The City of Tales
Bordered at the north by the Dugran Empire and to the east by the kingdom of Leto, Carthica is an independent city-state, and has been for many generations. To the north, through the winding paths of the Nulwood, is the encroaching border of the Dugran Empire, while the east leads to the kingdom of Leto. Traders frequently come from both lands and from others across the western seas and the southern plains.
Carthica is a favored city for adventurers, merchants, and many others, a city with low tariffs and taxes and in the middle of the major trade routes. Compared to their neighbors, the citizens of the city have many freedoms and benefits, including the rare ability to advance socially. Unsurprisingly, the population has increased dramatically in recent years, with several new sections of the city under construction to accommodate the new arrivals.
The product of three generations of conquerors and the seat of the church of Tyras, the Inquisitor King, Dugran stretches from the far northern seas along the width of the continent. Led by the Grand Duke Mattias, it expands further south each year. Each new village is quickly held accountable for the heavy tithes and ensuring the laws of their new lords are followed, but are also granted the protection of the Arbiters of the Tyran Inquisition. The Dugran presence in Carthica is officially very little, although its inquisitors are known to hunt the streets for fugitives of the empire.
The nearest of a trio of river kingdoms that occupies the plains and waterways east of Carthica, Leto is a hereditary monarchy, ruled by the descendants of Adaanto the Redeemer. The current king, Zannan the Dauntless, has been pursuing peace and greater trade in the region, although the threat of Dugran has led to his army’s growth. It is widely known that the Adaantan Order of paladins helped to establish the Silverbound, one of the guilds currently in power in Carthica, but each group swears independence from the other.
Leto began hundreds of years ago, when local tribes of orcs banded together and switched from the nomadic, clannish lifestyle of their brethren to agriculture and harvesting the resources of the land. The settlement rapidly attracted others, quickly expanding and establishing other like-minded communities, which eventually united to form the kingdom. Orcs and half-orcs still make up the majority of the kingdom’s population, with humans as the second largest group, and a variety of other races present, including catfolk, half-elves, hobgoblins, and tengu.
Once the pristine city-state of merchants, Alabaste has become unsettled by the growing tensions in the region, and the many refugees of the coming war have begun the hunt for new homes here. The arena and tradesmen of the city have profited greatly from the arrivals. Recently, however, suggests that the city has seen resurgence in crime, while disease and hunger plague the less fortunate.
The former leaders of Alabaste, the Zed Mercantile Company, had seen unprecedented profits in the past years, focusing on hiring out its members as bodyguards for trade caravans and soldiers for Leto. They were fairly generous spreading the wealth among the people of their city, to avoid a total collapse of the Alabaste economy; however, their lack of action on the plague and the strange masked cult in the undercity led to their arrest by the Tyran Inquisition, which has taken control as the city’s governing body for the moment.
Yorham is a port town set along the Sea of Stars, on and around the forested delta of the Mertaan River. The settlement’s name comes from the Dwarvish name for the region, which translates roughly to “Seat of Light.” Though not as big or as organized as the city-states to the south, it is nonetheless an independent town, ruled by an elected governor. It trades heavily in lumber from the woods around it, as well as the bounty of the sea to its landlocked neighbors, including konnyor, bioluminescent kelp prized as a local delicacy (and alternate fuel to lamp oil).
North of Carthica, the plains turn to hills filled with ore and precious stones that have allowed the city to thrive. Only the brave and prepared risk straying off the paths, however, as the same mines that bring wealth and materials also connect to caves that are home to goblins, and, if rumors can be believed, darker things. Bandits have also set up camps in the area, taking advantage of the wealthy caravans that pass through or around the hills.
Populated by trapper camps and indigenous gnolls, the Nulwood is a massive expanse of trees about a day’s journey north of Carthica. Teeming with plants and animals, both mundane and exotic, it’s been a boon to the City of Tales for the rich resources the forest contains. Occasionally the hunters and woodsmen bring stories of carnivorous plants or talking trees, but nothing in the past has stopped their return; the money made by the furs and lumber is just too good to lose.
Notable locations in the Nulwood include:
A rich marsh in the western stretch of the Nulwood, where the forest meets the sea, the fens are renowned for their lush growth, and frequent excursions from Carthica are made to gather spell components and healing herbs. Such trips must be wary, though, for sometimes the things they hunt for may be guarded by strange beasts or poisonous plants.
None know why for sure, but a large section of the eastern Nulwood has long since died, leaving only desiccated trees and decaying plant life. Most of the inhabitants of the forest avoid the Dead Wood, just in case the cause is a curse or disease awaiting new victims. Only the foolhardy willingly enter; some adventurers have made journeying to the center of the skeletal forest a rite of passage.
Strange crystalline spires bearing the mark of a lidless eye have sprouted in the depths of the Dead Wood, and a band of adventurers found the ruins of an ancient garrison in caves beneath the dead trees. The woodmen, now free and led by Versillas, their apparent leader, have claimed the ruins as their own, with Willow’s blessing.
Sea of Stars
The Sea of Stars was first named by explorers who thought the shining lights that appear along the seafloor at night were fallen stars. Much of the flora (such as konnyor) and fauna are bioluminescent; many now believe the shimmering lights are either from a similar source or exist as a cause for the others.