Cosarian Islands
Taking their name from the large island of Cosa, the Cosarian Islands are a chain of frigid and windswept isles bridging the mainland of Haedrasia and Nardaan, like a giant's steppingstones across the Throat of the North. Though they are technically an Imperatry protectorate, a visitor might be forgiven for believing he had left the mighty world-empire, as few of the trappings of Haedrasian conquest are evident here. The islands are diverse, and prone to volcanic activity - choking the skies with ash more than once in living memory. But they are the only way the race of men can cross to the northern content, and so they grimly endure.

Tech Code: 4
Governments: Totalitarian theocratic protectorate under the Tyrant of Cosa
Religions: Imperatry Temple, One True Faith.
Industries and Trades: Fisheries, salt, whale bone and blubber, ship building, rare minerals.
Major Terrain: Sea, River, Flatlands.
Primary Languages: Low Haedrasian.
Major Settlements: Besarus, Kualus, Sansail, Suloesis.


Physical Geography

Out to sea the Cosarian Islands are made up of the tottering remnants of a ruined land bridge, beset on all sides by an angry sea, and hiding capricious afrit and magma worms. The islands are in a state of constant flux, forever chewed at, reshaped, pulled down by angry elements. The seas are rough at the best of times, and at the worst the whole surface of the Throat is white with foam and fury. On most islands volcanic activity, be it molten rock leaking from a mountain, deep tremors, or plains of razor-sharp volcanic rock bisecting whole islands, stands as stark evidence the fire that dwells within. Meanwhile frozen bergs drift on the waters, their modest peaks belying behemoths just below the sea. And pack ice clings to the shores of the more northerly isles. Even in the small mainland holding included in the province's borders (dominated by a low, gently-sloping range of rocky mountains hugging the ruinous coast) there is flux, as the snows of winter melt, causing rivers and lakes to spring into existence, and then become dry vales and marshes, before again succumbing to freeze. Vast variety and almost constant flux are undoubtedly the character of the Cosarian Islands.

Cosa is the largest of the islands, sitting in the south-east of the chain. Cold and arid, but with a rocky coast forming sheltered bays and shoals, the island itself has little to offer in terms of resources or hospitality, but a single south-facing sheltered bay that plays host to the city of Besarus changes Cosa's welcome entirely. Deep, reliable, sheltered from the worst of the wind, and with a narrow mouth that admits little ice, and coastal cliffs dropping directly into deep water, it is as perfect a harbour as a sailor could hope for in this part of the world. Add to this the fringe of hills that surround the city proper, protecting it from the stinging, icy winds, and Cosa goes from a chill desert with nothing but copses of woody bramble and dust, to the hub of the region. Still, little will grow here, less still lives here (save rich colonies of shellfish in the bay) and life can be hard with such meagre resources.

Torq, is a relatively young island, at least by the measure of such things. In the year 1586 of the Imperator's count a massive tremor shook the northern part of Haedrasia for days, and a number of the Cosarian Islands suffered minor eruptions, throwing smoke, and sometimes burning ash violently into the air. Then a great black hole opened in the sea, and in the space of a few hours the island of Torq bubbled and broiled up out of the steaming waters. When it eventually rose to a peak, that peak exploded in a furious storm of black vapour that incinerated all it touched, and howling magma that hit the frozen ocean and quickly formed jagged globules that today comprise an island that looks like nothing more than the black boils of some awful plague. A number of writings recall that ash clouds from Torg's creation were seen from the Unchallenged City for days. Still largely volcanic rock and desolation, life is beginning to take tentative hold on the island with surprising tenacity. Colonies of gannet and albatros have begun to nest on the slopes of the crater at the centre of the island, and red-bellied aquatic lizards have come to eat their eggs and bask on the rocks. Here and there rich volcanic vales have given birth to explosions of life that might one day overtake this bulbous black ruin of an island.

Masama, located at the very centre of the island chain, is densely forested from coast to coast. Trees press together so closely that their canopies intertwine impenetrably, and the temperature under their cover is usually a few degrees warmer than that elsewhere. The land rises and falls chaotically, sometimes in steep slopes, or earthen embankments riddled with roots, and sometimes in gradual rises through grassy clearings, fulls of light new-fallen snow. The lowlands are often tree-choked marshes, stinking of sulphur and full of cloying black mud. A veritable menagerie of unique species of land animal, alien creatures found nowhere else in the world, call Masama their home.

