The Paths of Fate
Eyaeratherafel (ee’-era-thera-fell) is the proper name given by the elves to the world that they inhabit with their kindred races. It is derived from the elves’ Sorosyllabeth poetic style, which seeks to find a perfect harmony between the structure of a word and its meaning. As such, Eyaeratherafel is derived from the combination of the elfish terms for the four elements: Eyare (air), Eral, (earth), Therae (water) and Fareal (fire). Taken together, the result is meant to be a reflection of the perfect union of these four elements in the same way that the elements themselves perfectly balance the structure of the natural world. It is somewhat understandable, then, that use of the corrupted and shortened form of the word, Arereth, can make any but the most cosmopolitan elves cringe. Still, it is this latter term that has come to be almost exclusively used by humans (and to a lesser extent, the other races) in naming the celestial orb they occupy along with the elder folk. While technically referring to the planet as a whole, most inhabitants of western Arereth know of no other land save the single, great continent they call home and while the elves speak of traveling to this realm from across the Eastern Ocean and even in the modern age rumors persist of strange, exotic lands far beyond its shores, most people use the word to describe both this land and the planet as a whole.
Arereth is a world that would be in many ways familiar to the modern reader: it circles a bright, yellow sun (The Eye of Caul) once every 365 days while its single moon (The Eye of Lanuie) in turn circles the planet about every twenty-eight days. Its rotation (and its iron-nickel core) provide it with a gravitational pull similar to modern Earth’s and, like Earth, it has abundant water reserves (although – while its total water content is about the same – more water is bound in its glacial ice so that only about 65% of the planet’s surface is actually covered by water).
The western continent stretches some twelve hundred leagues (3000 miles) from north to south and from its eastern most tip in the northern wastes to the limit of the territories explored by Laruni explorers in the days of Astuniveus, it stretches at least 1600 leagues from east to west (though it actually continues onward for countless more leagues beyond this and where its western shores might lie no one really knows). Perhaps the most significant feature of the eastern portion of the continent is the great range of mountains known as the Nourgram, (in Elven, literally “the Dwarf Wall”), which divides the eastern seaboard and the civilized lands it holds from the untamed wilds of the west.
The north-eastern reaches of the continent are comprised of rolling hills covered by a tremendous expanse of unexplored conifer forest, the home to fierce tribes of barbaric humans never brought under the dominion of the Larunian Empire and said to be a land of dragons and all manner of other fearsome beasts as well. Even further north, this forest gives way to frozen tundra and then to the glacial wastes of the polar ice cap. Along the most northerly fringes of the land, sometimes clinging to the very edge of lands capable of sustaining life and human civilization, are the clan-holds of the Viking Realms, comprised of a dozen or so small dominions whose borders are constantly shifting with changes in clan allegiance, intra-clan marriages, blood feuds and many other factors. While these bold and hardy seafarers have plagued the lands of the south for hundreds of years with raids conducted in their swift-moving long ships they are also traders of great skill and have grown both wealthy and powerful from the trade of amber, whale oil and seal pelts as well from rare spices, silks and other goods obtained from sources known only to them, (sources which they refuse to reveal).
Moving southward, along the expanse of territory between the Nourgram range and the sea, one comes to broad-leaf (deciduous) forests of oak, maple and poplar, and to the northern most limits of the once mighty Laruni Empire. Once the northern most of its provinces, the “five kingdoms” (as they are now called) are a group of feisty, fiercely independent feudal realms that have themselves grown wealthy from their trade in furs (often obtained from the barbarians of the north in exchange for various civilized goods), as well as from lumber, molasses and marble. These goods are shipped mostly through the port of Aldafar, the capital of Seredar, to their destinations in the south, making this city one of the great urban centers of humankind. In addition to Seredar, the other kingdoms (from northeast to southwest) are Lenoiric, Madar, Thrindor and Astabar. While none is strong enough itself to fend off their powerful southern neighbor, Corasheld, they quickly unite as one (and generally not at any other time) to fend off any hint of incursion from this common rival.
While it is said that the city of Corothos won its glory from Astuniveus in the great rebellion against the Empire, it was Northryeal, Corasheld’s capital, that won its wealth.
The main transit point between Aldafar and Corothos (and with what little commerce that remains from west of the dwarf wall coming down through the Shrodeth valley into the city) Northryeal has become the second largest city on Arereth and its growth shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Under the guidance of the Meilian line of kings, the city and the kingdom it commands both continue to push against their boundaries, becoming a little more powerful with each passing year.
Established hundreds of years ago as the northern capital of the Laruni Empire, Corothos has always been a worthy rival to Larune itself and well before the mad king of Astuniveus declared his independence from the empire, beginning the great rebellion, Corothos was a city of fountains, statues and monuments of polished stone. It was Corothos and the lands of the north that bore the brunt of the rebellion, however, and though all of the empire saw its wealth depleted in the fighting, it was here that the countless hoards of orcs, goblins and trolls invaded, burning towns and cities and committing atrocities of unrivaled horror wherever they went before the legions of the north finally pushed them back, legions which would soon thereafter also bear witness to the dawning of the undead as they stood before accursed Astuniveus’ walls. Even as the sons of Corothos bled and died for the glory of the empire, however, the southern lands fell into to discord, apathy and internal decay. When the mad king Nerocas was finally thrown down and his city, the white city, was transformed forever into Astunnuar, the city of bones, the people of the north found themselves sickened by the lassitude and languor of their southern neighbors, who seemed only able to pine for a decadence long lost in the war even as the people of the north were burying their countless dead. Larune had neither the will nor the coin to prevent Corothos from going her own way by then and so the northern provinces easily quit the empire they had just fought so valiantly to defend. Indeed, some scholars (at least those of a more cynical bent) suggest that the imperial senate in Larune barely even noticed their departure after so many years of endless war. Founding the republic of Khysothrel, (which once included the lands of Corasheld and the five kingdoms as well), the people of Corothos sought to rebuild, trying to cling to the pride and honor of a broken empire even as the citizens of Larune brooded over its lost wealth and prestige. The scars of war ran too deeply, however, and the new republic did not last long, quickly dissolving into the feudal kingdoms that stand today. Many say that Astunnuar is not the only city of ghosts now, for mighty Corothos, already a city of marble before the rebellion began, is in its own way a necropolis now, one where lay the restless spirits of humanity’s naiveté, ambition and innocence. Though beautiful and vibrant, (and the capital of a thriving kingdom), the city’s many parks and monuments bear witness to a troubled past and the specter of that past can be easily felt just below its bustling surface.
