.  House Mander is a house of Aredani descent.
  • Humans of Fryss descent are the least common, their numbers largely consisting of settlers in outlying villages and in the Frostforest.  Given its closeness to the Great North Road many Fryss wanderers manage to peacefully find their way in the region and come to settle, and despite initial hostilities they tend to get along peacefully with the locals.  Fryss are characterized by their bulky size, blue eyes, and hair that ranges in color from blonde to fiery red to brown, and are the endemic human race in Fryslon.

Dwarves

  • Bronze Dwarves are the most common of their kind in the region, with most claiming to have settled there during the First Era after being driven out of their ancestral homes.  Some Dwarf-make ruins dot the region and are still full of some treasures that many hierarchs of Bronze Dwarf families wish to reclaim.  Bronze Dwarves compose a large working populace comparable with the Aredani populace in the region, and mostly make their homes in Frostforest, Kingsdagger, and the various villages dotting the nearby mountains.  Bronze Dwarves are characterized by their tan skin, as well as their often melancholy demeanor.

Elves

  • Far from common, Gray Elves do occasionally settle in small communities at the foot of the mountains, mostly exiles or ambassadors from their hidden enclaves in the Icefang and Wyrmtooth Mountains.  They do what they can to stay away from local politics, though occasionally they provide their aid in terms of the magical or medicinal arts.  A healing cleric of the Firstborn Gods who resides in the church in Shalefort is a Gray Elf of some age.  Gray Elves are characterized by their gray skin of varying shades, their silver-blonde hair, and their general disassociation with other races born of their xenophobic culture.

Of other races local to the region, a small populace of Half-Elves of Wood Elf descent, Half-Orcs, and a tribe of Pinehorn Satyr native to the Frostforest dwell in the region.

 


Though the Shalefort relies heavily on trade for survival, it can still count on the resources of the local area to survive for a time on its own, and its granaries are capable of holding an excess of stored grain in the event of a siege.  Very little in the way of arable crops can grow in the region surrounding Shalefort, due to the fact that the mountainous soil is too poorly to grow food when it isn’t covered in snow.  However some of the towns make do with simple farms that grow highland crops such as beets, onions, and potatoes.  One town, Kingsdagger, is home to a modest tobacco plantation which is used to provide pipe smoke to locals and is occasionally traded to the cities of Stonegate and Scalehold.  Kingsdagger Tobacco is described as being incredibly rich and harsh, and capable of making unexperienced smokers dizzy.  It has an acquired taste.

The three fishing towns of Shaleport, Iceford, and Wyrmford provide the Shalefort with large quantities of seafood which are carted to the city in ice carts and smoked or otherwise preserved in the Shalefort’s ice vaults, located under the citadel.  The three towns grew up from the original fishing villages that were colonized by Reddmen fleeing south, and so have always held great ties to Reddport.  There are no noble houses who claim the towns, though various rich merchant families often act in their stead and represent the towns in times of crisis.

North of Shaleport along the northern bank of the Maiden River where it meets the sea is the Maiden Tower, one of the first lines of naval defense against potential pirate incursions.  It is a simple tower keep with arrow slits and a portcullis that can be used to bar its main door, and is surrounded by a low wall.  Its smallfolk live in a village surrounding the tower called the Maiden’s Coif.  There are no roads leading to the Maiden Tower; travel is instead done by ferry up the Maiden River to the village of Maiden’s Ferry, or by boat down the coast towards Shaleport.  It is lorded over by a landed knight, Sir Brenden, and his household, who take the maiden tower as their sigil.

North of the town of Iceford, sitting upon the Ice River’s northern bank where it meets to sea, sits the Ice Tower.  Like the Maiden Tower, the Ice Tower functions much in the same way.  Due to its location near the Iceford it has much better defenses, including an outer wall that can hold a garrison and a barracks in its interior.  It can summon a host of 100 men, not including those in the town who may send their weak and defenseless into the tower for protection.  It is lorded over by a landed knight, Sir Gregory, and his household.  They take a leaping fish over a field of ice as their sigil.

North of the town of Wyrmford, sitting on the bank of the Wyrmsbreath River where it meets the sea, sits the Wyrm Tower.  Of the three towers, the Wyrm Tower is the largest and perhaps the best defended, as it sits upon a small cliff overlooking the beach where the river meets the sea, and unlike the other two towers it can be easily accessed by Wyrmford via a nearby bridge that sits three leagues away.  The Wyrm Tower is nearly a castle in its own right, and can hold a garrison of 250 men when fully manned.  It is lorded over by a landed knight, Sir Jorge, and his household.  They take an Ice Wyrm for their sigil.

