The Nations of Airle
Western Grants and Colonies of the First and Second Wave:
The Carum Consortium – Established in the second wave of colonization, it was founded by the most powerful Halfling trading cartel in Felusia. It was the only non-Human grant issued during the first wave, although the land they were granted was not believed to be the most prime. When the first expedition made landfall, what they found exceeded their expectations. Although the land was not quite as fertile as they had hoped, exploration inland found a great potential for mineral wealth. The ring of mountains surrounding the land also ensured their colony would be quite defensible, a quality that would help it pass relatively unscathed through the Hordewars.
The Consortium is one of the few trading entities on Airle that is still run as a trading entity, and led by council made of up the leading (mostly Halfling) businessmen and traders. Due to its unique status of being a Halfling led state, it became a major port of emigration for Halfling refugees fleeing the Nether. Most public buildings are of Halfling size. This has led to a passive sort of segregation of the small Human population, and perhaps as a result, Dwarves and Gnomes are the second and third most common racial groups in Carum. Humanoids are seldom seen in Carum, and there is no branding requirement because there are no laws regarding them. Despite this, there is no known Humanoid population in the Consortium.
Though not a very representative government, policies are generally fair and the inhabitants enjoy a great deal of freedom. Slavery is outlawed for citizens, though visitors are allowed a retinue with a limit of three in order not to alienate potential trading contacts. Generally, it follows a policy of non-involvement in Airle politics, and remained neutral in the Riverwell-Westhold war. Conscription is mandatory for Halflings of Carum, though the requirement can be waived if a fee is paid. This small Halfling cadre is supplemented by a larger mercenary contingent, though neither sees much use, the cadre being used primarily for law enforcement purposes.
The Riverwell Protectorate – Riverwell was not established as a single entity, but as a combination of various lumber colonies on the Avines River branches. The holders of the grant, unlike the owners of others issued, had no intention of nation building. Instead, they saw the grant simply as defining the area in which they would have exclusive rights to gather resources from. The company would make its profits by paying for lumber floated down the river, leaving the actual responsibility of governance of each town to itself.
When the Hordewars began, the smaller logging towns inland came under attack. The Renaoult Consortium, secure in Crownport and far from the conflict, let the town’s requests for help fall on deaf ears. With no other option, the towns combined their resources and hire mercenary groups for protection. This allowed some of the towns to survive the Humanoid onslaught, and to hold its own until the arrival of the Verveine Order relief force years later.
When the forces from the Verveine Order landed at Crownport, The Renaoult Consortium was ‘compelled’ to sign an agreement that would allow the Order full control of the town. Using the Avines River, they were able to quickly reinforce the besieged towns, and after ensuring their defense, cleared the area of Humanoids in a bloody but efficient campaign. After moving eastwards, the need for the mercenaries had passed, and the towns had planned to end their contracts prematurely as thanks for their protection. The mercenaries however had other plans.
The largest mercenary force in Riverwell was a regiment of Telsland deserters known as Feras’s Boot. Colonel Marcini Feras worked behind the scenes to secure the loyalty of most of other the mercenaries operating in Riverwell at the time. When the time was right, he declared himself the ruler of the Riverwell Protectorate, and ‘donated’ his new army to serve as permanent defenders for the region. It was a move the citizens of Riverwell could do nothing to prevent.
Decades later, one of his successors would embroil the Protectorate in an ill-advised war with the Knightly Order of Westhold over a land dispute in the Crown Peninsula, and enclave Westhold was unwilling to relinquish. Even with the aid of the Ulmast Protectorate, Riverwell was sorely outmatched, resulting in the loss of much of its inland territories. Years later, some of these territories were returned when the Protectorship of Westhold was established, but Westhold still controls a small portion as an annex to this day, as well as the Crownport enclave.
Riverwell is effectively a Human-led monarchy, but works under the trappings of a martial law. The government isn’t overly oppressive, though the average citizen has no virtually no say in government. The only path to power is through the military; being accepted into the militia and showing enough promise to be recruited into one of the Protectorate units, or being born into a Protectorate unit family.
The current ruler of the Protectorate is Martial Exais Feras III, a powerful, if aloof individual concerned primarily with preserving the status quo. Although one could consider the Protectorate to be under long term occupation, the unified state probably would have never come into being without the coup occurring, and the nation’s resulting economic independence from the now defunct Renaoult Consortium. Some ‘rebel’ groups reside in the Westhold annex, though after four centuries, the real threat they represented has long since passed, save for a potential casus belli in a future Westhold war. Known as ‘the Voice’, these rebels when captured in Riverwell territory are usually executed as ‘invaders’ without trial.
Laws in the Protectorate are fast and loose, and differ from town to town. Generally, as long as ones actions do not threaten the military government, the application of law can be somewhat hazy. Slavery is outlawed however, and Humanoids require a brand and are not allowed citizenship. Other than that, the lack of strictly enforced laws allows for thriving capitalism in part to a diverse black market. The land is mostly populated by Humans, Half-Elves, and Halflings.
The Protectorate is mostly forested, with the many branches of the Avines River winding through them, making it attractive for legitimate and non-legitimate industry alike. Westhold uses the Avines River to access its port on the Crown Peninsula, the catalyst for the Riverwell-Westhold war, and the resulting treaty gives Westhold free right of navigation of its waters.
The Duchy of Sovland – Sovland is considered the most successful state settled during the first wave of Airle colonization. The initial landings of the Sovland Consortium discovered in its grant abundant fertile land area that would ensure its future self-sufficiency. The Netts Consortium, who had obtained a grant for lands further south, was not so lucky. The Netts group decided to sell its charter to Sovland, expanding the Duchy roughly to the borders it possesses today.
The beginning of the Hordewars presented an opportunity to the dispossessed royalty of the Felusia. For many, their lands were either under the threat of, or had already been devastated by the Nether. Many, despite the loss of their fiefdoms, still possessed their own loyal standing armies. Enticing this dispossessed royalty to resettle in their colonies was a tempting alternative to hiring mercenaries for protection. Duke Tasc of House of Grenner chose to accept Sovland’s invitation, moving his seat of power, military, and willing population to this new land. In the end his protection was not necessary, but Tasc proved to be a just and effective ruler, and his house still rules Sovland to this day.
Sovland is a stable, moderately prosperous, and peaceful state. Dame Julia Grenner is the current ruler and head of the Royal Armed Forces. She holds absolute power, though in practice, Dukes of Sovland do not interfere in local politics. The nation is quite conservative and its laws strictly enforced. Much of the Duchies’ income comes from its main port at the head of the Rou River, which serves as the main point of shipping for the Gausi Free Association and the Ulmast Protectorate. Having a reputation as a pragmatic family, the Dukes of Grenner have always strived to ensure the tariffs charged to those who utilize the port are set to maximize Sovland profits, but not so high to give traders reasons to search for other overland options. It did support Westhold in its conflict with Riverwell and Ulmast, and won from the conflict a small territorial expansion to the north.
Sovland is a Human state with a sizeable Halfling population, gained mainly from the absorption of the Netts Consortium. Populations from both races generally live amicably but voluntarily segregated from each other. Slavery is forbidden, as well as the presence of Humanoids in any part of the Duchy, except the port city of Deveau. Humanoids that can prove citizenship in other states are escorted to the port without the use of force, as long as they cooperate.
Port Deveau is the one exception to the normal way of life in Sovland. Since it effectively runs as a port for two inland nations, Sovland permits the allowances of activities which would be deemed legal in those nations. This ‘free zone’ includes the confines of the port itself, and any ships from those nations in transit on the river. Humanoids are legal in Deveau, and citizens of all three states can settle there. Subjects of Sovland are still subject to Sovland law in the port.
The Holtz Consortium – The Holtz Consortium is another of the surviving corporate grants given by the royalty of Felusia to settle new lands on their behalf. Soon after the first wave of colonization, the faltering power of their Felusian backers forced the consortiums to begin to rely on themselves for survival. The corporation which settled Holtz stuck to the strict interpretation of their charter, mainly due to economic and logistical necessity. Holtz possessed a fine port encircled by a highland making it a natural fortress, a good thing as it did not possess as much operational capital as some of the other cartels. It remained untouched during the Hordewars, though it functioned as a major point of entry for goods intended for mercenaries in combat in southwest Airle. The Holtz were shrewd businessmen, saving a good portion of the profits to ensure the Consortium’s future, an act which has kept Holtz an independent and influential entity.
Holtz resembles a city state, a majority of its Human population living in the main port of Pormena. The rest of the Consortium’s territory is hilly and not ideal for growing food crops, which limits its population. Much of the non-port workforce is engaged in mining and quarrying, which attracted a small Dwarven population. Branded Humanoids are legal, as well as slavery, though slaves do enjoy some protections.