Sitting only a few leagues to the south of Nasis, Alimhorn is an older, vegetated, but not forested island. It was a basin on the mainland of Nardaan that broke away from the coast during the Sundering, and as such it is one of the few landmasses whose ecology predates the Sundering in the islands. Two cones flanking a shallow caldera make up the island, one showing recent signs of activity. The slopes of the steep cones are clad in low, leafy vegetation, while the caldera remains barren and rock strewn. A small wood of firs on the northern coast encircles a particularly long shore of tide-polished scree, stretching in a monotonous arc in shades of grey around the northern coast.

The Lesser Islands
Of course there are no less than three dozen lesser islands scattered amongst these larger landmasses, including the cave riddled and inaccessibly cliff-coasted Tower Island; the bizarrely (and perhaps crassly) named Wizard Island, with it's deep crimson lake and a mythical curse that falls upon any many who set foot upon it; the silty pirate haven of Ostra and its stilt towns; a copper rich, orange and green stained island called Umbra; Undin Island, a seemingly normal isle save where a perfectly circular hole flooded by the sea, water pitch with depth, slices through it as if cut by the knife of some massive clothier; and perhaps most strangely, Lorus Island, which appears and disappears for days, even months at a time, seemingly at random. Sometimes sailors will find it in its usual place on the charts, but at other times there is nothing but open water where Lorus should be, and occasionally it appears leagues from its usual position for a few hours. No one has yet discovered quite what causes these disappearances, or how they occur. Two or three smaller islands have simply sunk in recent history, sometimes taking entire settlements with them.

Setting Trait (2): A Sundered Bridge The last remnant of the land that joined Nardaan to Allornus before the Sundering, many of the Cosarian Islands have sunk below the sea, toppling dramatically with little or no warning, spawning massive waves that have swept the settlements surrounding into the sea. At other times mountains of stone and fire have literally risen from the sea in mere days, creating jagged islets of desolate black as they cool. The sea here is not to be trusted, but in the Cosarian Islands even the very ground beneath a man's feet is inconstant and untrustworthy.

Political Geography

Though technically a part of Haedrasia, the Cosarian Islands and their inland reaches enjoy the negligence of the Empire, left for the most part to themselves, free of the convoluted and competitive politics of the more populous provinces. A deeply undesirable location, thanks in part to its remote location and harsh climate, and in part due to its unreliable land masses, earthquakes, eruptions, and a largely unprofitable history of trade with Nasis, a posting in Besarus for any templar is a demotion. Those who are decorated but mediocre, those who made too many enemies, sons of powerful families who might meet an assassin's blade in their hotly contested homes, and outspoken loyalists calling for reform (though not so zealously as to attract the attention of the lictors) make up the ruling class here. And of all of those, few are much concerned with the fortunes of the citizens here.

Governed from Besarus on Cosa, and having just a handful of other substantial settlements, the Cosarian Islands are one of the few poorly policed parts of Haedrasia, though the under-resourced Primate of Cosa is doing his best. Only the major settlements have standing garrisons to police and protect them, and these individuals seldom range into the wilderness on patrols. In fact the entire province could not muster even a single legion in its defence. As a result outlaws make their homes in the mainland hills, or even on some of the smaller islands. Kardesian reavers plunder the coast from camps along the coast, bandits, foreigners and traitors live in small lawless settlements here and there, and rumour even places a few rogue lictors at large in the area.

Still, for all of its inadequacies when it comes to the brute rule of elsewhere in Haedrasia, the Imperatry Temple holds sway here. Folk travel for miles to Sansai to meet with priests, either to have their disputes mediated, their grievances settled, or their souls protected. And so long as the citizens continue to travel to its hubs the temple will remain influential. In the smaller, more far-flung settlements the templars appoint agents who act in their stead, levy light taxes, send regular reports, and maintain small shrines. Such agents, though they wield no special power, are exempt from taxation, and generally find favour should their neighbours bring legal complaint against them, so the post is generally hotly contested. However slowly competition has lead to resentment, as whispers of an alternative faith have come from the north. The uncanny and alarmingly swift penetration of the One True Faith out of Nasis has mirrored its growth in the northern continent, and with little fear for their souls with a new Divhi protecting them, and little indeed to fear from the strong arm of Imperatry law, some settlements have risen against the temple agent, seizing his property and toppling the shrines in favour of the One True Divhi, he who shall remain nameless, their protector in the north.