The town of Kingsdagger sits south of the Shalefort, serving to supply the fort with quarried stone, iron ore, and turf which is necessary to shore up Shaletown’s defenses with primitive earthen palisades in times of crisis.  Kingsdagger is also home to a tobacco plantation owned by a merchant family, the Kingsfords, who sell their tobacco abroad as well as to the local community.  Kingsdagger is considered infamous due to the fact that it was said to be where a king had been assassinated during the Second Era; which king, and why he was killed, is as yet unknown.  The Kingsfords act as the ruling family in the town, though they have yet to be knighted or made lords.

The Shaletown itself is a town expanse that surrounds the eastern side of the Shalefort, and through it passes the crossroads that lead to the rest of the region as well as the Causeway, a great road of paved stones that leads to the Great North Road leading to Stonegate.  Most of its smallfolk serve as repair workers to help maintain the citadel, its keep, and its surrounding walls, though a fair few do what they can to farm the land and raise herds of goats.  The Shaletown becomes its fullest during the cold winters when smallfolk from Forestforest and the villages north of the Maiden River come seeking shelter.  A small keep exists in Shaletown, which is the home of House Pebble, sworn to House Shayle, who officially rule over the town though in practice grant its rule to the Shayles.  They dress their banners with a gray tower upon a blue field.

Frostforest is the most northern of the towns loyal to the Shalefort.  It sits beside the pine and fir forest from which it gets its name, and from it they harvest timber and gather furs and game to supplement the local diet and to sell to the highborn nobility.  Frostforest is occasionally called, “The Unlucky Town,” and “Winter’s Breath,” because it is located near a mountain pass through the Icefangs that makes it an easy target for raiders, while its location near the mountains often causes the town to be among the first places affected by the coming winter.  Frostforest is lorded over by House Mander, who are sworn to House Shayle.  They dress their banners with a black pine tree upon a blue field.

Across the Causeway sits the castle known as Causeway Keep, the home of House Reddstone, who are sworn to House Shayle.  The Causeway Keep acts as the first line of defense for the Causeway road in the event of an attack by a large army, though in practice it rarely has ever had to worry about its role.  To assure its defense, the Causeway passes through the walls of the keep which exist both to provide a toll for coming merchants and to ensure no illegal goods exit the region into the rest of Aredain, as well as provide an immediate defense for the road.  Next to House Shayle, House Reddstone is perhaps the most powerful of the noble houses in the region, and loyal bannermen to the Shayles, though some suspect they would prefer the higher position of the Shalefort.  They dress their arms with a red road curving upon a gray field, the road representing the Causeway.


More Reading:

Aredain – The Free Cities

The Realm of Aredain

Aredain – The Free Cities

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Long ago during the Second Era of Altherys, Aredain was once a whole and prosperous realm, its only divisions being the sections of the realm that were governed by either Aredani kings or their Elven liege lords.  In the Third Era the realm has since become starkly divided into independent nations, quarreling petty kingdoms, and warring city states, while the Wood Elves of Aryaavaden (The Duskwood) keep to themselves.  Scholars and cartographers generally divide the present realm into three distinct regions: The Free Cities, the Petty Kingdoms, and the Duskwood.

The Free Cities hold some of the oldest human settlements in Aredain, many of which having been established straight from the refugee camps established by the Wood Elves for the Tyrenmorian exiles during the Second Era, with Hope’s Landing being the oldest of these by far.  During the height of the Second Era and Aredain’s civilization these cities became the realm’s merchant heart, establishing a wealthy economy through trade with their neighbors as well as a proper defense from pirates and invading naval powers.  Each city by this point began establishing their own unique characters that set them apart from the others and the rest of the realm thanks to their exposure to the many cultures that took to their harbors and provided them with both luxury goods and raw materials from far away lands.

Not all of the Free Cities had been allied with the old kingdom, however.  The three island ports of Reddport, Lyssar, and Tendraig’s Gate were infamous pirate havens during the Second Era.  In fact, the existence of these ports were largely in part a side effect of the event that gave the middle section of Aredain’s coastline its name; the Traitor Coast.  It was upon the red sandstone cliffs that would later hold the cities of Scrollkeep, Reddharbor, and Hope’s Landing that a group of rebels and fanatics to the old Tyrenmor government sought to destabilize relations between the refugees and their Elven allies.  According to the history books the rebels saw the Elves as tyrants and the refugees as willing slaves, and they sought to re-establish the ancient Tyrenmor bloodlines and way of life by making themselves independent of the Wood Elves.  Their efforts went too far, however, and a combined army of Tyrenmorians and Wood Elves drove the fanatics off of their shores, “back to the sunken marsh from whence they came.”  In many ways this would strengthen the relationships between the ancestors of the Aredani and the Wood Elves of Aryaavaden, helping to establish the great kingdom that was to come in its wake.