The government of Holtz is a near pure example of the original Consortium government concept, save that the seats on the board have become hereditary, including the Council Leader who effectively rules with the support of the council. Holtz is considered a major financial hub, with its banks renown for their security and solvency. It has a clean and safe port, offering a place to do business for legitimate trading companies who are very concerned with appearance. Holtz military is not large, but it is highly skilled and financed. It also possesses special collection units which gives them the ability to ensure that its debts are paid. The ‘Executors’ are generally allowed by most other states to operate within their borders with little restriction if on legitimate business, an indication of the economic influence of Holtz.
The Lebauns Royal Consortium – The House of Lebauns found itself stateless in the Great Felusian War. It however still possessed a peerage recognized by Regency, and had managed to escape with most of its treasures in tact. The advent of the Nether convinced Hans Lebauns that there was no future for his House in Felusia.
The Jelsz Consortium had lost its main financial backers when the House of Yullan was extinguished in a Nether event, and although it possessed a fine port, it was losing the competition for trade revenue to its neighbor, the Holtz Consortium. Hans contacted the corporation in charge of the Jelsz Consortium, and arranged to buy the charter from a desperate Jelsz corporation at a greatly reduced price. He became both the ruling Duke of the land, and ensured that a chosen member of his family would also hold the Chairperson’s position in perpetuity.
Hans realized that the Jelsz had lost too much ground to Holtz already to compete with them directly, and that to start to do so now would be financial suicide. A clever man, he decided instead to look at the resources he had available. What he decided on was a wholesale change of the Consortiums sources of income, switching from a reliance on shipping, to small scale production of necessities such as food and quality textiles. By producing them more cheaply, it would save neighboring nations from needing to divert from their own specializations to produce them indigenously. He also made a quick move to secure his claim to Perrigan Island to the east, using his well trained house forces to clear it of ‘pirates’, virtually doubling the amount of territory he controlled. Years later, at the advent of the Hordewars, Perrigan Island would become the first port of call for troops of the main Order advance before landing at Serensport, and Hans would reap the windfall.
The main territory of the Consortium consists of a small but fertile plain extending up to the Southridge Mountain range to the north, one the small nation takes full advantage of to support its agriculture and textile industry. The government is a monarchy headed by the Duke-Chairperson, currently Yves Lebauns, a shrewd and controlling man who tries to ensure he knows as much as possible about the goings-on in his state. The rest of the government is run like a meritocracy, with members of the council picked by him personally to serve for life, or until someone more capable comes along. The people of the land are treated much like a resource, though the Lebauns recognize the need to keep life in the Consortium an attractive option. Slavery is legal, though usually in the form of indentured Humanoids, a limit of one per farm. Free Humanoids are illegal in the state as citizens or visitors, though it is rumored that the Duke has some in his employ.The Teoumanz Royal Consortium and Inland Colonies – A signatory to the Treaty of Hallstadt, the House of Teoumanz gained the right to grant a charter in for lands in Airle. Initially, it was common practice for the house issuing the grant to also become a shareholder in it. When the first colony ships arrived, however, it turned out the lands slated to them were quite poor. Eager to make the best of their investment, the decision was made to press inland into the thick forest before their neighboring Consortiums made their own claims. The new ‘colonies’ began clearing the virgin forest, the nascent origins of the Teoumanz logging industry.
The Duke remained generally aloof to the activities of the Colonies, concentrating mainly on spending enormous sums to create a port to ship lumber and other resources the colonies produced. The inland areas began to pretty much govern themselves, and arrangement which led to an ingrained culture of autonomy. A later Duke would decide that he should impose his direct authority on the inland regions, a situation which the population there did not take kindly to. When one of the Dukes enforcement patrols returned to Ferwick bound onto the back of their horses, the Duke decided it might be too late to frighten the population into submission. The resulting agreements led to the granting of substantial autonomy to the inland regions, an arrangement which exists into the present time. The state was subject to a few raids in the Hordewars, and archers from the Colonies travelled north to assist the Ulmast in their defense against Humanoid raids.
The largest city in Teoumanz is Port Ferwick, an artificial stone harbor created at great cost by the royal family to be used as a means to ship primarily lumber produced from the inland operations. The various logging towns dot the generally lowland forests and swamps. The push for land allowed the state to encircle both Holtz and Lebauns, who at the time were not in any position to expand on their own.
The leader of the Consortium and Colonies is Duke Oliander Teoumanz-Shaff, who has direct control over Port Ferwick and its environs, and of the nations Royal Guard. Although considered ruler of the Colonies as well, the Duke’s powers there are limited by agreement. Colony towns are run by local councils, and larger inter-town meetings are organized to deal with larger matters. Slavery is legal but generally not exercised. Humanoids require branding for free travel, though the requirements for citizenship vary from town to town, and those who desire it are usually ‘convinced’ to move on by the mostly Human population. The Colonies are famous for their indigenous archers and their prized bows, using elements of the Felusian hunting tradition combined with techniques borrowed from the Telis Elves.
The Gausi Free Association – The Free Association has its origin in a group of colonies established by refugees in the second wave of Airle settlement. Moving inland for new opportunities, small frontier towns popped up along the Rou River, outside the area granted to Sovland. The new land attracted those who were more interested in finding a freer way of life, and less interested in nation building, which limited organized growth and led to the rather fragmented and underdeveloped state it exists in today.
The beginning of the Hordewars bought numerous raids on the lightly defended settlements of Gausi, resulting in some being wiped out entirely. Much like Riverwell, the towns of Gausi combined their resources to hire mercenaries to protect their territories against incursion. The Gausi however also received direct support from Sovland, which later would deter a mercenary takeover like the ones that later occurred in Riverwell and Ulmast. Once the Humanoids had been pushed back, and the war had moved further the east, most of the mercenary army was disbanded, and defense treaties were signed with Sovland, who considered it more profitable and morally correct to keep the Gausi areas independent.
The Free Association is ‘governed’ by a council, a legacy of the Hordewars. It consists of representatives sent by the various towns of Gausi. Because unanimous decision is required for any Association law to come into effect, there are few common laws between every town in the Association. The population is mostly Human, though many other races reside in the area, differing from town to town based on the legality of their residence. A notable mercenary regiment is maintained, but the real guarantor of Gausi independence is Sovland, whose influence and important port reminds its inhabitants that it could intervene in their affairs at any time.
The Free Association does have one common defense force, a former mercenary unit with ties to an older royal infantry division, the 3rd Wolfstone Hussars.
They were the only unit retained after the Hordewars due to their reliability and high standards. Carrying on the tradition of their royal military heritage even to this day, the unit is influential and surprisingly professional for the nation it serves, and its fort-town Wolfstone is seen as the unofficial centre of power for the region.
The Ulmast Protectorate – The Protectorate has an infamous distinction, its soil the location where the first hostilities in the Hordewars took place.
During the second wave of refugees, many of the coastal areas became crowded with people, which the new ports did not yet have the infrastructure to support. Instead of waiting, many refugees pushed inland to take their fate into their own hands. Some settled the Gausi area, while others pushed further inland looking for more fertile lands that were rumored to be to the north. Occasionally, these refugees would find evidence that they were not the first to arrive in the Ulmast region, with no sign of the fate of the abandoned settlement’s inhabitants. It didn’t take long for the settlers to realize that they were not alone in the forest when they discovered established Humanoid villages.
Mercenaries were hired to ‘clear’ the forests of this threat. Little did they know that these villages were simply the periphery of much larger Humanoid nations, who responded to the attacks with overwhelming force, ushering in the first stages of the Hordewars. Much of the initial stage of the Hordewars was fought in Ulmast and Riverwell, in a defensive action that lasted for almost three years. This desperate situation created a need for military cooperation between the peoples of these two regions. The extant defensive treaties signed during this conflict would be evoked again in the Riverwell-Westhold war, and are still in force to this day.
The arrival of the Knight Orders in Airle relieved much of the pressure from the colonial forces, and eventually removed the threat from the Humanoids from the region entirely. The beginning of the Reconquest moved the conflict further east, ending the immediate purpose for mercenaries in the region. In a meeting of captains, the common consensus was that the refugees did not have enough money to pay for their contracts. They captains decided that they would instead claim the land they had protected for themselves, and elected a Head Captain to lead them.