Social Geography

The people of the Cosarian Islands are generally poor, making their living from the sea, and so even on the mainland settlement hugs the coast, leaving the hills to bandits, hermits, and a few scattered communities who try to keep quiet and avoid notice by the authorities and excisemen. Fishermen dive for oysters, or else harvest mussels and clams along the shore. Crabbers gather the meaty king crabs. Spear fishers take rafts into the frigid shallows, and even harvest seaweed. Ice fishermen work through holes in the ice in inland lakes, and they salt and preserve their catch to trade with Kardesian whalers for their catch. And of course sealers gather the oily, waterproof seal pelts from the massive elephant seal colonies along the coast. There is little in the way of mercantile activity, with each man selling the bounty of his own labours for coin to support his own family, and many trades are run by entire extended families. A sealer might work with his brothers and uncles and father to bring a handful of seals home to the women and children, who would ten butcher the animal and tan the hide, and the elders might negotiate trade with visiting ships, or neighbours. This kind of communal trade means that there is little room for a middle class, and that a family's fortunes can change dramatically from season to season.

Above all of this, the Imperatry bureaucracy is under-resourced and ineffectual, which might explain the subtle penetration of a foreign faith. Temples and shrines are provided to any community that petitions for one, but smaller communities who find themselves routinely overlooked for their taxes prefer to administer their own affairs, or else travel to larger neighbours for matters of spiritual or legal guidance. Most families keep their own shrine to Haederas rather than relying on regular temple visits, meaning that priests know less about their charges than they might in other lands, and since they have so little to work with they are less than proactive in their leadership. The people have come to believe that Haederas allowed the Throat of the World to be opened in the Sundering as a test to his people. He saw a terrible wound wrought in the world that his true sons and daughters might test themselves against its adversity, and they embrace the raging waters and frigid depths as proof that they, and not the decadent and deceitful southerners, are His most worthy descendants. And they cloak themselves in stoic pride against the cold wind.



YED 1586 Torq boils up out of the sea.

YED 1919 Present Day.

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Races and Nationalities

The people of the Cosarian Islands are of predominantly Haedrasian descent - citizens of the Haedrasian Empire. They're a hardy sort, used to the challenging condition, and most have an affinity for the sea that they ply for their living. Practical minded folk, they are markedly smaller than most of their fellows, and let their hair grow wild as extra protection against the cold. When the men's full beards and long hair are caked with ice this gives them a decidedly rugged, barbaric character. The Cosarians are given to broad profanity, mixing a curse or two casually into most sentences, and having a clipped accent that shortens and slurs many words that would have heartland Haedrasians in fits at their abuse of a noble and proud tongue, but the Cosarians largely don't care.

In the settled islands themselves, a number of indigenous Malorns predated Imperatry rule by generations. Despite heavy persecution in the early days they were a hardy, wilful people, familiar with suffering, and unwilling to again be driven from their homes. Their largely passive resistance saw the Haedrasian overlords decide that those who were determined to remain under a hostile regime could, and they were essentially made subjects, though they did not enjoy the right to self-rule as the other subject peoples do. Malorns here must convert to the worship of Haederas, though they will never be allowed within a temple, and when in public they must have the Imperatry Shield branded on the back of their right hands at an early age, to mark them as acceptable Malorns. As a result Malorns fill most of the menial roles in settlements where they are a substantial population. Meek and deferential until it is almost an embarrassment, these people have a backbone of steel, and though they gladly give total subservience, they will not submit to an inch more than what they give freely. Haedrasians trying to take advantage of their compliant nature have been known to be driven out of town, or worse turn up bobbing in the bay a few days later.

Flora and Fauna

wild variance from island to island

Notable Individuals

The Primate of Cosa, Diodrius Gallen
Hailing from the bustling city of Kelthkastel in the far south-west of Haedrasia, no one is sure what Diodrius Gallen did to deserve the under-resourced and largely punitive posting of Primate of Cosa. Diodrius himself vainly hopes that this is some test of perseverance and forbearance to prepare him for a greater calling, but it seems more likely he unknowingly angered someone in the Unchallenged City during an undistinguished, but successful career as a priest.

Today In The Shifting Isles…

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The Imperatry Plains of Mighty Haedrasia
The Frozen North Cosarian Islands, Perca, Lekia, Illyum
The Ghan States Khalavic-Ghania, Trazdek-Ghania, Dragolchok-Ghania, Royal Haedrasia
The Central Flats Haedarium, Icarium, Lukaria, Haedrasia and the Unchallenged City, Roetia
The Drak Frontier Black Ice Bay, Maldrakaneum, The Salt Flats, Turana
The Kelorn Districts Gamon, Marisarn, Cal-Tolun, Trodur, The Three Cities
The Southern Soldatry Pannonium, Sacraminium, The Bair
Director's Miscellany Amenities, Culture, Gear, Prices, Professions, Random Encounters, Sample Characters, Series Loglines, Small Settlement Generator, Supporting Cast Generator