Nations of Etheria: The Central Hearthlands
The Central Hearthlands is the name given to the cluster of nations that lie along the Northern Coast of the Viridian Sea and the Eastern edge of the Great Ocean. The region consists of former provinces of the Pellian Empire, Elven settlements, and a few disputed regions. We’ll begin by taking a look at Westlock, the developed heart of the Hearthlands.
The only province to remain free of demonic occupation during the events that brought about the end of the Pellian Empire, Westlock led the efforts that drove the demons back to Infernia and was instrumental in stabilizing the agreements that created the Mage Wars. Westlock is renowned as the homeland of the heroes who led the rebellion against the demons. Its prestige, strong economy, and powerful military, has made it into the nation the other regions look for leadership, or envy out of spite.
Westlock is a cosmopolitan nation with a mix of population consisting primarily of humans. You will find plenty of Wood Elves who have left Straywood Forest, and High Elves who have left Sortilege, for a more settled life. Westlock is divided into five Marches, or administrative districts, each of which is ruled by a Marchlord appointed by the High King, the ruler of Westlock. The current High King of Westlock is King Gavin the Second who rules from the capital of Merrisford. King Gavin shares his rule with two advisors: First, the Archmage of Westlock, a powerful mage who assists the King with magical affairs and oversees the operation and running of the Mage Wars. The Archmage’s seat of power is in Victoria, the Tournament City, located along the Southern Coast. The other is the Anchorite of Asyra, spiritual advisor and leader of the Asyran Church, who is based in the cloister city of Safeholme. In recognition of the help provided by the followers of Asyra in defeating the Demons, the Asryan Church was made the state religion of Westlock, and a vast majority of the populations honors her worship. Although the advisors can provide opinions and input, the High King wields ultimate authority in Westlock.
Westlock fields the second largest army in the Central Hearthlands, but has the largest navy and is uncontested in Western half of the Viridian Sea. Its current military strength is split however, with forces on the northern border monitoring Darkfenne, and the rest of its forces stationed on the edge of Salenia (keeping an eye on Ivarium’s expansion).
Westlock is a member of the Dawnlight Compact, a mutual defense treaty with the Straywood Forest and Sortilege, at the end of the Demon Occupation.
Between the Western border of Westlock and the Great Ocean, lays the magically powerful nation of Sortilege. Founded by Elven settlers from the hidden island of Atalancia who rejected their cousin’s isolationist ways, Sortilege was founded on the principal of absolute dedication to unlocking the secrets of magic in Etheria. Although primarily a High Elf nation, Sortilege allows anyone from any race, who can demonstrate magical aptitude, to immigrate to the country. As befits a nation founded by strong individualists, as most mages see themselves, settlements inside Sortilege range from lonely wizard towers to impressive magical college towns, and every Wizard is ruler of what lands they can claim.
For administrative purposes, the Wizards of Sortilege built a capital city of strange architecture and feats of magical engineering called Tir’ Nasarre or the Bastion of Wonders. Many of the machines and utilities in the city are powered by magic, and include technology and advancements recovered from the Golden Age of Etheria. It is here that the Autokrator, the most powerful mage in Sortilege, serves as spokesperson and arbitrator among the individual mages of the nation. The position of Autokrator goes to the Wizard who has demonstrated the greatest new innovation in magic, and the most powerful command of spells. This structure is mirrored at all levels of Sortilege society, which is a meritocracy based on magical skill. Sortilege is an ardent supporter of the Mage Wars Accords, and has adopted it as the system of dispute resolution for the entire country.
Sortilege does not care much about foreign affairs, unless they relate to magical issues or problems. The country is not isolationist however; taking its obligations under the Dawnlight Compact seriously, and is a staunch ally to Westlock and Straywood Forest. It does not maintain a standing army (although many would argue that a nation full of Wizards is its own best defense), but maintains a quick reactionary force of martially inclined Wizards who keep an eye out for any aggression from the lands of the Bloodwave.
Once a beautiful and immense forest, which sheltered a group of Wood Elves who strove to live in harmony with nature and the world, the terrible conflict of the Leaf Cutter Wars grievously injured the forest, which created a deep wound that has taken centuries of care to heal. After these wars, many Wood Elves could not face the devastation of their home, and left for Westlock. Those that stayed rededicated themselves to forest, and began anew.
