Ancient Duchies
Truly the Ancient Duchies are a land perverted and divided. Cold, unforgiving plains lead to frozen tundra, but the terrain is nowhere near as unpredictable nor as brutal as the conflicts that have forged this land. A great civilization, brought low when its Divhi sacrificed his very life, and fell into a mad slumber that infects the dreams of his loyal followers millenia later. A broken race of once-feared savages broken to little more than domestic pets. And a people who more and more embrace doom as a way of life, seeking to return to a simpler time, and choose a new image in which to remake themselves, while those that remain feast unendingly in oblivious and shabby grandeur.

Physical Geography

The Ancient Duchies, better known as the Ghan States, Ghania, or by their old Vorgan name Gorou, cover a large area from the cold gate and the world-spanning Sirolas Mountains to the south, the Ironheads in the west, and the snowfields of Rockfell in the north. The Ancient Duchies varies between rugged highlands, windswept plains and boggy marshland. Further to the north the land freezes over for most of the year, with only a brief thaw at the height of summer. The terrain is hard, sculpted by wind and water for millennia into he shape it is now, but it can also be rich for those who know where to look. The sundering touched this part of the world relatively little, and so the land has an ancient, almost primordial feel the the landscapes torn by cataclysm to the south can't capture, but the closer a traveller draws to the Vargash Sea, the more new and shattered the land begins to feel, until on the shores of this place, where rocky headlands and teetering stacks stand like teeth on an angry maw. Routinely these towers of stone crash explosively into the sea, making sea travel hazardous with new shallow rock appearing yearly. In the far north the region known as the Frozenland is wrapped in an unnatural eternal winter that no traveller could survive for long.

In the south and west the Ghan lands are bordered by towering, majestic mountains - three of the four mighty ranges that carve Allornus into sections. To the south the majestic snow-capped Sirolas mountains keep the unnatural darkness of the Starwood from spilling into the southern plains. Sheer, snow-capped, and imposing, these conical monuments appear a shimmering blue-grey on the horizon, as their foothills stagger down into enormous plateaus that eventually recede into rolling prairie. The Ironheads in the west are very different. Uneven, craggy peaks jut like broken teeth into a leaden sky, their low, broad, jagged elevations stained umber by the iron bleeding from them with the spring melt. But where the Sirolas mountains stand shoulder to shoulder like noble sentinels, the Ironheads loll lazily and haphazardly, leaving broad, rocky passes winding between and over their shale-choked shoulders.

The plains of the south sit atop the broad plateaus, throughout Vo Beloslakya and Ualanzadleg, sometimes days across, that rise like rocky pedestals out of the earth, terraced down to the flatter terrain of the the heartlands. Here rivers flow in gleaming waterfalls from terrace to terrace, and valleys between plateaus are deep and lush. Where the two mountain ranges meet, in the depths of Ualanzadleg, low, shallow-sloped volcanoes rise from the uneven ground, and below the earth molten fire flows like a river. When the snow sinks into the ground scalding vapours rise and warm the air, hanging like a shroud. Strange plants grow in these vapours, not seen anywhere else in the world, forming dense, vine-laden jungles in the clefts between towering granite cliffs, and the barren, windswept rock of the uplands.

The basin around Asenovrich and Idalgarten is more what one thinks of, and expects when imagining the Ghanish lands. Broad grassy moors blanketed in heather, cotton-grass, and bracken, occasionally punctuated by copses of evergreen hardwood growth. Rivers and streams abound, breaking up the land like spidery veins, all but invisible in the dense undergrowth until stumbled upon, but seldom deep or hazardous. Shallow, silty lakes reflect universally grey skies, and spring and autumn mists, and winter snows can last well into the day, and make the dark of night even blacker. While there is wildlife aplenty, these lands feel empty, and a traveller can feel utterly alone here more than anywhere else in the world.

To the west, in the shadow of the Ironheads, sit the broiling lakes of Gorou, the ancestral homeland of the Vargör. This chain of enormous lakes lead all the way from the steaming plateaus and jungle vales of Ualanzadleg, to the moors of Silvasta to the Pravets Arm, dominating the lands they occupy. The seven greatest of these; Parava Lake, Ekeli Lake, Ritsari Lake, Tblis Lake, Ritsani Lake, Guranni Lake, and Lake Beslos are all major centres of civilization, with the Lake of Sighs in Vo Chor being distinct, for its utter abandonment, and also its northerly climes. Each of these lakes steams, as if the molten fire of the southern plateaus runs just beneath its waters, and each is known for the rich mud of its shores, in which the Ghans bathe for health and recreation, and which makes lake traffic almost non-existent.