It is no secret that out of the three regions of Aredain, the Free Cities are by far the most well off.  Though the Duskwood and its Wood Elves are still largely a powerful force to be reckoned with, they have largely closed themselves off from the rest of the world, affecting their ability to seek out trade and good relations with other neighbors.  The Petty Kingdoms as a whole are formidable, but each kingdom is independent and at war with their rivals and their constant quarreling and changing of hands largely destabilizes the region to the point of madness.  The Free Cities, on the other hand, have kept to their roots throughout the Third Era, establishing alliances through trade and gaining much in the way of wealth that each Free City can use effectively to aid them in any potential conflict or crisis.  Unfortunately the only downside is that the Free Cities like their self-proclaimed title a little too much; each city is independent of one another, and while some may ally themselves for a common cause they will not unite under one banner for any greater ideal than an increase in currency.

Like the Petty Kingdoms, the Free Cities each have lords and houses, which contain members of a single family of particular note and nobility.  Of course, unlike the Petty Kingdoms, these lords refuse to take part in the squabbling for the crown of all Aredain.  Most choose to instead focus inward upon local matters such as control over their own portions of their Free City and its surrounding lands.  In this, they are nearly as cutthroat and vicious as the rest of the nobility in Aredain, though they keep their private wars to the shadows so as to appear noble and regal in person.  Most of these houses swear fealty to a single high lord and his noble family, such as House Skrolle of Scrollkeep, who acts as the lords, kings, or high councilors of their city.


Shalefort is a coastal fortress ruled over by House Shayle, formerly of Reddport.  Its garrison, largely consisting of men of Reddport as well as local volunteers, is charged with protecting the Aredain North Coast against would-be raiders from Fryslon and other lands.  Shalefort consists largely of a single citadel composed of a pair of keeps linked by walls and bridges, the citadel itself surrounded by two sets of thick outer walls.  In times of danger the Shalefort can garrison half the known countryside between the northwest and southwest spurs of the Wyrmtooth Mountains and can withstand a siege of up to two years.  While not a Free City, the Free Cities of Reddport and Scalehold have put it under their protection, while the city of Stonegate acknowledges it as an ally of importance.


Reddport is the northernmost of the four island cities, and according to some it is believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Aredain.  Built long ago by Reddmen who sailed south to escape the constant threat of pirates and Fryss reavers, the original city began initially as a simple palisade fort that slowly began to grow outward.  Later, the city was settled by descendants of Tyrenmorian exiles, creating a unique culture and racial diversity that associates more with the culture of the Reddmen than it does with the rest of Aredain.  Reddport never answered to the Aredani Crown of Tynthalos, and as such was spared from much of the chaos that erupted as a result of the conclusion of the Second Era.

In the Third Era Reddport has one of the largest fleets in all the Free Cities, a fleet that largely takes up its time acquiring the city’s primary exports of whaling, sealing, and fishing, as well as guarding its surrounding waters from Fryss pirates and raiders.  Other exports sold by the city include iron from the city’s island mountains, quarried stone, and timber.  Reddport is currently ruled by House Reddmar who rules from their keep, the Crimson Tower.

Reddport shares cordial relations with the cities of Scalehold and Arborton, while it remains neutral with Lyssar’s conflict with Tendraig’s Gate.  They have a bitter rivalry with the city of Reddharbor.


Scalehold sits under the southernmost spur of the Wyrmtooth Mountains.  Home to a large Dwarven population, Scalehold has taken it upon itself to delve deeply into the riches of the surrounding mountain range.  As such, due to its rapidly climbing wealth, it has often been a target for raiders and pirates from Fryslon.  Thanks to alliances made with nearby cities that date back to the Second Era, however, it has managed to keep itself well defended on all sides so that it can focus the majority of its manpower on its various mines within the mountains.

The majority of Scalehold’s wealth comes from what it mines up from the ground, though it does on occasion export timber (what it doesn’t use to shore up its mines) from the nearby mountain forests.  Primary exports include iron, silver, sulfur, coal, saltpeter, and quarried stone.  In the Second Era it once counted Mythril as part of its many exports, though in recent years the mines leading to Mythril veins have collapsed, become cordoned off, or were lost to time or other threats.  Scalehold is ruled by a Council of Lords, with Houses Tarmond and Stonne of Stonewatch Keep holding the most sway.

