Fringe Nations
The Fringe Nations sit on the fringe of the world itself. The world has forgotten them, and for their part they have never known the world, and so they cling to the flank of the world like drowning men to salvation, wondering at the nature of that which lies beyond their own tiny slice of existence. Unable to even consider the scope of their own ignorance. Sitting astride a long coastline, and cut off from the world by a terrible waste, and a fearsome foe, the people of the fringe have troubles that assuage their curiosity however. For here a dark and oppressive foreign faith has taken hold, and utterly dominates the men and women of these nations - making them in every way prisons. And he that would fight this dark new way - he is branded heretic, and run down into exemplary extinction by the hounds of a bleak future.

Physical Geography

The Fringe Nations are isolated on the western coast of Allornus, trapped on the wrong side of Battlewaite, beyond the wastes and deserts and rugged lands of Maldaakore, this rough, wild, but darkly beautiful place is a hidden secret. The fringe is divided roughly in thirds between mountains, hills and plains, excluding the eastern wastelands. Mountainous regions to the north are frequently choked with small glaciers, and the Bricetane Archipelago is made up of thousands of scattered islands, islets and skerries that shelter the coast proper from the mighty swells, and unnavigable vastness of the ocean.

In the far east the land is bordered by a blasted, icy desert of black, gritty sand and ice. Though the land is not parched, the ground is tainted, and little grows here, but low temperatures and exposure make the sand and scree icy and slippery. Long, low barrows dot the land regularly, thought to be relics of the War of the Brothers, when many fell during the ruination of this vast battlefield. None pass this land, save the dark-man warriors who must have come over the blasted wastes from the lands to the east. There is no living in these tainted barrens - a man cannot drink the water he finds, for it is poison, and he will find neither plant nor beast to fill his belly. Truly only desperation would drive a traveller here.

In the west, up from Helvar to the south of Vymarch, the coast is gentle, with long beaches leading up to rolling hills, and frequent deep lagoons making passable harbours. Pack ice is not uncommon is the colder months, though it drifts from the north, and the chaotic archipelago means that the volumes of ice are never substantial. Here copses of chestnut, or hardier evergreens are a common barrier between coast and plains, as are low, long hills, rolling like the ripples on a lake across the landscape.

In the north, extending south along the fringes of the tainted barrens, the plains and hills give way to dark, rocky mountains. Though none of these are of prodigious height, and even those that are impassable are proved so by ice, and not terrain, they are still imposing territory. Hardy alpine forests cling to the lower slopes, while the upper reaches are bare and white-cloaked the year round. Here broad, forested plateaus and elevated valleys make for rugged, isolated, but rich and beautiful country, where azure rivers flow from beneath the glaciers to pool in serene glens. But these lands are hemmed in by razor-sharp basalt cliffs, that often rise, sheer, for hundreds of feet into the dense clouds. And along the northern coast these vales are choked with ice, as massive sluggish glaciers take over, marching their eternal march into the sour waters of the northern oceans, and occasionally revealing some ancient and long-frozen remains of massive trees, or even fierce creatures belonging to a world long past.

And out at sea, between the mainland, and the impossible trackless vastness of the ocean that stretches eternally to the end of the world, the Bricetane Archipelago is kept warmer by its low elevations and by warm currents coming up from the uncharted lands to the south. Here and there a truly substantial island, such as Brice or Hardt, rise up out of the waves. These are the peaks of some underwater mountain range, and rise inevitably and doggedly to some pinnacle, with the terrain of the land enslaved to determined ascent. These are surrounded by sand bars, rocky reefs, and half-sunken skerries and islets that are home to noisy sea-birds, or else just lethal traps for unwary sailors.