To the north, along the Kardesian border, and in the unnatural Frozenland, the moors turn to tundra, cloaked in grey-white snowfall year-round except in the few weeks of thaw in summer. Here the lands begin to rise into low, white mountains again, though it is well over the border before the ground truly rises toward the sky. Life is tougher here, with little time to grow, though snowfall is usually shallow except in winter, and elk and moose thrive for hunting. In the east, along the coast of the Vargash Sea, this cold persists, blowing down from Kardesia, and wrapping around the small bay.

Spirit of the Land

The elementals of the Ghan Duchies are often quiet, monkish things that shuffle hushedly on heavy feet, careful not to disturb. But there are wilder beasts too, who lead baying hunts and whooping celebrations in the secret vales and forgotten steppes.

Political Geography


While the domains of the Ghan States might seem large and unwieldy by comparison to the scattered kingdoms and principalities of Ralstaa, or the neatly organized territories of Haedrasia, they are not truly domains in the same sense as those lands. The Ghans have long conducted their rule by council, with a Duke representing a body of people and their collective wealth rather than a mere piece of land. As such each of the fifteen vast realms of Gorou has a half a dozen rulers, who each come together to decide what is best for their land as a whole, and a shift in alliance from one council to another often results in mass migration by that Duke's followers.

However in recent years the eminence of the great duchies has been overshadowed by another conflict growing at the core of the Ghanish peoples. Long ago, to save his people from a profane being that no Ghan will name, the Divhi Ghanda, patron of the Ghan peoples and divine over wisdom and secrets, gave his life and sunk into an eternal, feverish slumber on the cusp of death. Long the Ghans laboured, their mystics visiting the mad dreams of their dying Divh to deduce his will, but slowly many became tired of seeing other peoples bask in the love of their own Divh, and slowly, secretly, many turned to older Divhi. The Divhi of the lands, and the mountains, and the rivers, and the oceans. Then, these followers of the elder Divh rose up, proclaiming themselves the 'carro', or 'chosen' Ghans. Now they live in the wilds, dressed in the semblance of beasts of myth, and make war on their brothers who remained loyal to the dead Divhi. Some say that they have slowly become beasts.

Still, the thirteen great duchies stand despite dissent amongst their citizens. In the east, Vo Gabrov straddles the way south through the Cold Gates, and skirts the coast of the Vargash Sea up to Svalanik, which continues north along the coast to the snowfields of southern Kardesia. These two domains remain relatively strong, with few Carroghans isolated to the wilds. Strong councils rule here, and Ralstaan mercenaries help keep the frothing hordes at bay. In the heartlands of Gorou the duchies of Idalgarten, Asenovrich, Silvatsa and Vo Chor all host large Carroghan populations, though each has sizeable pockets of civilization where their predations have been repelled. Vo Chor and Silvasta still function as domains, and have dealings with their neighbours, but the ruling classes of Idalgarten and Asenovrich have largely lost interest in their people's plight. Pravetsa has remained relatively free thanks to aid from Haedrasian and Kardesian warriors, but it still remains sorely embattled, and to the south Vo Beloslakya is all but lost to its internal struggles. Ualanzadleg and the Frozenland are not true Ghan duchies, with Ualanzadleg claimed by no Dukes, and the Frozenland a blasted ice waste where only the Child King lives.

In the west of Ualanzadleg and Silvatsa the Ironheads stretch from north to south, forming a natural border with Haedrasia that the Templarate has never shown desire to cross. Once the lands on the far side were also Ghan duchies, but they fell under the heel of the Haedrasians long ago. Now the western border is held by mountain passes, where both races mine precious iron from the cold earth. Here the three great cultures of the region meet. In the passes Haedrasian strongholds protect mixed enclaves around major mines, while higher up in the mountains the greatest and most open of the Mhulak deepings on Allornus welcome traders from both sides, and watch over the lowlands of Ualanzadleg as their own. Carroghans stay clear of Haedrasian protected territories, and the region between the mountains and the broiling lakes in Silvatsa could now be called the heartland of the old Ghanish culture.