Scalehold shares cordial relations with Reddport, and considers the cities of Arborton and Tannerford as primary allies.  Recent accidents in the mines have resulted in strikes amongst the Bronze Dwarf, Aredani, and Half-Orc populations which are currently being suppressed by House Tarmond’s military forces.


Stonegate is the northernmost of the Free Cities.  Unlike the other cities it considers its role as a ‘Free City’ hereditary and nothing more, and even the nearby Petty Kingdoms make it a point to refuse to include them in their quarrels.  This is because of Stonegate’s importance as the first great gate that leads down the long northern passes into the Wyrmtooth Mountains and north into the frontier of Fryslon, the historic home of countless raiders, marauders, reavers, and other vagabonds who would otherwise terrorize the north of Aredain at will.  As such, Stonegate is more like a fortress than a city, its towns under its protection heavily garrisoned and surrounded by thick palisade walls and deep moats lined with spikes.  Though nearby Fryslon has calmed in recent years the scions of Stonegate do not doubt that danger will some day return from the cold north, and so keep themselves prepared.

Stonegate does not export much in the way of goods unlike the other Free Cities, but it seldom needs to as it is much more self reliant.  Any trade or travel passing through the city’s territory is heavily tolled and taxed before it is allowed to pass, and nearby cities have been known to send them ‘gifts’ in the form of raw goods to aid in shoring up their defenses.  The exchange is that any one of these cities can count on Stonegate’s aid in times of need, as Stonegate holds one of the largest and most well equipped militaries north of the Stonewall and west of the Duskwood.  Stonegate is also home to the headquarters of many mercenary guilds and sellsword companies.

Stonegate is ruled by a group of lords known as the Scions who vote on matters of importance in the city.  Occasionally one of these lords is elected as High Commander in times of crisis, though the election is often a formality; the council pre-selects those they desire to be High Commanders based on their merits in combat and command.  Historically House Stonne of Beggar’s Hill has been selected as High Commander the most often.

Stonegate counts Shalefort, Scalehold, and the Petty Kingdom city of Winterwood as allies of importance.


Tannerford holds the most arable farmland in all the Free Cities.  In terms of strategic importance, Tannerford sits upon the fork where the Tanner River splits into the Tanner and the Tailor Rivers.  As such Tannerford is considered to be one of the most important of the Free Cities; should any of the other cities hit a period of famine or poor trade with the Petty Kingdoms, they can count on Tannerford’s grain, tobacco, and cattle to be traded so long as they can match their prices.  Tannerford has become very rich as a result, though it has often been the target of raids, bandits, and marauders seeking its primary source of wealth; its goods.  As a result, Tannerford has made it a point to hire many Sellsword Companies to serve as its personal guard and policing force, using the wealth they have acquired through trade to keep their mercenaries paid.

Tannerford is ruled through a joint triumvirate of three noble houses: House Tanner, House Tailor, and House Woolworth.  All three houses have humble, though often exaggerated, origins, claiming to all descend from the same three brothers who started out as shepherds who, through a feat of daring, won the hand of a noble lord’s three young daughters.  They have since continued doing what they always knew, though on a much grander scale, and so managed to bring much in the way of wealth throughout the region.

Tannerford considers Scalehold and Arborton as immediate and primary allies, and has made it a point to avoid conflicts with the other Free Cities for the sake of good trade.  Their primary exports are wool, hides, cattle/livestock, grain, tobacco, and other farming goods.  Rumors of a plague sweeping in from outlying villages has caused the local officials to become tense and increase the sales of Sellsword contracts to help prepare in case of an outbreak.


Arborton is fairly new in terms of Free City reckoning.  Established near the latter years of the Second Era as a lumber camp meant to take advantage of the vast forests of ironwood and lodgepines, the ‘town’ part of its name had begun as a boom shanty for its timbermen and mill workers.  During the chaos that was the end of the Second Era new demands were made throughout the realm for raw and furnished timber.  With the Duskwood closed and guarded by the legions of the Wood Elves and with the cities of Oldarbor and Arendale unable to keep up with the demands, the simple shanty town quickly grew into a small city, its old workers becoming merchants while new ones built houses in the space surrounding the old ones.  By the Third Era Arborton had become a bustling trade port, selling lumber throughout the realm and beyond wherever necessary, while its artisans refine much of their local material into wood carvings, furniture, and the shafts needed to build the pommels, handles, and staves for weapons.