The western most of the civilized lands is mighty Tar-Khuzal, realm of the dwarves. Long has this nation stood as a bulwark against the numberless humanoid races of the west and wave after wave of orcs and their kin have crashed into the Nourgram range, each broken in its turn by this stalwart people. It is, of course, this fact from whence the mountain range gets its name. The dwarves realize quite well that without their defense, the other races of the east would have long ago been over-run but they realize equally well that it is a burden which they will eventually no longer be able to bear as they see their numbers diminish with each passing season of never-ending conflict. This has left them a stoic, honorable but taciturn, (even embittered) people who look upon the world and their kindred races with a mixture of resignation and ire. The capital of Tar-Khuzal is Kaerholm, a shining citadel carved from the granite of one of the range’s highest peaks and considered one of the greatest testaments of the dwarves’ skill in stone-craft.
Just east of Tar-Khuzal are the sylvan hills and forests of Sindareal, home of the elves. Verdant and pristine, dotted at irregular intervals with elvish communities of various sizes, very few non-elves have ventured far into Sindareal’s depths, for the elves do not brook intruders into their lands lightly and extend invitations into them only rarely. The one exception to this is the city of Sendia, capital of the realm and located deep within its heart, though accessed by a well maintained (and carefully watched) highway upon which the ambassadors and merchants of other races may come and go. Once close allies of the dwarves, their relationship has become strained over the centuries as the dwarves have come to resent being left to face the onslaught of the humanoid races alone though, in truth, orcs (who have a particular hatred for the fair folk) do frequently strike into Sindarel’s exposed southwestern flank, always being driven back at great cost to both races, and the fey folk’s numbers are too small to make much difference in the fighting that continually rages in mountains beyond their forested home in any event.
The Shirelands were once part of Sindareal but were only scantly populated by the elves, who preferred the forest lands of the north to the rolling hills and vales of this extensive meadowland. When the halflings first came to the east however, fleeing the migrating tribes of humanoids that had over-run their now forgotten homeland, they came as peace-loving refugees and were granted passage through the Nourgram by the dwarves, to be delivered into the care of the elves who then ceded this land to the small folk to claim as their own. The humanoids pursuing them, of course, met the fate of steel and stone that the dwarves have always handed out to such interlopers and both races have now benefited from the friendship of the hobbit folk, whose rich agricultural industry has bolstered both of their neighbors, especially the dwarves, in the ensuing years. The Shirelands are divided into a number of semi-independent shires, townships and the like as these harmonious folk have never had need of any central, racial capital.
The one-time mighty Laruni Empire still stands as a powerful nation today, if but a shadow of the glorious state it once was. Almost all of humanity’s greatest achievements can trace their origins to this cradle of human civilization, including the common tongue used by most races in trade today, it’s system of time keeping and even much of its religion though, in truth, much of Larune’s intellectual achievement is derivative from the culture of Arethokos, its neighbor to the southeast, a once-independent city-state that was one of Larune’s first conquests but whose advanced (and by then already venerable) culture and technology quickly came to fascinate the Laruni nobility to such an extent that they soon adopted it almost wholesale as their own.
The lands of Gileiad were still part of Larune’s frontier when the empire fell and they have remained so in the centuries since. Composed of many sometimes-cooperating, sometimes-competing freeholds and independent petty kingdoms (some no larger than a single town and its surrounding farmlands), the largely human inhabitants of this rolling hill land come into frequent conflict with the humanoids of the western wilderness and as a result the region has produced a breed of strong-willed, resilient and independent folk not given to being ruled by any strong central power despite the attempts of many would-be kings to unite the region under a single banner.
The well-named Pirates’ Coast lays just beyond the southern most fringes of civilization and is a region dotted with small, autonomous ports that act as havens for dozens of pirate groups, freebooters, smugglers and independent traders. In addition to their obvious profession, these hardy sea-farers conduct some trade with the tribal natives inhabiting the jungles of Sorusazle and have even made some forays into the lands bordering the Swordfish Sea, bringing back strange and exotic treasures from lands not previously known even in the days of the Empire’s greatest might. Among their contacts are, so the rumors go, an ancient race of intelligent serpent people said to be of great physical prowess, magical power and evil disposition.
Little is known of the lands of Yuzon, for this region had only just begun to be explored when the disastrous rebellion of Astuniveas that eventually led to the fall of the empire began, little progress in exploration has been made here since. It is a land of dense jungle, said to hide the remnants of a lost civilization similar to (but apparently even grander than) those of Sorusazle but, like its neighbor to the south, these jungles also hide tribes of fierce cannibals and fell beasts. Beyond Yuzon, known only by the name that Larune’s first explorers gave it upon its discovery long ago, is the Twilight Sea, what lays beyond this body of water no one knows.