The region was split into provinces which would be governed by the unit was present in it. As there was little infrastructure left in the region, the original settlers could actually see more benefit than harm from this arrangement, as protection and law enforcement was an obvious necessity. If anything, the mercenaries were almost as numerous and had been in the area nearly as long as the settlers that still remained, so in a way, they had just as much right to the land as the refugees did. This new found stability helped provide structure and direction to the development of the region.
When the rumored fertile lands to the north were finally discovered, the potential influx of food bolstered the colonies’ fortunes. Its involvement on the side of Riverwell in its conflict with Westhold proved costly however, the nation losing a good portion of its best new farmland in a Westhold annex, much of which has still not been returned.
The Protectorate is a mainly Human state, with small amounts of Halflings living in the farming areas to the north. It is governed by a Head Captain, who holds a council consisting of the four other Captains in charge of each region. Three of the five Captains (Yeomans, Ollan, Haasenbach) are hereditary positions, and two (Topath, Gesser) are elected by officer’s committees from their regions. The Head Captaincy rotates through each unit, and the title is held until death, or the loss of their Captain status, which leads to some unusual situations and occasional intrigue. Life in the Protectorate is much like it is in the similarly constructed nation of Riverwell, though law is enforced with less corruption and more moderate penalties. Slavery is legal if rarely seen, and Humanoids are not allowed citizenship. Branded Humanoids have right of passage, but their passage is monitored very carefully.
Free Towns of the Mouth – In the dispute between the Duke of Teoumanz and the Colonies, some people continued further inland, into the jungles to the east. Eventually, they came to the west shore of the Mouth, the outlet of what at the time was an unexplored river to the north. The hostile wildlife and limited food led to the area being sparsely populated. The area became quite attractive for those with troubles they would rather leave behind, and for those with no other choices left.
The ‘Free Towns’ consist of seven small and one large town, Diadem. All the major centers of population are on the shore of the Mouth. These towns reserve exclusive rights to the inland jungle area based on their claim to the abandoned Mellot and Ellopa grants. It is a right that remains unchallenged, in part because its neighbors have no desire to control the inhospitable jungle area. The towns elect a Governor, who holds his office in Diadem and acts as the de-facto representative and ruler of the region. Each town still holds a great deal of autonomy. Laws are loosely enforced on the coast, and the interior is effectively lawless. Bandits, cults, and the last indigenous Humanoids in the region are rumored to have settlements in its interior, but exploration is quite limited and dangerous.
The primary industries of the Free Towns are rare herbs and components, alcohol, and a loosely regulated market. Mages carry a heavy influence in the towns, and many hold residences here, due to the lack of regulation and wide variety of exotic components available. Small unaccredited magic schools are known to exist, though one would wonder if the practices being taught would be considered legal elsewhere.
Dulz Colonies and Grants – The Treaty of Hallstadt split up the south coast of Airle between the royal families of Felusia, and allowed them to issue grants there. Unfortunately for those who purchased the grants and made the trip, there was no guarantee as to what one would find upon arrival. In the case of the six grants immediately east of the Mouth, tired refugees and hopeful trading magnates were greeted by thick jungle filled with hostile creatures, disease, and a lack of clean water. Settlements were made, and many failed, while others continued to hang perilously on.
The most successful of these grants was held by Hermann Dulz, Duke of Ermenia. He had bought with him at great expense a clerical Order, which he had worried would leave him short too many laborers to make his colony successful. Instead, the healing and purifying abilities of the clerics allowed his settlement to be the only one in the region that was self supporting. He began to buy up the neighboring grants at reduced prices, eventually coming to control a large swath of coast stretching all the way down to Cape Verland.
Even with all this land, economic prospects were severely limited. He hired professional scouts to map out the interior, being one of the first to actually do so, and his investment was not in vain. He discovered fertile lands to the north beyond the jungle, a great convergence of rivers which would someday become Serensport, and to the east, the base of a vast plateau. Plans were made to settle these areas in the future, plans which did not see fruition in his lifetime. Years later, the advent of the Hordewars deterred settlement in the plains. Then, a small group of Dwarven ships arrived in Dulzport, its leader asking permission to travel inland. These dwarves would rediscover Solvas Krazak and reconstitute the Dwarven kingdom which once existed on Airle.
One thing the Duke did not foresee was that his family’s power would be slowly usurped by the religious order he bought along with him. The people came to see the Cleircs of Cifae as more essential to their day to day survival than the Duke himself. Even the Ducal line itself would convert to the Order.
Technically, the land is still ruled by the Dulz monarchy, a claimant to the defunct Felusian state of Ermenia. However, the clergy of Holy Order of Cifae is the real, if not open, power behind the throne. The population is mostly Human, but some Dwarves live in the interior, at the base of the Blatt Plateau. The jungle interior is home to un-papered Humanoids, and branding is not required. Converted Humanoids may live in the settled areas, receiving a permanent inking which ‘ensures’ compliance with the Order’s wishes. The economy is based on mining, jungle produce, and fishing.
The laws of the cities of the Dulz Colonies are strict and stringently enforced. Central worship of Cifae is not mandatory, but the rules of the Holy Orders are. This authority extends to anywhere a ordained follower of the Order can ‘see, taste, smell, and hear’, a mandate that the enforcement arm of the Order uses to operate, regardless of the laws of the state they are operating in. They are staunch allies of Westhold.
Jaspen Free Coast – The existence of the Southcoast was assumed, but not discovered before the Treaty of Hallstadt. As a result, the authorization of land grants in that region would not be included in that document. A second treaty was planned to be penned based on further explorations, before three closely spaced Nether events threw Felusia into the chaos of the Fracturing. The captains of the Regency Exploration Society had moved their fleet to the low risk port of Carnice, waiting for funding and a Regent’s mandate that looked less and less likely each passing year. The anchoring of such large fleet off the port caused rumors to spread from drunken sailor to barkeep ear to townsfolk. Eventually, it reached the ears of another group working for the Regency, which through fate or providence, coincidentally also happened to be in the port at the time.
The Nether event at Keep Sellor took the lives of most of the Mages of the Regency, including the Magus Prima. When the Nether events continued to occur, the remaining mages were assembled in secret, and sent to the remote port of Carnice, in a desperate attempt to somehow find a way to counter the continuing threat of the Nether. After being given the most rudimentary resources to achieve their task, they were effectively left to their own devices. As the days passed, the frequency of Regency couriers became less and less common, until a three month stretch where they were absent altogether. When they heard of the ships of the expedition had arrived in the town, they decided to abandon their futile exercise and take action.
They approached the captains and presented their proposal; to form an expedition with the intent to colonize the unexplored coast. The meeting went surprisingly well, although recruiting refugees led to a riot over the precious limited space each ship could hold.
The trip itself went surprisingly well, the boats reaching Airle ahead of schedule, though food did become a problem. The Southcoast was mapped in sequences, the mages taking note of every detail they could to determine the potential of each area for settlement. Some colonists were dropped off in the most prime spots, each with a mage to reassure that they weren’t simply being abandoned. Eventually the last three ships came to the mouth of the Jaspen River, the port that would be built there growing to become the largest one on the Southcoast.
Through the meticulous planning and magical assistance of the mages, each settlement grew efficiently. As the coastal areas filled out, expeditions inland into the jungles discovered Humanoid tribes, as well as the Elves of Telis’ouvania had been at conflict with them for generations. Jaspen sent mages and small militia contingents to assist the Elves, around the same time as the arrival of the Knight Orders and the Reconquest. After defeating the Humanoids in the region, attempts to settle the plains to the north bought them into conflict with Westhold, bringing them again into common cause with Telis’ouvania. In the end, and even with their magical advantage, Westhold was too powerful and the alliance was forced to sue for peace, losing territory to Westhold in the form of the Jaspen Annex. Most of this lost territory, including the largest town in the region, was returned to Jaspen with the formation of the Protectorship.
Currently, the Free Coast is governed by a council of the settlements of the Free Coast, Port Jaspen counting as the equivalent of three settlements. Each settlement is run by an elected Mayor. Each settlement also contains an accredited mage school with a Headmaster, who holds veto power over any action the government plans to take, though this power is seldom used. Still, the mages of Jaspen serve as a powerful advisory role, and one always accompanies ambassadors of the state. The state consists mostly of Humans and Felusian Elves. Slavery is outlawed. Humanoids are allowed to apply for citizenship, and are required to pass a direct interview with the mage of the town they desire citizenship with. After this, they receive a magic rune instead of branding to display their loyalty to the Jaspen state, and those from this state do tend to be viewed with less suspicion.
Solvas Krazak – The Dwarves of South Felusia learned early on that even their cities were not immune to the Nether. Being a small but essential part of the Regency, there was no reason to believe that any Dwarven city was safe. An unfortunate side effect of the culture of the Dwarves stubborn resolve made them reluctant to leave their homes, and they were pretty much resolved to die beneath the land they were born.