Like the old town, Arborton is run by the oldest of its families who established themselves as the original lumber camp workers who built the first town.  They rule as a council of lords, the greatest of these being the Ironwoods, the Redjacks, and the Lodgepines whose names they took from the trees they often felled.  They are sometimes referred to as the Tree Lords, though this has brought some confusion due to the official titles taken by the Birch Lords of Arendale and the Oak Lords of Oldarbor.

Arborton considers Tannerford and Scalehold to be primary allies and is trading partners with Reddport, with whom it shares cordial relations.  In the recent years Arborton’s back allies have become home to an underground smuggling ring known as the Syndicate of Needles.  Lord Hugh Ironwood has personally posted a reward for the heads or hands of the Syndicate’s leaders, which has been met with mixed success.


The most northern of the Traitor Coast cities, Reddharbor sits across the Red Channel that separates the last of the red sandstone cliffs of the Traitor Coast from Arbor Isle, the territory of Arborton.  Considered to be an important shipwright city, Reddharbor was initially established by pirates before it was later sacked, taken, and reformed by the rest of the early realm of Aredain.  The houses and lords who rule Reddharbor, however, are descended from those same pirates who once constantly heckled and harassed the island city of Reddport along with various other coastal cities.  Legends claim that naming the city Reddharbor, in the style of the Reddmen people, was a jab at their bitter rivals, though scholars are unable to confirm this.

Like the other two Traitor Coast cities, Reddharbor’s primary export is quarried red standstone taken from the nearby cliffs that helped give the Traitor Coast their name.  Their fleet is of moderate size, though what they lack in numbers they make up for in design.  Reddharbor galleys and dromonds are among some of the most stable ships sailed at sea, and their sleek build allows them to cut through the waves quicker than most contemporaries; this has subsequently made them a favorite vessel for privateers, much to Reddport’s chagrin.  Reddharbor is ruled over by House Anchorage who have ruled the city since the dawn of the Third Era.

Reddharbor shares cordial relations with its neighbors of Arborton and Scalehold, and are currently allies with neighboring Scrollkeep.  They have a bitter rivalry with Reddport.  Reddharbor has granted its support to the Free City of Lyssar in its conflict with Tendraig’s Gate.


Perhaps one of the only Free Cities with a significantly higher Elven population than humans or dwarves, Arendale sits just east of the Traitor Coast and was once the furthest reaches of power for the government of Aryaavaden.  The city rules the nearby Aren Dales, a series of small hills surrounding the Aren Forest.  Though through some channels it still maintains alliances with Aryavaaden of Duskwood, Arendale is just as independent as the rest of the Free Cities and has managed to hold its own in the strange intrigues and politics of the region with ease.

It was believed that the garrison of Arendale were the first to report the coming of the human ships of Tyrenmor from across the sandstone cliffs that would later be called the Traitor Coast.  Their lords were the first to receive word from the High King to greet and give aid to the refugees rather than drive them out, and it was their troops that aided the few armed Tyrenmorians in driving off those who would destabilize the region and force the humans to remain independent of their new Elven allies.  Arendale has since remained hand-in-hand with the future human governments of Aredain, and it was believed that encounters with their wayward sons and daughters helped lead to the rise of the Aredani race of humanity.

Arendale is sometimes referred to as the Half-Elves’ city, largely because Half-Elves make up a significant portion of its populace and are surprisingly tolerated compared to the rest of the realm.  Much of the old blood of the noble Aredani houses that call Arendale home have enough Elven blood within them that many become wizards and druids that aid in the service of the city through its Mage’s Guild.  By tradition, the city is governed by a triumvirate of houses whose leaders represent the three dominant races that dwell there.  Their nobility is sometimes referred to as the Birch Lords, a title both referring to the large numbers of the native trees of the Aren Dales as well as a title to help distinguish them from the Oak Lords of Oldarbor and the recent Tree Lords of Arborton.

Arendale considers Reddharborand Tannerford to be immediate trade allies.  They have a neutral-level rivalry with Oldarbor due to similar origins and trade interests.  Most of their exports include lumber, carved goods, furnishings, and magical items.  Arendale has recently received the ire of the holy city of Northmarch in the Petty Kingdoms due to the Dale Incident.


Considered by most to be the most aloof of the Free Cities, Scrollkeep sits within the middle of the Traitor Coast, high upon the sandstone cliffs that overlook the Sea of Tyren.  Most scholars agree that Scrollkeep is perhaps one of the greatest centers of knowledge in the known world (at least, in Aredain), as it is well known that within its walls holds some of the greatest libraries and academies known in Altherys.  It is also one of the most well defended, as its citadels and inner vaults are guarded by many layers of thick walls, magical runes of protection, and a city guard over a hundred thousand strong.  Pirates have long learned to find better pickings elsewhere, and many noble houses and merchants have learned that the great vaults beneath the city are the best places to store important documents and valuables where they can never be stolen.