Spirit of the Land


Political Geography

Isolation and a small population had made the nations of the fringe surprisingly liberal, and while the hereditary landholders were the elite of most of the nations of the Fringe, the upper echelons of society are largely beholden to the middle classes, and many are bound by constitutions and assemblies that limit their power, while other heads of state aren't strictly hereditary. Of course, since the Cult and its military power has supplanted all such advisory bodies with a centralized authority most of this levity has been denied the people of the Fringe, but it also means that they chafe more under the totalitarian domination of the Sanaks.

The fringe is made up of seven distinct nations, all based along heavily populated coastlands. Most of these nations - Maldare, Dalasoere, Illthendor and Vymarch, have their traditional governments intact (though in Maldare all eligible heads of state have been massacred), but have been made directly subservient to the Cult, or else Sanaks have been supplanted in key positions from which they can directly control monarchs, or re-direct extensive state assets to Cult projects. These states are militarily weak, and most of their law enforcement is now in the direct employ of the Cult, though nominally they still serve the state. In Brice and Helvar the situation differs somewhat. Helvar was the first place the Cult spread its influence, and so entrenched are they and their allies that Archal Deadeye has never formally taken control, trusting that Helvar is so cowed that they can remain more an ally than a dominion. Similarly, Brice demonstrated its loyalty by betraying the other nations at the battle of Helos, and Brice has been allowed to remain self-governing in return for certain tributes, including warriors and ships.

The final nation of the Fringe was not even a nation until the Cult took control of Helvar and Brice. Hardt was a backwater northern island allied to Brice, where timber for shipbuilding was logged. When Brice joined the Cult, an obscure brotherhood of crazed doomsday survivalists arose in a bloody coup, overthrowing the Bricetian governor and seizing the island for themselves. Revealing a string of surprisingly defensible fortresses along the coast, they have kept this small island secure since, despite numerous efforts to reclaim it, and Hart has become a haven for those who want to fight against the cult.

But it's not the only haven. The cult has dominated the large settlements of the Dalasoere, Illthendor and Vymarch, but it has yet to press its influence far into the countryside, and pockets of resistance control small villages or hide in the wilderness, using their greater knowledge of their homes, and the sympathy of the people as weapons against the Cult. But for every commoner who would stand up against the conquerors, or aid those that do, there are many who have grown to hate the resistance for courting the wrath of their new overlords, sandwiching them between wrathful conquerors and inconstant, weak would-be liberators.

Setting Trait (3): A Losing Battle Everywhere on the Fringe, the hand of the Cult is felt, and whether it is being ground under the boot of the Sanaks' armies, or putting up a desperate resistance against them, the minds and bodies of the people are devoted wholly to this unwelcome overlord. Acts of cruelty and theft abound where the Sanaks rule, while free men cower in the wilderness, arming themselves against the day they are inevitably found.

The Cult

Said to be parented by the easterner faith, the Cult devotes itself utterly to the malign divhi Damuk - though most refuse to speak that name for fear the evil gaze of Damuk fall where his name is uttered. Ruled over by priests known as Sanaks, the Cult is firmly in control of all of the nations of the Fringe, save for the pocket of resistance in Hardt. And though he claims to be merely an emissary from the eastern arm of the faith, all know that the Cult as a whole answers to the absolute authority of Archal Deadeye. The Cult institutes a Sanak for each of its controlled territories, and the Sanak controls the treasury, and the military, and courts of that domain, though ostensibly the various rulers of the domains are still officially in control. The Cult has outlawed the worship of [[[Jaron, the native faith of the region, making such practices heretical, and punishable by all manner of unpleasant public deaths, and demands that all people adhere to the Cult faith and worship, which includes infrequent but unsavoury sacrificial practices and giving over vast amounts of property to the Cult as offerings. Of course, the Cult's hold is far from absolute in the northern realms, where many small villages remain relatively free, but they have taken absolute control of all major settlements, and sites of political importance - in the name of the local government. What their bureaucracy and priesthood cannot achieve, armies are sent in to take care of, and the hooded and veiled eastern troops are ruthlessly efficient, preferring to keep killing until the problem is wiped out, and then kill a few more for good measure.