There existed in Dwarven lore a story of great city existing in a land long lost to the Dwarves. At an unspecified time in the past, legend states that the greatest Dwarven city came under attack from Orcs. The Dwarves however refused to let the Orcs claim their home as their own, and charges were set at the gates of the city, sealing it until a time existed where it could be reclaimed. It was considered a fairy tale to most, but the records concerning the land and mine complex were extensive, as well as the secret entrance that would allow one reentry into the city. The discovery of Airle suddenly turned the old legend into a real possibility that the myth of Solvas Krazak was not actually a myth after all. Cusath Leinad, seeing in their inaction the extinction of the Dwarven race, decided he would mount and expedition to Airle in search of the Krazak, and made a call out for any Dwarves that were willing to join him. His views caused controversy, and he gained the nickname ‘myth-chaser’, but he still managed to find followers willing to believe in his vision. The old legends spoke of the Krazak being built next to a large lake on a vast plateau. This information, and a chance access to exploration society maps, led him to believe that perhaps the ruin might reside on the Blatt Plateau in Dulz.
He spent his entire fortune preparing the expedition, acquiring four Dwarven ships from captains whose homesteads were destroyed by a Nether. The journey was difficult and long, the weather and seas they encountered exceptionally hazardous. Thanks to their toughness and, the presence of the remaining clergy of the Clerical Order of Dyer, the trip was miraculously completed without the loss of a single life to the elements.
When their ships arrived in Dulzport, the local officials were not sure exactly what to make of it. Dwarven merchant ships were uncommon but not unusual. A large population of Dwarves travelling on the open seas was something totally unheard of. And they were perplexed as to why they would be travelling to what at the time was a small jungle outpost. Cusath’s request to the Dulz officials was polite and direct; could his entourage be allowed free travel inland. With the blessing and support of the Holy Order of Cifae, the Dulz officials approved, and 280 Dwarves took their supplies and entered the jungle. Lives were lost in the dangerous and unfamiliar environment of the jungle interior, but most managed to reach the base of the Blatt Plateau. They scaled it, and using the ancient records began to search for the lost entrance to Solvaz Krazak. In what must have seemed to come straight out of a dream, the entrance was found exactly where the plans said it would be.
Solvaz Krazak was better preserved than even the most optimistic Dwarf could have imagined. Waterworks, lighting, machinery all lay in tact, marred only by layers of dust, light rust, and the remains of the massive battle that had taken place long in the past. They immediately went about preparing their new home for those who would surely follow once they heard of this legend now come to life. While other Dwarves came to settle in Solvas over the years, King Leinad visited neighboring realms, securing his borders, and granting the Dulz Consortium special trading rights. The patron deity of The Knights of the Verveine Banner is Dyer, who is also the patron deity of the Dwarves. This commonality would lead Solvaz to find common cause with Westhold, and the formation of an alliance that exists to this day.
Solvaz is the only Dwarven state on the Airle, and it adheres to many resurrected customs and traditions of its people. Worship of Dyer has always been central to Dwarven culture, and in Solvas he is revered above Cifae.
The current ruler is King Reivax Leinad, a conservative and militaristic leader in the mold of his predecessors.
In the Krazak itself, Dwarven traditions are observed stringently, and visitors are usually accompanied by a sponsor to keep them from offending its citizens or breaking any laws, though being able to do this without a sponsors’ intercession will earn a visitor high respect. In the Dozak, or surface territory, the laws that apply are less stringent, allowing cultural and religious flexibility for the non-Dwarven labor forces which make up much of the population there.
Slavery and Humanoids are forbidden, and only Dwarves can hold ‘true’ citizenship. Non-Dwarves still enjoy a high standard of living and protection, and require an initial sponsorship to settle in the Dozak, a term that translates roughly to ‘rooftop’. Such sponsorships continue indefinitely and down family lines, but any law breakers are subject to exile.
Jaspen was the first nation to rediscover the Elves of Telis’ouvania, after their scouts were detected by a Humanoid village in the region. The intervention of a Telis patrol saved the lives of the scouting party, leading to their first contact with anyone besides the Hordes or the Zielg in millennia.
Exactly how the Telis culture survived being overrun by Humanoid war parties is not exactly known, the Elves perhaps still possessing secret tactics and methods that would still have value in the present day. One thing is known; that a mage, known as Fes’ania, or ‘the Father’, was critical to their survival. When he actually died is also not known, but it is said he was ancient during the time the rest of the original civilizations of Airle were assumed to have crumbled.
When news of the existence of this ancient nation reached Felusia, it sent a shockwave through all of elven culture. Some were excited at the opportunity to reconnect and reinvigorate their culture, which had decayed into a shadow of its former self. Elven refugees started to arrive in the second wave of colonization, making their way from Port Jaspen and travelling inland. The Telis felt a great desire to protect their people, but also feared the contamination of their culture by the newcomers. A decision was made that the time was right for Telis’ouvania to reclaim their ancestral lands, as a place for the newcomers to settle and begin the process of reintegrating themselves into the ‘true’ elven way of life. With Jaspen’s assistance, and using the massive campaign of the Knight Orders at the time, the southern jungles and forests were cleared of the Humanoid presence.
As the front of the Hordeland wars moved further east, both Westhold and Telis settled the land the elves considered their ancestral right. A short conflict between Westhold, and the allied forces of Jaspen and Telis’ouvania ended in Westhold securing most of the contested territory. A cease fire was declared to prevent further bloodshed; Westhold would hold nominal sovereignty over the land, while ensuring the protection and right to settle of Elves already in the region. After the formation of the Protectorship, some of this land was returned to Telis’ouvania as a good faith gesture.
Telis’ouvania is a highly theocratic state, run by Elders and high priests, with heavy influence from its warrior class. The cities of the state are built to be self-supporting forest fortresses, with different social priorities than one would be accustomed to. The concept of trade with outside peoples introduced the need for a merchant class, though the ‘merchants’ of the state are actually government officials who only sell surplus resources at generally nonnegotiable prices. Outsiders are allowed to visit only in limited numbers, and citizenship is closed to all but Elves of the Protectorate. Even then, the requirements for Elves to become full citizens are rigorous.
The Protectorate was established when Telis’ouvania began to reclaim their ancestral lands after the expulsion of the surrounding Humanoid tribes. Elven and Half-Elven refugees were settled in the reclaimed territories, to secure them and provide a place to facilitate the transition from their old, Humanized culture to Telis ways. Eventually, it was planned that most of the Protectorate would eventually be absorbed into Telis’ouvania itself, and the rest (including Half-Elves who could not be integrated fully into Elven society), be allowed to join the Free Coast. This concept did not come to full fruition, most Elves being unable to fully adapt to the strict ways of their new society. Instead, the Protectorate has become a somewhat autonomous, but closely associated state, with the Elves living here acting as intermediaries with the outside world.
The Elves of the Protectorate live their lives much as they did in Felusia, though with more open expression of the Elven culture than in other parts of the Airle. The government is run by a council of elders, who are themselves the leaders of each part of the state. In practice though, important decisions are usually reached by local referendum. The Protectorate maintains a militia, which operates directly under the command of Telis’ouvania in times of conflict. Although Half-Elves cannot fully integrate themselves into Telis’ouvania society, they can reach any position of power in the Protectorate. The most devout become priests of Fes’ania and are also allowed martial training in the specialized military school sponsored by their parent state.
Settlements of the Third Wave:
While many of the larger trading consortiums were able to obtain royal grants for setting up colonies on Airle, there were many others which were less fortunate. As Nether events continued to take place, the deterioration of the old Felusian order made the prospect of a royal sponsorship and grant for these less influential cadres less and less likely. As government after government crumbled, the amount of refugees desperate to escape the chaos rose. Four different corporations of traders decided to cash in all they had, and take a chance on founding new colonies in the unexplored regions of the Airle. These regions would become the Free Settlements of South Coast, the Prusci Colony, and the Duchy of Spearcoast. The method of choosing what area each group would be allowed to settle was simple; four directions were chosen by lot, and each ship split off on their resulting northerly heading.
Arriving after the discovery of Humanoids, they had the benefit of knowing to invest in mercenary help before making the journey, and the decisions on how each expedition planned to ensure its own protection would affect the way of life each colony would eventually adopt. The third wave of refugees heralded the end of organized colonization of Airle. Each successive wave was absorbed by preexisting states, or like the missing fourth expedition, met an unknown fate somewhere in what is now referred to as the Hordelands.