House Skrolle holds a hereditary seat as the lords of Scrollkeep, basing their rule within the Scrolltower; the massive pillar of stone from whence the city gets its name.  Both the City Guard and the High Council are loyal by blood ties to House Skrolle, but despite this House Skrolle’s position as rulers is largely a figurehead status, as the High Council of the city consider themselves to be far more enlightened to lower themselves to the rule of kings and lore.  House Skrolle has not objected to this; in fact based on events in the city, it seems to prefer the lack of attention and rule so that their family members may take part in the achievements of higher learning their city is so proud of.

Scrollkeep rarely relies on exports, preferring instead to act as a middle man for trade and wealth while also relying on its local populace for sustenance.  Instead it makes most of its wealth through knowledge, trade tariffs, vault fees for storing prized goods, and in training through its prized academies.  Nobles from far and wide, from the Petty Kingdoms to even Fryslon and Remes, will come to Scrollkeep’s academies to learn under its many professors and tutors.  Surprisingly, however, the city does not hold in high regard worship of the foreign goddess Gwyneth Graymane, seeing her clergy instead as a destabilizing influence.  This does not stop the Cowled Brothers and Sisters in her service from trying to convert the city, however.  Rumor has it they have even convinced a younger son of House Skrolle to join their knowledge-based faith.

Scrollkeep keeps itself largely neutral to all of its neighbors, keeping cordial relations only through trade and education.


Southernmost of the Traitor Coast cities, and considered to be the oldest human settlement in Aredain, Hope’s Landing is considered to be one of the most iconic of the Free Cities.  It is where, according to the legends, Prince Gared and Princes Tynraya, the Sibling Rulers, had first landed in Aredain, and it is also where they were said to have taken an Elven Lady and Lord as their spouse, beginning the ancient noble dynasty of House Pendrayg that would rule the Aredani people in the Second Era.  Hope’s Landing for a time had been the capital of the Aredani people until King Leon III moved his family to the new capital of Tynthalos, which was established by the year 522 of the Second Era and would remain the capital until the era’s end.

Hope’s Landing has kept its pride as one of the most important cities in Aredain, though this has doubled as its downfall as much as it has been its saving grace.  As the chaos of the War of the Petty Kingdoms began to slow down during the beginning of the Third Era, armies under the command of Lord Kaleb Trystane of Hope’s Landing attempted to reunite Aredain under their banner.  They failed, not in the least because both the Wood Elves of Aryaavaden and most of the Free Cities entered the war against them.  The city now contents itself as a center of trade and a tourist attraction for various noble families seeking to find their roots.

Hope’s Landing has been ruled by the Regent House of Trystane since the end of the Second Era.  However in recent years the house’s capacity to effectively rule the city has been called into question due to various mishaps and poor circumstances surrounding the house with misfortune.  Many houses lost family members and income during House Trystane’s foolhardy attempt at reuniting the realm, and many more see themselves as better positioned for control of the city and its resources.

Hope’s Landing primarily exports luxury goods.  It has good standing with Scrollkeep, and personal ties with Oldarbor.  They have refrained from aiding Lyssar or Tendraig’s Gate in their war against one another.  They have recently gained some prestige with Stonebarrow due to marriage ties between Prince Kristin Trystane and Lady Jayne Barr of House Barr, which has helped settle differences between the otherwise rival cities.


Lyssar, the Free City of Illest Repute, is a city whose origins are born of betrayal.  It seems only fitting, to both outsiders and the city’s inhabitants, that some of their greatest trades lie in betrayal.  After the conflict known as the Second Exile by Lyssar’s inhabitants, the conflict born of Tyrenmorian exiles rightfully seeking independence from a race they saw as potential tyrants whose ancestors drove their colonists from their shores for centuries, the majority of the exiles landed on the largest of three islands just west of the Traitor Coast.  They have since become an active pirate and privateer community, readily willing to sow chaos along the coast of the continent with their proud warships, taking captives for slaves and other prizes for sale in their no-barred black markets.  Even today, in the Third Era, their attitude towards the rest of Aredain is largely unchanged even though their allegiances have on more than one occasion.

Lyssar’s people are a unique blend, and often pride themselves of being separate from the other human groups of Altherys due to their purer Tyrenmorian heritage.  While they still have a mix of various Aredani, Remes, and Fryss bloodlines, they largely retain some of the factors that made them Sons and Daughters of Tyren, such as dark, curly hair, pale-bronze skin, athletic builds, and so on.  They are ruled by the New Tyrenmorian Council, a group of nobles who claim to have been descended from the original leaders of the uprising that led to the Second Exile.  Their nobles prefer to take up family names in a style similar to Remes, reflecting the Tyrenmorian name culture, and refuse to call themselves Houses in the style of the Aredani.