Still, the Cult has become expert at pushing the common people to the brink of outright rebellion, but not quite, and retain an illusion of legitimacy and tolerance which, while none truly believe in it, is comforting enough to stifle rebellion in all but the boldest when combined with their swift and unforgiving retributions. They know how to make living under them marginally better than death, and that is enough.


Social Geography

Life in the Fringe is difficult, the land is small, and completely isolated, and much of it is rugged and unsuited to habitation, or else battered by fierce storms from the ocean, and winters are hard. Still, people have learned to make a living here, and small, agrarian communities are the norm. Once all of the communities of the Fringe must have moved about seasonally, but now only those in more remote or rougher lands cleave to this ancient tradition. Most people are settled in small communities, with very few settlements larger than ten thousand, and almost no true cities. This is not for lack of population, but merely a preference, and means that in settled areas a traveller will pass through three or four large villages in a day's travel.

The sea, in many ways, seems less threatening than the lands to the east and south, and so the folk of the Fringe have embraced it, especially thanks to the shelter of chains of islands afford much of the mainland coastline. While the seagoing vessels here are not especially advanced, they are large, and facilitate nearly all of the trade of the nations of the Fringe, meaning that population is denser along the coast, and inland settlements tend to be more self-sufficient.

Cattle, horses, and other large animals are generally sign of wealth and prestige, with smaller farm animals like sheep and pigs being kept in larger numbers by common people. In many cases cattle ranchers are the landed nobility of a region, especially in Helvar, where the breeding of cattle and making of cheese was a popular and competitive pastime amongst the nobility in happier years. Of course, in such a wild land, hunting is common, and falcons and other small raptors are domesticated for this. Crops like wheat, barley, oats and rye all struggle, but produce a good yield, while root vegetables, especially turnips, and leafy greens like kale, cabbage, and leeks fare better. Wild garlic and nettles also form a stable foraged for rather than farmed. Though hide or leather is readily available to most people, the harsh climate means that wool is prevalent throughout society in the fringe, from clothing to bedding, to nearly any other application ingenious farmers can imagine. Being a historically a seafaring people, fish and shellfish are usually plentiful in coastal areas.

The social order prior to the coming of the Cult was a relatively liberal one, mainly due to relatively weak ruling bodies, and the power and influence of major landholders. As little as twenty-five years ago the folk of the Fringe considered all men to be free save for criminals, and the mad. Free to choose apprentices from the youths of the settlement, free to live where he chose, and free to support himself in whatever manner he saw fit. Because landholders were usually independently wealthy thanks to their cattle, common folk were not formally taxed, but required to offer a share of anything that benefited from the bounty of land belonging to another, meaning that many craftsmen owed nothing at all to anyone. Literacy and education suffered heavily in the face of specialized labour, but life was relatively simple. Social mobility was possible simply by acquiring large tracts of land, and offering to tithe from this land's bounty to the local ruler.

When the Cult came they restructured society where they could, demanding that all observe the Cult's ministrations, and offer heavy mandatory tithes to the Cult's coffers in return for their protection and guidance. Neighbour was encouraged to inform against neighbour if anything was withheld, or any heresy was spoken, or even suspected to be thought. Because rewards for such vigilant defence of the faith were so generous, people readily informed. Meanwhile, commoners were no longer allowed to leave the community where they were born (or at least found when the Cult arrived) without special dispensation, and the cattle herders were usually required to tithe the majority of their properties and possessions to building and maintaining fortified Cult compounds, and those found wandering the wild were dubbed outlaws and blasphemers against the Cult, and driven back into the wilds or killed. Only Cult soldiers, under the command of priests, are really allowed to move around now, and they have the right to take whatever they want, whenever they want, and a priest can judge on matters of law arbitrarily and instantaneously.