The Wood Elves of the Straywood Forest reside in Living Citadels; villages grown through nature magic from the surrounding trees and environment. The Elves believe all organisms are equal, and each settlement elects a counselor, who collectively serve as the government of the Straywood Forest, and is called the Treemoot. All decisions must reach a consensus and pass the votes of the councilors unanimously. This leads to complaints that the Wood Elves place too much value on unity, and are slow to react to problems. The Wood Elves jealously guard the borders of their kingdom, fearful of anything that can upset the fragile natural balance they have worked so hard to restore. They primarily relate to other nations through embassies, as well as border settlements that allow for commerce and diplomacy.
In order to protect their borders the Wood Elves have created an elite scout unit known as the Wild Battalion, and the elite of the Wild Battalion are the Beastmasters. The Beastmasters range over not just the Straywood Forest, but deep into the Darkfenne and the Bloodwave, in order to identify and suppress threats.
The Elves of the Straywood support the Mage Wars, because they fear the damage that unchecked use of magic could inflict on their still recovering homeland. They are a member of the Dawnlight Compact, and consider Westlock their greatest ally in the region.
The Arraxian Crown
An invisible movement and secret organization, dedicated to restoring the rule of the Demons, the Arraxian Crown spreads through all the nations of Etheria, and all levels of society. They conduct their rights in secret, and attract the lost, the desperate, the mad, the criminal, and anyone else unsatisfied with the status quo. Wherever there is any kind of social activity, an Arraxian Crown member is sure to be scheming in the shadows.
Technically, membership in the Arraxian Crown is illegal in the nations of the Central Hearthlands, and most members keep a low profile, as they are subject to imprisonment and execution if caught. However one aspect of the Arraxian Crown is a matter of public knowledge. The Warlocks, those who have signed a dark bargain with the demon’s in exchange for power, are legally entitled to enter the Mage Wars, and have free passage within Victoria, the Tournament City (though they must still obey the laws of Westlock). The Mage Wars rules allow for any nation, group, or individual to participate freely, and without prosecution. The Warlocks support the Mage Wars to gauge the strength of their enemies. They are not allied with any nation.
The Arraxian Crown is by lead three demons sent from Infernia by Adramelech to personally oversee his return to Etheria. They rule from a hidden location called the Bastion of Chaos, somewhere that the Church of Asyra would dearly love to locate and destroy.
The first province liberated by Westlock in ending the Demon Occupation, Ivarium considers itself the true heir to the legacy of The Pellian Empire, and wishes to usurp Westlock’s place as the preeminent nation of Etheria. Ivarium still hews to the political model of the old Pellian Empire and is currently ruled by Empress Flavia Bellaus, General of the First Legion, Protector of the Ancient Rights. The Empress receives advice from the Senate, which is elected from the Free Citizens of Ivarium. Ivarium also relies on a substantial slave class for most of its agricultural, labor, and craft needs.
Ivarium life is organized around venerating the Imperial Legions, and military service is considered the highest calling for a citizen. The Ivarium Legions have recently returned in triumph from subduing the Tribes of the Woad, savage nomads who live in the North of the region. Now Ivarium turns its eyes towards the Salenia, and is conquering them one by one. Every step brings them closer to the border of Westlock, and there is no love lost between the two nations. The military picture is stalemated for the moment, for while the Ivarium Legions outnumber the Armies of Westlock, the Ivarium cannot compete with the Navy of Westlock.
A festering blight on the Central Hearthlands, the Darkfenne is a corrupted land of monster haunted moors, feted swamps, and decaying settlements. The Darkfenne is expanding, as if the tainted land itself hungers for more space. Aside from providing a number of deadly creatures for the Mage Wars Arena (Darkfenne Bat and Hydra) two feuding powers call the region home.
The Howling Moors, a blasted and fog shrouded stretch of rocky terrain are overrun by the Tribes of the Howl, a strange species capable of shifting between the form of a wolf and a man. The Tribes war among themselves, but seem to reserve their hatred for the other occupants of the Darkfenne, the undead. Recently, Westlock and the Elves of Straywood have attempted to open relations with the Tribes, in order to get to some clue as what is going on with the Darkfenne and the undead.
In the deepest swamps of the Darkfenne lies the ruined city of Necropoli. There, Morweena, the Bog Queen, an ancient mummy from a long disappeared civilization, rules over a vast undead horde. Nothing living has reached Necropoli, and the only contact with the Bog Queen has been through her emissaries (as she seems able to possess any corpse within the Darkfenne). So far she has spoken of peace and has made no offensive moves towards any of the countries. So the nations have kept a watchful eye on her.
It was recently discovered that Necropian Vampiresses have worked their way into noble families across the Hearthlands, and seem to be plotting to expand their numbers. Many now question if this is the Bog Queen’s first strike, or something the vampires attempted on their own.