Lyssar is sometimes referred to as the Free City in Name Only, for its primary imports and exports are slaves.  Lyssar is perhaps the only port south of the Wyrmtooth Mountains and north of the Remes Crown who practice the slave trade, which was made illegal in Aredain during the Second Era.  Their favored cargo usually consists of the other races, especially Elves.  The Juntii Family manses are home to a slave household consisting entirely of Elves and Half-Elves, most of whom have served as slaves to the Juntii for generations.  Their reputation has put them in ill relations with the rest of the Free Cities, however rumor has it that they intend to bring the benefits of the Slave Trade to any allies they can muster to aid in their war against Tendraig’s Gate.

Lyssar has few allies among the Free Cities, though it counts Reddharbor as a supporter.  It is currently at war with the Free City of Tendraig’s Gate.


Oldarbor, home of the Oaken Throne, is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in Aredain next to Hope’s Landing and Stonebarrow.  It was built next to the Arborhill Forest, which has been reduced in size for some years due to Oldarbor’s continuous harvesting of its trees, leaving a stark difference between the vast tree farms harvested annually by the city and the Deep Woods, which are protected by law by the crown of Oldarbor.  The city has a mostly human population, though some Pinehorn Satyrs and Bronze Dwarves live in the shanties nearby as second-class citizens.

According to some rumor, Oldarbor became the home of many of the secret supporters of the Tyrenmorian uprising which occurred near the beginning of the Second Era.  When the leaders of that uprising were driven off, and the red sandstone cliffs of the Traitor Coast were branded with their namesake, their supporters quietly slunk into the shadows, establishing a community for themselves that was as close to the dream of a free human population in Aredain as they could ever get.  Their charters largely reflect this, benefiting human settlers and citizens far more than non-human ones.  They were considered largely unpopular by the Aredani crown and their power structure was largely contained up until the crown’s fall during the civil war that broke the realm by the Second Era’s end.  Though Oldarbor has since grown in that time, due to their age and lack of widespread support they are still fairly weak in comparison to the other largely arboreal Free Cities.

Oldarbor has been ruled by a high lord since its founding, and by the Second Era’s end that high lord established himself as a self-styled king.  His first act, according to legend, was to execute the Wood Elf ambassadors and supporters to ensure the crown’s dominance as an entity free of Aryavaaden’s rule.  Before any retaliation could be mustered, however, the civil war in Aredain escalated into a war of succession that broke the realm’s back, and Aryaavaden chose instead to close their borders.  This act of treachery has resulted in their rivalry with Arendale, whose own city is composed largely of Wood Elves and Half Elves still loyal, in part, to the old crown of the Wood Elf kings.  The Oaken Throne has changed hands since, though the old house that was responsible for the massacre is still around.  It is currently in the possession of House Lott.  Houses of Oldarbor are referred to as the Oak Lords to differentiate them from Arendale (Birch Lords) and Arborton (Tree Lords).

Oldarbor’s primary exports are timber, furnished goods, and fruits from fruiting trees.  They have a tenuous rivalry with Arendale.  They count Stonebarrow as allies, and have personal ties with Hope’s Landing through marriages.  They are secretly supporting both Lyssar and Tendraig’s Gate in their conflict, intending to throw their whole support to the winning side in exchange for wealth and alliances, though not wholly committing to either.


Stonebarrow is one of the most southerly of the Free Cities, and with Oldarbor and Hope’s Landing is considered to be one of the oldest human settlements, though some of its ruins and catacombs suggest that the ancient city is older by far than either of its neighbors.  Sitting across from Ebonmere Lake where its source pours into the Shade River, the city hold sway over a large swathe of territory that includes the entirety of the river up to where it meets the edge of the Traitor Coast, where the red sandstone gives way to white-washed sand.  The city gets its name from the ten, stone-paved hills that exist within the city’s center, where the royalty and highborn lords of the city are said to be buried in the crypts and catacombs below.  It is rumored that these catacombs are the reason why that it is against the law, by penalty of death, to establish wells within the city, as the dead are so rife beneath the city’s streets that any water taken from beneath would be rife with foul humors and deadly toxins.