Free Settlements of Southcoast – The westernmost lot was won by a group called the Free Traders Conglomerate. It consisted of three larger cartels, all planning to found their own independent yet cooperative settlements. To this end, each hired their own mercenary contingent, the requirement being they needed to be dispossessed Felusian House units. Though this choice left them with the weakest force, they were fortunate that the Humanoid presence in the area where they landed was small and unorganized. Each cartel set up its own trading post and expanded along the coast rather than deep into the upland plateau that existed inland. This area is still lightly explored, posing dangers of which the Humanoid factor was the least of concern.
The Free Settlements today exists much as it has since its founding. It is split into three lightly populated areas, each run by a trading cartel. Fishing and small scale mining makes use of most of the labor force. The remote and generally free Settlements are also a haven for people on the run from trouble in other lands, as the local authorities do not ask questions as long as the newcomers do not make any trouble. The ports are a point of departure for unlicensed exploration groups, with quite a few of these parties not returning. The mercenary units that arrived with the Settlements transitioned over time into official government forces, in charge of law enforcement and protection, and recruiting directly from the population. They still use the same colors and keep the same traditions as their old Felusian House guards, and engage in friendly competitions with their counterparts in each settlement.
Limited amounts of Humanoids are allowed citizenship with branding required, and are tolerated to a greater extent than in most of the other nations of Airle.
The Prusci Colony – Desmarias Prusci inherited his fathers trading fortune and peerage when he was caught in the Dremant Nether event. A wealthy socialite even before the beginning of the chaos, he began to use his increased access to funds like someone who thought the world was going to end would. Although not a trader himself, he did start to recognize that much of his wealth would become worthless when the governments that backed them ceased to exist. He began to devise an ‘escape plan’ while he had the resources to accomplish it. As fate would have it, he caught wind of an unsanctioned corporate expedition to the Airle that was forming up, and decided this might be his last and best opportunity. Using his father’s connections, he organized a cadre of small specialty traders, and convinced them to join him in bankrolling his own colony.
Initial surveys of the land the Prusci colony was allotted was disappointing, consisting of rocky, barren coastline. Further exploration however bought some promising discoveries. A deep and well protected natural harbor was located, which was quite hidden and hard to spot from the open ocean. Also, many of the rock formations of the colony were found to be volcanic, leading to the discovery of large deposits of gemstones. This did not become as much of a boon until the Airle switched from a survival based economy to one where commodities had value. This fact did not keep Desmarias from mining and hoarding as many of the minerals as he could, even at a time they were effectively worthless. This would eventually make the Colony, through the immense wealth of the Prusci family, quite influential in Airle politics.
The nation itself is a de-facto Human monarchy, the family head stylized as ‘the Van’. However, the Prusci have always despised the concept of ‘royalty’, and the sense of ‘responsibility to nation’ it entailed. Instead, the Colony is run more like one large personal estate, with ‘employees’ rather than citizens. The only exception to this would be the businesses in the town proper, who still only rent the property they do business on. Miniscule but ever present ‘taxes’ are a reality every visitor to the Colony must take into account.
The main industries of the Colony are mining and specialized agriculture, the gem mining operation being the primary reason for the small population of Dwarves and Gnomes. The port is also known as a center for the sale of stolen goods, though the Prusci family’s involvement in this illicit trade has never been proven.
The Colony maintains a standing army consisting of one moderately sized and well equipped mercenary regiment, which protects Aprenzze proper, and also enforces the ‘Colony code’, which is stringent but not overly oppressive. The obvious temptation for leaders of this force would be to take control of the colony, a temptation tempered by the mysterious and untimely demise of anyone foolish enough to seriously plan it. The Colony also claims a large stretch of the desolate coast, one recognized by both its neighbors. Anyone settled on these lands are pretty much left to their own devices, unless their presence becomes unprofitable.
The Duchy of Spearcoast – Dame Abelie Regeni was the leader of a small Duchy in northern Felusia. Existing in the ‘centerlands’, it had been laid to ruin during the Felusian War. All that remained of the Duchy when she was able to return from her exile was a destitute and starving population. Initially, she attempted to invest in restoration her lands, but the continuation of the Nether events destabilized her efforts severely. When learning of the expedition, she turned over control of her lands to a ‘regency’ which she never planned to return to, and used what was left of her fortune to buy a share in it.
Receiving the ‘north-northeast’ lot, her ships arrived on a stretch of coast which sat on the base of a steeply rising interior. Without finding any natural port to settle at, the ships sent people ashore and made do. The lack of protection led to all 12 of their ships being destroyed in a massive storm, effectively cutting off the colony from any outside help. Small scouting parties were sent out in hopes of making contact with the colonies that were to be set up to the east and west. Things became more desperate when the evidence from scouting parties suggested they were trapped on a large island. Luckily, there seemed to be no Humanoid presence whatsoever in the region. Also, exploration of the north coast was discovered a promising site for a future port. Many of the colonists moved over the inland hills and resettled at the small bay, where the weather was milder and the flora more abundant.
Two years of isolation, coupled with Abelie’s soft leadership, opened the door for the mercenary unit she had hired to take make their move and take control. Guard Captain Jovan Mullins ‘arranged’ a marriage of convenience with Dame Abelie in what was in effect a bloodless coup. Under the authority of the Dame, he organized the construction of the port, as well as a few small ships which would hopefully reconnect them with civilization. Life was brutal for the colonists, but Mullins direction was effective, and the colony began to become self supporting. Eventually, the discovery of a land connection to Airle led to further exploration, documenting what would become known as the vast Regens Sea, the Mullins Straight, and the Ghovian Marshes.
The current ruler of the Spearcoast is Dame Helen Regeni-Mullins, a descendant of the union between Abelie and Jovan, suggesting that the relationship may have not been entirely political. The two largest industries are fishing and trading, and its port is of strategic importance to the Knightly Order of Easthold. Much like the Ulmast Protectorate, the military of Spearcoast makes up the ruling caste, although under the trappings of a royal mandate. Abelie took the unusual step of issuing herself a grant upon arrival on the Spearcoast. This seemingly inconsequential act proved to be quite fortuitous in the years to come, as its perceived legitimacy gained the Duchy greater recognition and status in the eyes of the Knight Orders. Slavery is permitted, and Humanoid citizenship prohibited, in line with the laws of Easthold, which the Duchy maintains close ties with.
The Knight Orders:
Contact with the Humanoid tribes of Airle led to a quick escalation of hostilities between the colonists and the indigenous Orcs. It soon became apparent that the mercenary units that had accompanied the initial wave of colonists were overmatched and outnumbered. The coastal settlements sent their standing armies and militias to aid the inland colonies in countering the growing Humanoid offensive, and it was considered a very real possibility that the colonies might eventually be overrun and destroyed. Couriers were sent back to Felusia in search of military aid, but the situation there was deteriorating rapidly as well.
The two allied armies of the Felusian War had been camped for almost a decade, waiting for orders from a leadership that was losing members year by year. Word travelled of the situation in Airle, of colonists fighting for the lives against a horde of rampaging Humanoids. Many had already become dissatisfied with the reasons for the Felusian War, and the end it had taken them to. Entire units began deserting the allied armies, and began to move north to the ports there, seeking transportation to Airle.
The Holy Orders of Felusia had refused to take sides in the regency conflict. When faced with this threat to Felusian citizens however, they threw their considerable influence and resources into organizing a crusade against the Humanoids. Gathering an armada of ships, the Holy Orders offered passage to Airle to all who would give fealty to the Order’s leadership, and accept an ‘Oath’ to protect the citizens of Airle.
Three Knight Orders were organized, each with their own Grand Master. The arrival of the Knights of the Azure, Sanguine, and Verveine Banner would turn the tide of the Hordewars to the colonists favor, and begin the ‘Reconquest’ of the continent. Eventually, they would found the nations of Northhold, Easthold, and Westhold, and these three nations would come to dominate the Airle, creating the political situation that exists on the continent today.
The Northhold Duchies – When the Knight Orders were formed, the expectation was that there would be only two; one representing the Regency, and one the Rebel forces of the Felusian War. There were, however, other sources of volunteers that did not fit neatly into either category. Some were Dukes of small nations that may have autonomously supported a faction in the war, but refused to surrender their royal peerage as a condition of joining the Reconquest. There also existed nations and volunteers who were not directly involved in the Felusian Wars, or had declined to declare a previous allegiance. The Holy Orders recognized the folly of turning away such a large number of fighting men, and decided instead to found a third order. Considered the ‘lesser’ order for the purpose of honors, the Knights of the Azure Banner when constituted was the most numerous, and potentially the most capable force in the field during the Hordewars.