Major Races and Cultures

The landsmen of the fringe are something of an anomaly. So long ago did the Darkman conquest of the northern lands of the Kelorn Empire cut them off from the rest of the world, and so remote is their current home, that they have been completely forgotten by the rest of the world, and no one can really account for their existence or origins. While their colouration, build, and general physical characteristics clearly mark them as being of Kelorn descent, generations of Malorn slaves moving into the Fringe has given them a distinctive appearance. Their build is unremarkable, though they are more likely to produce a fleshy individual than a particularly powerfully built one. Their skin is pink, tanning to brown in warmer climes near Helvar, and their hair is dark, normally brown with hints of red, but sometimes a duller colour, never fair. Even in old age their hair seldom changes to much more than a stormy grey. Eyes are also dark, sometimes ranging to red-brown or hazel. However because they are the only civilized race of the Fringe, the men here think of themselves as exactly that: the race of men. The see little difference between themselves and the Malorns who occasionally come here, and view Darkmen as fearsome bogels rather than members of another race. However amongst themselves they see tiny national variations that an outsider would miss, and more and more they think of their race as being defined by these subtle indicators of the nation of their origin, rather than broad physical differences.


When first the landsmen came here, from the south, in the wake of a great war forgotten by all but the oldest histories in the most antique of tongues, they were led by a wise and powerful lord called A'han Jorin. A'han Jorin had been a mighty warlord in the lands to the south, through the great-war-that-should-have-ended-all-others, until the latterdays of that terrible conflict when he was visited by the spirit of his ancestor A'han Jaron. And A'han Jaron told him that battle was pointless, bloodshed needless except in the pursuit of true enlightenment, and showed him a peaceful land to the north where he could make a new home. And so the prophet A'han Jorin les his people to the north, and founded a new home there in the chill seaward plains.

The War of the Brothers

Now, it happened that though A'han Jorin was a wise man, he was only on the path to enlightenment, and he still had the natural weaknesses of a man of mortal flesh. And though he forswore war, and made a new home to seek knowledge, truth, and the light of the Divh, he was still tempted by the flesh, and lay with many women. And though he was not young, he was strong, and it came to pass that two women conceived children by the attentions of A'han Jorin.

And then a strange thing came to pass. For these two women each brought a son, by the same father but different mothers, into the world upon the same night. And they were called A'han Molon and A'han Varin. And that night was marked by a storm, and great waves that dragged entire villages into the sea, and this terrible night of roaring skies, and angry seas heralded the destruction this new age would bring, for neither son could truly claim to be the heir to A'hen Jorin.

As the sons, twins by different mothers, grew they came to be remarkably similar of countenance, as if they truly had shared the same womb. And each proved special in his own right. A'han Molon was a craftsman of unparalleled skill, able to turn his hand to shaping stone or metal to whatever his will could conceive, and make the very stones of his father's stronghold sing. While A'han Varin had a great affinity for the wild places, and would wander often in the woods and hills away from the settlement, where the beasts and the trees would bend to his will, and he knew all that went on when men trod in the wild places.

And though they were brothers, and both loved their father as they did no other in the world, neither truly loved the other, and always they vied for his favour, to discredit the other in A'han Jorin's eyes, and more truly exemplify the teachings of A'han Jaron, and prove himself more worthy than his brother of being heir. And despairing to choose between his two wondrous sons, as he had between their mothers, A'han Jorin decreed that his land would be forever divided between his two sons - A'han Molon to the south, and A'han Varin to the north - because neither was more worthy of being his heir than the other.

And so the land of A'han Jorin was divided, and not long after he went to join A'han Jaron, and for a time the wisdom of A'han Jarin was hailed, for the rule of the brothers was good. But they grew bitter, each believing he should have been his father's heir. And eventually angry words passed between them, and from then on there could only be war.

For twelve long years the forces of the brothers clashed with one another, and each year the brothers used their special skills to make their armies greater and greater. A'han Molon forged arms of exceeding quality, and armour that was nigh impenetrable. He sent great walking statues of clay and rock to go amongst his men and fight in his name. And A'han Varin sent terrible monsters from the darkest woods to fight alongside his men, and woke great serpents, and sent the very trees to march against the armies of his brother.