Setting Trait (3): Behind Our Walls, We Will Forget The Ghan Dukes, and upper nobility have become more and more isolated, and more and more ignorant to the suffering of their lands since the Carroghans broke away into the wilds. More and more they have retreated into decadence in their opulent palaces, while the cities around them are ruined, deserted, and besieged, while their Vargör slaves are left to translate their delusions into practical action, while their lands fall.

Social Geography

The Ghans are a people divided, one half living in fear in the dubious safety of their cities, trying to live their lives as normal, and another living in the wilderness, embracing their animalistic sides, attiring themselves as beasts of myth, and slaying with gleeful cruelty, any who do not share their views. The Vargör are slaves to the civilized Ghans, indentured servants who have forgotten the savagery that was their birthright, trembling at the complacency of their masters. And in the rich mountains the Haedrasians and the Mhulak hold their fortified fastnesses against any who would dare impose upon them. Truly the Ghan states are a land in the grips of terrible and bloody change.

The Visghans, or old Ghans, can afford to be a thoughtful, spiritual people. Served by Vargör slaves, the common Ghans eschew labour, in favour of fine crafts, and scholarly pursuits. Alongside the absence of Ghan labourers and lower classes, there are also no Ghan priests, and no organized religion in the Ghan lands. Without Ghanda, the people never turned their faith to another divhi - that is until the Carroghans. As a result the Mystics, a very specific order, rose up from the ruins of the church of Ghanda, and they devote themselves only to taking various sleeping potions in order to share and interpret the mad dreams of their dying Divhi. As a result, Ghans as a whole, are wealthier and more given to intellectual pursuits, and in more peaceful times public forums were not uncommon, where the most learned would share their experience and wisdom in the streets - often even with agents of the Dukes. Now, however, few citizens come out to the squares and markets unless they have to, sending their Vargör servants instead.

The reason civilized Ghans cling more and more to the safety of their homes, is the presence of the Carroghans. The Carroghans are beast men in the truest sense of the term. Barbarians easily as savage, violent and unpredictable as the Vargör when the Ghans first made wart with them when the world was young, and Ghanda walked amongst them. Worshippers of powerful elemental beast-divh, they clad themselves in fur and skulls, and howl and roar rather than speak. They clash, amongst one another for dominance as much as with their civilized brothers, and the slay Vargör indiscriminately, like slaughtering stock. Carroghans live in vast communities set in wild places, where lawlessness is the norm, and violence and cruelty are accepted, and strength and savagery are the only virtues.

But in the high passes of the Ironheads there is another civilization. The Mhulak deepings here are some of the largest, and most populous in the world. Here the deepings are open, and trade with the outside world, welcoming visitors and even settlers from elsewhere. Though above ground life can be hard, especially in winter, within the deepings Mhulak master craftsmen have cut amazing halls into the living rock of the mountains, often climbing the sides of peaks under overhanging rock, creating settlements that look like tidal waves made up of buildings, fly-ways and balconies crashing into deep rents in the earth. Here the Mhulak tolerate little lawlessness, and are swift to maintain justice within their dimense, but also welcoming of those who make the journey to their homes with good intentions.

Setting Trait (2): A People Divided The Carroghans feel strongly that a return to their roots is essential, that they are wild creatures, and that through the Dooms they are being given the opportunity to reforge their own race, to reinvent it since the death of their divhi in the image of the beastmen of old, and they embrace this wholly. They attire themselves in bone and hide to appear as beasts of myth, and savage their foes with their nails and teeth like savage beasts, or with weapons fashioned into talons. But they delight most in tearing down the sanctuaries of the mystics, and erasing the last vestiges of Ghanda's faithful from the world.

The Dooms

The Ghans have an odd concept that each and every man has a special weakness, a unique something that is fated to be his undoing. This is his doom is a fate he must spend his life avoiding, with the grim certainty that it will eventually come for him, should he survive long enough. Every man and woman's doom is a secret, closely held, but also something to be avoided - a very personal and private stricture by which every visghan lives. Conversely the carroghans embrace their dooms, believing knowledge of their foil to be a challenge, and invitation to defiance. Most dooms take the form of simple taboos, such as the Ghan refusing to eat a certain animal, or food slaughtered or prepared a certain way, cooked, uncooked, and so on. Others may involve peculiar habits, such as refusing to acknowledge strangers, eating with a door open, refusing to cover one's head, insisting on a red blanket to sleep with, only bathing under a full moon, and so on. Some are more prohibitive, such as eschewing any kind of travel during daylight, never speaking to strangers, imbibing liquid only while alone, and so on.