Stonebarrow has existed for centuries and is considered to be one of the most prosperous of the Free Cities.  As the most southerly city on the coastal side, Stonebarrow exists in a strategic position as a crossroads into the rest of Aredain, as it resides along the great road leading north from the fortress of Mountain’s Gate, while its position next to a river and a lake with access to three rivers grants it trading access to the city of Highthrone to the south, the towns along the Prince’s Crown mountains to the north, and the coastal cities that bring trade in from the west.  This position of power, combined with its habit of being incredibly self sufficient, puts it in similar league to the free city of Tannerford in that it is a valuable trading ally to any Free City or trading power within western Aredain.

Stonebarrow is traditionally ruled over by a single house, referred to as a High Lord like in the olden days when such great cities were ruled over by lords who answered to a single king.  House Barr has ruled over Stonebarrow since the chaos of the Second Era came to a close, though some claim they have ruled since the chaos started.  Few question their might, though some houses with the oldest of lineages do question the speed in which they came into power, as House Barr originally was a lowly house of landed knights and ruled the old High Lord’s household guard by the time the fighting started.  None can truly be sure what happened, though there are rumors that the crypts and catacombs beneath Stonebarrow hide much more than mere bodies.

Stonebarrow exports fish through its rights to the Ebonmere to most of the lands up the Cord and Whitewater rivers, the two sources of the Ebonmere, while its farms and mills export food and furnished goods to the rest of Western Aredain.  Stonebarrow counts Oldarbor as one of its oldest allies, and it is currently in league with Tendraig’s Gate as an ally in their war against Lyssar.  They have currently made ties with Hope’s Landing through the marriage of Lady Jayne Barr, the second daughter of Manfred Barr, and Prince Kristin Trystane, the second son of Prince Kybar, King Luther’s younger brother.  There are rumors that this marriage tie is an attempt on Stonebarrow’s part to bring Hope’s Landing into the war with Lyssar, though this has not been confirmed.


The Freehold of Tendraig’s Gate is the most southerly of the Free Cities.  Like its other island neighbors, Tendraig’s Gate has its origins in the incident that gave the Traitor Coast its name, though the few who settled on their island were not numerous enough to form a city independent of the rest of the realm.  The island gained its repute as a city and a ‘Freehold’ when ships bearing escaped slaves who mutinied against their slave lord captains washed ashore on the island trying to escape from the slave trade established between Lyssar and newly founded Remes.  The slaves soon settled alongside the pirates and fishing folk of the island, where it was said a captain, Captain Tam Tendraig, declared his home port to be a free port where no man, woman, or child would ever be made as cargo, and the only chains would be upon those who make their living chaining others.  So the Freehold was founded and became one of the greatest island cities in the known world.

Despite being a Freehold and a great advocator against the wrongs of slavery, Tendraig’s Gate was still largely a pirate port and to this day is still a home of scum and villainy.  Pirates could come to call home the great harbor of Tendraig’s Gate, whose exterior is protected by sharp rocks, reefs, and jagged cliffs that makes the island impossible to land without leave from the pirate lords that call it home.  Its black markets have sold many stolen goods, and its prisons hold not rogues or ruffians but hostages composed of merchants with expensive investors or highborn nobles who set sail at the wrong tide.  Its neighboring holdfast and fortress, Anchor’s Way, has in the past served as a penal colony by the kings of Aredain who shipped large numbers of Goblin prisoners taken during the infamous Goblin Wars, whose own numbers were freed and intermingled with the pirates, nicknaming the island “Half-Orc’s Haven.”

The Freehold has never been ruled over by a lord, though the closest it has ever had to a lord was the legendary Tam Tendraig who founded the city.  Instead the Freehold solves its problems through an election held by the captains of its many ships, who all get a vote whether their vessel is the mightiest of war galleys or the simplest fishing tub; so long as it has a sail, its captain gets a vote.  In times of crisis the captains will vote for one of their number to become the Free Admiral, who acts as a naval commander and an administrator of foreign policy whose rule is undisputed so long as he is successful during that time of crisis.  The current High Admiral in Tendraig’s Gate’s war with Lyssar is Mad Mary-Anne, rumored bastard daughter of Kyren Trystane, eldest nephew of the King of Hope’s Landing.

Tendraig’s Gate has a mixed number of exports and a presence on the black market.  Much of their wealth comes from either piracy, privateering, or from trade between their southern neighbors and Aredain.  They are currently at war with Lyssar which was established when Mad Mary-Anne rescued a cargo of slaves that were to be sold to slave traders in Remes.  They are allied with Stonebarrow in this cause though have few other friends due to their ill reputation.  The High Admiral has attempted to use her family connections to gain Hope’s Landing as an ally but she has had little success.


 

More Reading:

The Realm of Aredain