The Azure Knights first mission was to travel up the Mouth and assist in the establishment of a supply base there. With the help of the Sanguine Order, they would pacify the tribes residing in the area where the three rivers met, and found what would become Serensport. They then attempted to relieve the mercenary and militia forces which were stretched thin and buckling under the Humanoid assaults. Their unexpected arrival shifted the balance of power firmly into the hands of the colonists, and within only weeks the Humanoids had been forced out of their forward positions and into retreat.
The arrival of the Verveine Order heralded in the second phase of the plan, in what would be known as the Reconquest. The Azure Knights were chosen to advance upon the north flank, the Sanguine the south, and the 2nd Verveine in the center. Their march took them through what would become the north foothills region of Westhold, an area where they met little to no resistance. As they drove or exterminated the humanoid forces before them, they set up supply camps behind them at regular intervals, but even so, the rate of their advance would wind up being too rapid to sustain such a large force. They met stiffer resistance in an area of river-strewn highlands, and when they had decided they had secured enough of the region, the Azure discontinued their assault and waited for further instructions. It would be three months before the other two orders reached the same area of advance, but even then, the success of the Reconquest had exceeded all expectations.
As the Verveine Order secured the conquered lands to the west of the front, the Sanguine commander planned to press further into the east, his plan to clear the Airle of all Humanoid presence. The Azure committed half of its forces to assist the Sanguine effort, the other half remaining behind to protect civilians which had arrived to begin settlement of the area. The initial success and optimism of the renewed assault came crashing down at the Battle of Fellsong pass, where the Knights barely escaped annihilation at the hands of a surprisingly organized Humanoid force. Although much of the force managed to survive due to the quick actions of the Sanguine commander, the Azure commander refused to retreat, his guard unit instead acting as a distraction so other units could escape, a decision which would cost him his life. As the three orders regrouped and reconsidered their plan of action, the forces of the Azure banner returned to their area of occupation, which became officially known as the Northhold.
Unlike the two other orders in the field, the Azure Order had no clear chain of succession. The previous Grand Master had been decided on unanimously, mostly because of his own personal charisma and perceived impartiality. None of his lieutenants possessed similar traits, and each of the Dukes disagreed on who would lead them forward, a few even claiming the right for themselves. They split control of Northhold between themselves until such a time where a unified ruler could be decided on. Continued lack of consensus on a new leader made these divisions permanent borders. Over the course of time, and with the intervention of Easthold and Westhold in the dispute, some duchies have expanded, some absorbed by their aggressive neighbors, and the rest becoming protectorates of one of the two other Knight Orders.
Officially, the leader of the ‘nation’ is the Grand Master of Northhold and the Knights of the Azure Banner. However, this position still remains vacant, with 11 claimants which are known as Grand Master-Candidate. Two Grand Master- Candidates are the Protector of Westhold and the Grand Master of Easthold, eight are the successors of Northhold Dukes, and one successor of the original Holy Order leadership.
The most powerful Northhold state, the Azure Barony, controls around 35% of the nations’ original territory, and is ruled by an ‘elected’ Order successor to the original Grand Master. However, the candidate who is endorsed by the High Cleric of Cifae of Resolute has unfailingly won each election since its inception.
The rest are ruled by Dukes, the successors to the royal armies that originally comprised the Azure forces, and claim leadership via royal peerage. Laws vary from duchy to duchy, each based on the original Felusian duchy the founding army originated from, resulting in a variety of regulations and customs which one must be aware of when crossing borders between them.
The political situation is quite fluid in Northhold, with a complex series of open and secret alliances that had generally kept peace in the region for the last 190 years. Easthold and Westhold also vie for influence among the duchies, with some of them over the course of time having pledged their allegiance to the leadership of one or the other. Prior to that, conflicts flared up between them from time to time, ranging from small skirmishes over border marking, up to full scale invasions. Military recruitment comes through indigenous population as well as short and long term hiring of mercenaries. Although the Oath is still required to be recited, it is now considered more a formality in most duchies rather than a serious commitment. Indeed, even Humanoids have been allowed to take the Oath and serve in the armed forces, though branding or papering is required depending on the duchy or barony.
The Knightly Order of Easthold – The Knights of the Sanguine Banner were constituted from armies and royalty which deserted the forces loyal to the Regent. Existing peerages were surrendered to a Grand Master which hailed from West Felusia. Being the smallest Order, it was also the most organized and logistically easy to command. Because of this, it would be assigned tasks that required a high degree of coordination, and would be the spearhead of the campaign on Airle.
After securing with the Azure the area of land that would become Serensport, they would sweep a perimeter, leaving the Azure to hold the port area until the Verveine contingent arrived. During the Reconquest, they would be chosen to cover the southern flank of the offensive, which was the one that was thought would present the most resistance. While the jungle to the south posed a challenge to the Sanguine forces, they also encountered forces from Jaspen and Telis’ouvania and set up alternate agreements for resupply from these nations. With only light casualties, they cleared the regions they entered of any organized humanoid resistance, leaving the Verveine forces to secure the territory behind them. It was only until they arrived at the Regens Sea did they halt their assault, spending the time to found a new port on the Ghovian River.
While a majority of the Verveine Order engaged itself in setting up colonies to control conquered areas and secure supply lines, the Sanguine began to plan to continue the assault against the Humanoids into the highlands of what was called the Neck. The Verveine Grand Master debated that their primary mission had been to turn back the Humanoid offensive and secure safe lands for Felusian refugees, a goal which had been achieved. The Sanguine Grand Master considered that any Humanoid presence on Airle would be a threat to the security of the people, and would settle for no less than total destruction of the Hordes. With the assistance of the Azure Order, they began an assault into the Neck. Initially the offensive was a complete success, the rocky, cool, and dry land being lightly settled by Humanoids. When they arrived at what would become known as Fellsong Pass, lax scouting gave them no warning of the massive force that had been assembled and was waiting for them.
Both commanders had edged their command unit close to the front due the relative ease of the battles up to this point. Because of this, both commanders were past the thin neck of the pass when they elements of a small Humanoid force ahead. Instead of ordering an attack, the Sanguine commander sensed that something was not quite right about the situation, and inexplicably ordered the main body of his forces to begin an organized withdrawal. The Humanoids, not willing to lose what was left of their opportunity, sprung their trap early, appearing on the ridges of the pass, raining volleys of arrows on the column. Many in the vanguard were slain, including the leader of the Azure Knights, who lost his life in a rear guard action supporting the retreat.
The defeat stunned the forces of the Orders, and their focus shifted to consolidating and settling the areas that each Order controlled. The Sanguine Knights established the Easthold with its capital at Vanguard. The meeting held here to discuss plans for the continuation of the war would lead to the ideological split between Easthold and Westhold. A few years later, the Settlement Wars would lead to Westhold coming to occupy 50% of Easthold’s territory, a conflict which indefinitely put on hold any hope of a renewed offensive. The Incursion of 609 AT almost witnessed the extinction of the Order, before the Westhold ‘Miracle’ ended the conflict. After the subsequent establishment of the Protectorship, much territory was returned and tensions were reduced, although some of the lost territory remains under Westhold’s control today.
Of the three original Knight Orders, the Sanguine Banner is the only one which still retains its original form and lineage of leadership. Led by a Grand Master, the Order holds its soldiers to the Oath, and the execution of its interpretation of its mandate, to exterminate or subdue all Humanoid culture on Airle. To achieve this goal, Easthold retains a large and skilled military, second in size only to Westhold. The military pervades every part of life in Easthold, its citizens comprising of a worker caste who basically exist to support and supply the Order’s activities. In the modern day, this consists of a ‘goods tax’ or ‘gold tax’ depending on the occupation of the citizen. Easthold’s northeastern fortifications are numerous, and a few massive, intended as a bulwark against a possible Hordelands invasion. However, Easthold does not possess the infrastructure to ‘go it alone’, and is currently held in check by the Horde Armistice regardless.
Easthold is a mainly Human nation, with a scattering of other races being represented in its ranks. Free Humanoids are outlawed in the region, the ones residing here existing purely as slave labor. Still, some do live in the forest that separates Easthold from the Westhold annex, filtering in from the Ghovian Marshes, occasionally conducting raids into towns on both sides of the border.
The Protectorship of Westhold – The Order of the Verveine Banner was created from forces that had been loyal to Celesa during the Felusian War. When constituted, it would become the second largest order, reflecting the support it held among the common people of Felusia at the time. It was decided that the Verveine units would be split into three elements during the Reconquest. One would land on the east side of Airle on the Crown Peninsula, to create flanking position and to provide direct aid and reinforcements to the nations in western Airle. The second would take the center position of the main Order advance, ensuring reinforcement and supply to the Azure and Sanguine forces. Lastly, they were tasked with securing the Serensport Region, and begin the process of immediate resettlement of refugees in the lands the Orders cleared.