The best known doom, however, is known as the Doom of the Beast, a sign of utmost favour amongst the carroghans, and a hateful curse to all other peoples. While the changeling-born races of Allornus have long ago forgotten their ability to change their forms, the beast-doomed somehow have this memory unlocked within them. They are able to change, into a monstrous form unique to themselves, unlike any other creature roaming the world, and yet a composite of them, said to represent who and what the beast-doomed truly is in his heart. Some whisper that by some dark rite the beast-doomed can even share their doom with others. Most hope this is merely a frightening story to be told in the night.

Major Races and Cultures

Visghans are followers of the old Ghan culture, dating back to the days when Ghanda walked amongst them. They are a cultured and scholarly people, with a taste for the finer things in life, and a fondness for fine foods and materials. The death of their Divhi has left them free of the obligations of practical religion, and instead they remain faithful to Ghanda, waiting for his awakening or death. Mystics sleep and dream under the influence of many mysterious potions, walking in Ghanda's feverish dreams, searching for meaning there. carroghan settlements are, meanwhile, are dens of violence, where those who have finally been broken by the worst dreams of their half-dead Divhi are totally without morality. The strong rule because they are strong, and take what they want. The worst of these are those bearing the curse, and they tend to seclude themselves. Many of them live in hiding amongst the visghans. The Vargör are perhaps twentieth or thirtieth generation slaves, and form the lower castes of visghan society, and really make the visghan culture work. They don’t begrudge the visghans their lordship because they are a passive people now. Domesticated creatures that don’t desire a life of savage hardship, despite knowing it is somewhere in their blood still. They look to the carroghans and see that their lot is better here, yet they find themselves drawn to those who bear the curse, and especially those of their own kind to whom it has passed.

Setting Trait (3): The Noble Monster Over the past millennia the Vargör have turned from the most savage and bestial of the myr, into the cowed slaves of the Ghans. So engrained in them is this servitude now, that they have become meek, but they have also become civilized. And with the madness of the caroghans, and the decline into deranged decadence and atavism of the visighans, they have found themselves the inheritors and guardians of a Ghan culture that has, in many senses, become their own.

The Myth of the Vargor

In days of old, or so it is said, the shapeless ones that would become Vargör came over the southern mountains, through a passage that was broad and barren, high and chill. Their number was few, and they were hurt by their journey, for the path over the mountain was hard, and so when they came again to the land beyond, low and hard by the sea, they made to rest themselves, and hunt, and gather, and heal their wounds. And for a time it was a good land, and they kept goats such as they found in the pass, and drank of their milk, and ate of their flesh. And in time they became kin to the goats, for their flesh nourished the flesh of those that would become the Vargör, and they became the Gor. And the Gor and their herds spread, to the north, and back through the mountains to the south, where they found those they had left behind now winged hunters in amongst high boughs.

But time passed, and in time the black-pelted wulven came, wolves as high as a horse, who preyed upon goat and Gor alike, coming in the night to these peaceful herders. And no matter how they hid, or how they ran, the wulven snapped at their heels, and found their dens, and took their lives. And the Gor became desperate, and they determined that they could not flee, they must slay the wulven. And so they became cruel, and lured the beasts to pits, and made spears to stab them, and knives to slice them, and rope to snare them, and in time they turned the wulven to mere memory. But then they realized a fearful thing - they had become as like unto the wulven as they had been their goats, and the Gor became the Vargör, and descended and slew the weak Gor. For in order for their race to live, they learned that they must nurture strength, like the wulven, and be master of their land, not prey in it.


All dates are given in the Ghanish calendar, counted from 0 GR, or Ghanda's Rest, beginning with the death of Ghanda. Dates prior to 0 GR are given in GA, or Ghanda Ascendant, which tracks from Ghanda's birth on the Isle of men, so that 0 GR falls on what would have been 1610 GA, with GA counting from 0 to 1609, then switching to GC.

GR 1232 Present Day.

The Ancient Duchies of the Ghans
Vo Gabrov, The Clawlands, Svalanik, Idalgarten, Asenovrich, Bakradze, Vo Beloslakya, Ualanzadleg, Vo Bvaoraka, Mdizul, Silvasta, Vo Orjondze, Pravetsa, Glovauri, Vo Chor
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