While the main thrust of the Orders eastern advance moved quickly across the plains, the Verveine gains in the west were slow, the each victory coming through hard fought battles. Here they served a more supplementary role, bolstering and intermingling with the forces that had been battered by the Humanoid assaults to this point. The Order’s success in the east however had cut off most of the Humanoid armies’ supply lines, and after that their defeat was only a matter of time. The grizzly display of barbaric vengeance executed against the Humanoid forces by the locals left a lasting image in the psyche of the Order troops there. Once pacified, the Avines River would become a second major artery for supplies and refugees destined for the inner plains of Airle, and would become a point of contention with Riverwell in the future.
The eastern front moved much quicker than expected. Many Verveine forces were diverted from the line in order to secure the vast tracts of land which had come under their control. The Verveine order proved highly competent in the execution of this task, creating a network of roads, depots, and infrastructure to support the refugees, which themselves began to arrive in Serensport in large numbers.
The Battle of Fellsong Pass blunted the Orders advance and caused them to regroup and rethink their strategy. It was during this time that the Verveine Order organized the Westhold, and instituted the trappings of temporary martial governance that would be needed to support the settlers under their charge. The area they were assigned to administer was vast, including the Northhold supply chain, and Serensport far to the west. When the Holds were established, they were intended to be simply lines defining the area of responsibility for each Order. The vague nature of these boundaries was not thought of as an issue, due to the high level of cooperation each Banner shared to this point. This would all change suddenly and dramatically at the Second Meeting of the Orders.
Only the Grand Masters of Sanguine and Verveine took their place at the table. The Azure Order, with the loss of their Grand Master at Fellsong Pass, had been mired in a dispute over who his successor would be. They were represented by a Marshall who by code was not allowed to bring proposals to the table, or vote on motions. Easthold considered their mandate not complete until every Humanoid on the Airle had been destroyed or subdued. Westhold disagreed, seeing the protection of the colonies and resettled refugees as a primary concern, not connected to, or even requiring the destruction of all Humanoids. Much of this opinion came from the experiences of Verveine commanders in the east, who had seen the evil acts of the Humanoids returned back upon them three-fold by the people they had come to protect. They believed that too much bloodshed could come to twist and corrupt the souls of men. They prioritized strong defensive measures to ensure the safety of the lands they currently held. This disagreement would end the conference, the Sanguine Grand Master accusing the Verveine of abandoning the Code and the cause. To this day, this dispute has never been resolved.
Over the next two centuries, the divisions once intended to be temporary became the borders of new nations. Easthold and Westhold would come into conflict over the forested and jointly settled areas between their nations. Though Easthold held the slight martial edge, Westhold had earned the respect of the colonists it had resettled and protected over the course of the Reconquest. The refugee population added some of their number to the Westhold ranks, and in every area they fought they found sympathizers to their cause. The anger present early in the war was quickly tempered by the realization by both Grand Masters; neither side actually wished destruction the other. A peace agreement was reached, although it would be in Westhold’s favor.
In the south, Jaspen and Telis’ouvania had settled in lands which had also been slated for Felusian refugees. Another short conflict ensued. Easthold, torn between the desire to counter Westhold’s power and their adherence to the Oath and recent treaty, remained neutral in the conflict. Westhold quickly secured their perceived borders and proposed a quick peace agreement, which Jaspen was more than eager to sign. Telis’ouvania however was less willing to forget the disagreement, considering this area occupied territory to this day.
In western Riverwell, Westhold continued to administer the Crownport area as a sovereign enclave, using the Avines River as their primary port of trade and supply to their northwest regions. The military government of Riverwell attempted to subdue the enclave with the assistance of the Ulmast Protectorate, which had hoped to expand their holdings in the fertile plains to the north. The conflict ended in a humiliating defeat for Riverwell, and an annex of lands from both these nations, under the pretense that they fell under the ‘mandate of protection’ their former colonies had ‘apparently abandoned’. Sovland made a notable contribution, its forces and navy assisting in Crownport’s defense, and leading to strong ties between itself and Westhold.
Over the next few centuries, while Easthold remained militant, Westhold began to less resemble a military order, and operate more like a Felusian monarchy. The military still kept to a high standard and recited the Oath, but they began to see their fealty to Westhold first, and Airle second. The Grand Master of the Verveine banner became a hereditary position, and through marriage to a landless Duchess, came to embrace the trappings of royalty. It came to perceive itself as the rightful and moral authority of Airle, and was more than happy to preserve the status quo.
This all came to an end with the advent of the Planal Invasion of 609 AT. Many were forced to flee ahead of a monstrous army of Humanoids, led by exoplanal creatures too horrible for proper explanation. The extermination of the Grand Master and his entire family line led to the end of the Order’s rule of Westhold. The unexpected defense of the Western Army at the Janz River, and the subsequent defeat and expulsion of the outsider forces restored much of the goodwill Westhold’s Knights used to enjoy. But inside the Westhold itself, the future was quite uncertain, the lack of any legitimate heir creating a power vacuum in the nation. A popular movement emerged desiring to make Travist Cale, the mage primarily responsible for the Westhold ‘Miracle’, the future leader of the nation. When offered the position, he seemed more than happy to accept. The Verveine Order would answer to a new leader, the Protector of Westhold, a nation which would return to its mandate of protecting the Airle from all threats. A return of disputed lands convinced the surrounding nations that things may have changed for the better.
After a century however, the nation had regressed to its old ways, the only things different being the titles used and the family wearing the crown. Still, this arrangement has led to centuries of stability and growth, where now the nations of Airle are well established and self supporting, under the watchful eye of the Protectorship.
The Protectorship of today is ruled by Protector Halvas Cale, the oldest member of a line of mages stretching back to Travist. The Verveine Order is still quite influential, and although subservient to the Protector, operates somewhat autonomously, reporting their activities frequently to the Protector for review. Life in the Protectorship is not overly oppressive, the vastness of the nation leading to somewhat different interpretation of the law in different regions, and in areas such as the ‘annex’, different laws altogether.
The term ‘annex’ itself is an unofficial, but is commonly used to denote areas of Westhold which were gained during the many wars with its neighbors during the decades after the Reconquest. Each annex is treated as a mostly autonomous region, although the Protector still holds ultimate authority in these regions. Initially, the Order kept control of these lands on the premise they were needed for their mandate of refugee resettlement. Eventually, the position of the government changed to see the annexed territories as ‘freed’ areas, and retaining them would reflect the true wishes of the people to be under the banner of Westhold, an opinion of varying truth depending on the annex. Some of the annex was returned to their original nations as a gesture of good will after signing the Protectorship Treaty. The areas Westhold retained were granted greater autonomy and an increased voice in government. Westhold’s cosmopolitan population would be symbolic, reinforcing the concept of Westhold being the voice and protector of all peoples of Airle.
Humanoids are allowed citizenship in Westhold proper, with the notable exception of the Elven Protectorate. Branding is required, although indelible magical markings will suffice. Few Humanoids live in Westhold, those with half-Human heritage are tolerated to a much greater extent than full blooded ones. Slavery is legal in the East March, and in one annexed barony (Helmmshold).
The ‘Border’ Lands:
It came as a surprise when a Humanoid dignitary and his entourage arrived at the Easthold fortress town of Cliftston, displaying the proper symbols to request parlay. What he offered was an indefinite peace between the lands to the west, and the unseen Humanoid lands to the east. The treaty was lengthy, well written, and possessed a complexity most thought Humanoids were not capable of. The representatives of Easthold and Westhold had their scholars examine the document, and after much deliberation, decided it would be in their best interest to accept it rather than reject it. Although rebellious factions from what would be called the Horde would raid the west over the course of the centuries, the ‘legal’ rulers of the Humanoids seemed to have kept to their word.
Although the colonies and the Humanoid controlled areas live in isolation from each other, there are a few places where the two societies meet. From them, one can get the slightest glimpse of what life might be like in the Hordelands, although there are many more who would volunteer simply not to know.
Hordeland Ports – After the armistice was signed, a few merchants were less interested in the peace and more in the opportunity for profit it presented. Small expeditions traveled to the mostly uncharted eastern shore of the Regens Sea, attempting to make contact with the Humanoid settlements there. It is not known how many of these expeditions were undertaken, but it is certain that many were not successful.
Martens Corris is credited as the first merchant to obtain official trading rights with a Humanoid nation, trading food and precious metals for lumber and ores. Within six years, four more ports had been established, engaging a brisk if limited trade with the Humanoid nations in the interior. Over the course of the centuries, ports have been razed, abandoned, moved, and reestablished multiple times, sometimes based on the mysterious politics and intrigues transpiring in the interior.
There are currently five known ports, and perhaps more illicit ones. The best known and most successful port was also the first one established, Corrisport. The ports are officially supported by, and considered the territory of the Horde entity which it also exclusively trades with. They are allowed to govern themselves within defined territorial confines, which non-Humanoids are forbidden to leave. Humanoids usually only enter the town to conduct trade, or to conduct reviews to remind the residents there who controls the port.
Due to the uncertain and transitory nature of life in the ports, life there generally attracts the most desperate individuals. Criminals on the run from the law find refuge in the extraterritorial nature of the ports, and those with nothing to lose sometimes find things to gain. Still, the controlling Horde, when it decides to be, is the final authority in the port, and people have been known to ‘disappear’ if the Humanoids wish it. They seem wise enough to understand that too much interference would persuade the ports population to move their business elsewhere, which suggests that these ports provide some kind of essential strategic benefit in respect to the power struggles in the interior. This dynamic exists as a persistent danger to the mostly defenseless ports.
The Del’cuz Refuge – Mentioning the Refuge usually evokes a wide range of opinions in the minds of citizens of the civilized Airle, both negative and positive. Regardless of the opinion, most are based on rumors rather than fact or experience. Those who know what it represents are the ones who seek it out, and are the ones who would find themselves most welcome there.
The treatment of Humanoids in western Airle may vary from nation to nation, but there is one constant; they are generally viewed as outsiders and potential threats to society. For half-Humanoids, the view is much less defined, and in some cases, much more dramatic. Whether seen as half-savage bastards, or children who deserve pity, only those who develop the strongest sense of identity can transcend the stigma attached to them.
It is uncertain when the refuge was founded, and by whom, although consensus points to a time more recent than ancient. Controlling a small archipelago in the east of Regens Bay, this Humanoid culture exists as a mixture of western Airle and Hordeland exiles. The society also contains a mixture of elements of both worlds, where merchants, libraries, monasteries, exist side by side with combat arenas and tribal villages. It is an experiment in progress, where organized society tempers and focuses the more violent tendencies of the Humanoid nature.
The small nation is officially ruled by a Chieftain, who is elected by a council of citizens and tribal leaders. However, the unifying force in the Refuge is known as the Seers of the Soul, a Human and half-Humanoid religious body which approves of any petitioner that wishes to permanently reside on the islands. Any who are seen to be potentially disruptive to the Del’cuz society are sent away, or in some cases, executed.
Although the Humanoids tend to stick to a more tribal lifestyle, and the half-Humanoids a more Felusian one, there are examples of both racial elements crossing over. Tensions do exist between the two main elements of Del’cuz society, but there also exists a feeling of solidarity, and an all pervading memory of why they or their ancestors had ventured to the Refuge in the first place. The Seers also keeps a set of rules which limits acceptable behavior and rules of conduct within the Refuge. Some of these allow for quite violent, and what might be perceived as barbaric, customs to be practiced within defined boundaries and without interference.
Though mostly Humanoids, there also exists a small population of Humans, and merchants and visitors are allowed to visit the refuge on a limited basis. The Refuge does have limited and varied relations with the other nations of Airle, most notably with Jaspen and the Southcoast. The Hordelands Armistice did not cover the islands of Regens bay, but for the most part the Hordes seem to grudgingly tolerate its existence.
One could argue that the Hordelands used to refer to the entire continent of Airle before the colonization of the continent by Felusian refugees. During the Reconquest, the Humanoids in the west of Airle were forced to retreat to the east, or die under the swords of the Knight Orders. In the modern day, the Hordelands are commonly recognized to encompass the eastern Airle peninsula, from the Neck to its tip.
The Hordelands are not one united political entity, nor do the Humanoids who live there recognize the term amongst their own. The area actually consists of a combination of multiple Ja’hoks, or ‘Hordes’. Each one considers its Chieftain, usually an Orc, to be the leader of all Humanoids, and battles each other Horde in a contest for superiority. Instead of all out war, a code of war ensures that battles are usually fought in proxy, though this does not lessen their brutality. This ‘strongest should survive’ mentality prevails over the entire culture, though their social development has bought structure to the concept, otherwise their society would collapse. This does not totally prevent total war from breaking out between Ja’hoks if the cause or offense is great enough, the bloodshed and atrocity in these conflicts hard to fathom.
Little is known of the territory the Hordes rule over, although sources claim it is it is hilly and dry in the north, and wet and lush on the coasts and in the south. As part of the Armistice, entry by Felusian colonists into the area is forbidden, and anyone who is found trespassing in the Hordelands should consider their life forfeit. This has not stopped treasure seekers, rescue missions, and unofficial government scouting missions into the Hordelands. The limited information that has been gleaned indicates that the Hordes do not seem to hold much interest in retaining control over the coastal areas.
Although the population is mainly Humanoid, there also exists a slave population consisting of captured representatives of other races. It is widely speculated that the ill-fated ‘4th Expedition’ met this fate, and it was from these captives that the Hordes gleaned much information about the societies that were besieging their brethren in the west. It is claimed that this slave population consists of those who have been captured trespassing on to their lands, but it is widely believed that many are probably descended from captives of raids perpetrated by the ‘unaffiliated’ Humanoids that live in the wilder areas of the west.
Despite some duplicity and small scale conflict between both factions, the Armistice has prevented the renewal of total war. Even during the Planal Incursion, representatives from the Hordes were eager to make it known that it was not their desire to assist or take advantage of the invasion, and indeed, they did keep to their borders after the conflict. Some scholars believe that Horde society has adapted to the loss of their former territories to the west. Others speculate that the Hordes are simply waiting for the day they feel ready to reclaim their lost lands.
The Barbarian Tribes
During the Reconquest, the forces of the Azure Banner sent scouting parties into the Airlespine, the large mountain ridge that made up the north flank of their advance route. Passes to the land north was rare, and the few times that one was located, all returning scouts would report was witnessing a rocky and chilly wasteland. This routine was suddenly broken about 2 months into the Reconquest, when activity spotted in a nearby pass. A company of Knights was sent out to confront to preempt a possible Humanoid flanking attack from the mountain position. Moving into the pass, it didn’t take long for them to confront the small force which their scouts had detected earlier.
The scouts sent were surprised when they discovered the camp was not populated by Humanoids, but of previously unknown indigenous Humans.
First contact with these Humans was tense but peaceful. Communication was easier than expected, as they spoke a language which seemed to be a simple and strange dialect of Felusian. The leader of the ‘zielgfoke’ hunting party tendered an invitation for member of the Azure to visit their settlement and leader, and they were apparently just amazed to meet Humans other than themselves. Azure scribes were allowed to speak with tribal shamans, and recorded much of their oral history. Though it cannot be certain, it was all but implied that these ‘barbarian’ tribes were the remnants of a Human civilization which once existed on the Airle. Due to the secretive nature of the Telis’ouvanian Elves, the Zielgfoke hold the only accessible clues as to exactly what life was like before the pre-Orc domination of the continent.
Members of these tribes were invited to resettle the lands south of the Airlespine by the Azure Grand Master once they were secure, but the leaders of the Zielgfoke saw no reason to change their way of life, electing to keep their independence and stay in the bitter lands to the north. Today they remain a strange curiosity, a living, enigmatic link to the past, a Human civilization unlike any other in existence.
The Zielgfoke are a tough and hardy people who have become well adapted to the harsh environment north of the Airlespine Mountains. Each village is a self-supporting entity, though interaction between villages occurs commonly. Respectful outsiders are generally welcomed, as long as they stick within the strict requirements of the village they visit. Acceptance of non-Zielgfoke as an official member of a village is rare but not unheard of. The population of every village seems to be entirely human, but there are a few that seem to possess vestigial traits of other races, suggesting perhaps the villages were not so homogenous in the past.
The style of government of each village seems to be a form of meritocracy, with martial prowess generally determining social standing. Intellect and ingenuity is also valued, though the opportunity for education in the tribe is quite limited. Usually those who seem to possess these traits become candidates of the shaman class of the tribe. There also exists a population of witches, the ‘Walkers of the Wastes’, who mainly live between the villages, and keep the spirits in the empty places pacified.
Humanoids also live in the Zielg Wastes, in small and usually temporary settlements. The Zielg harbor a particular hatred for Humanoids, which indigenous Zielgfoke will usually kill on sight.