Again and again they clashed, each time with more mighty and outlandish forces, each time with a new weapon in the hands of their warriors, but neither could claim the upper hand. And so, eventually, the brothers themselves joined the battle. Few men remained, for few had survived against the terrible monsters that they had faced, and of those that lived none survived, so there is no account of what happened in that final battle. But when it was done the lands of the two brother were devastated. They had become the Blasted Land. And the brothers were gone.

The survivors came to the coast, where settlements had been abandoned since the terrible waves of the day of the brothers' birth, and tried to remake their lives. New lords were chosen, for their wisdom not their strength, and life began anew. As for the brothers, perhaps one slew the other, perhaps both died on the field, perhaps they even live on now, but whatever the outcome of their meeting they were not heard of in the world again. And with their passing ended an age, and ended the divine dynasty of A'han Jaron.

The Coming of the Cult

Countless ages passed, and the nations of the coast grew strong and prosperous in the light of Jaron's reason, and they would have forgot the war of the brothers, save for the unexplored battlefield to the east that reminded them, and the histories became stories, and men came to doubt the events as they were written. And then twenty-five years ago a man came from across the eastern wastes. Called the Dead Eye, for he wore a black scarf covering his left eye, he brought with him a small contingent, and claimed to be an envoy from a land far to the east, and a missionary of its native faith. And he came to the court of Helvar, greatest amongst the nations in Jorin's wake, and he brought many gifts of exceeding generosity and value, and asked that he be allowed to stay and share to word of his divhi. And of course, glad to hear word from a land so distant as to be beyond the dreams of most, the fray and nobles of Helvar welcomed the Deadeye.

And over the years, the Deadeye became a great novelty at the court of Helvar, and he travelled from land to land, meeting the rulers, and leaving one of his contingent behind to share the word of his Divhi Damuk, the rose-skinned visitor was made very welcome, and celebrated by the great leaders of the lands. And he grew in influence.

Now, it is not clear when, but at some point during his time as envoy to the east, the Deadeye came to have the ear of Harrohin, Queen of Helvar, and slowly fewer and fewer could have their voices heard in that land if the Deadeye did not allow it, and eventually he announced that Harrohin and her household had converted to the worship of Damuk, and named him - the Deadeye - chief amongst her councillors. And from out of the east caravans of veiled foreigners began to come, and much of their number was made up of the terrible Darkmen of myth - those unjustly slain in the War of the Brothers, who dwelt in the halls of the dead, beyond the Blasted Land.

Many were horrified at the growing power of the Deadeye, and his seeming alliance with the Darkmen, and many spoke out. But the Darkmen and the foreigners came, and they took away those who spoke out, and they never returned, and so those that remained were quiet, and careful. And by and by neighbour spied that neighbour had the strange gifts of the followers of Damuk, and that those who spoke to them of their concerns and fears also disappeared. And the followers of Damuk and the Deadeye became known simply as The Cult.

But still the Deadeye went from nation to nation, and made his promises, and told the other lords that Damuk welcomed discussion, and challenge, and wisdom, and assured them that Helvar had turned of its own accord, and that the caravans from the east were merely traders from his home, and truly Helvar did grow wealthier, and those who remained in power grew fat and glad. And so Maldare and Dalasoere were placated, and welcomed the Deadeye and his trade, and his faith anew.

And for a time there was peace, but the nations around Helvar grew more and more concerned, as men fled over their borders, telling of persecution, and of purges. Of horrific rites, and of Darkmen moving about in the land. And eventually the high-lord of Maldare, Shanar, could take no more, and he took a contingent of fray and warriors, and marched to the border of Helvar, and demanded that the Deadeye produce Harrohin and account for himself. And the Deadeye came, and said that Harrohin had died mere days before, and brought with him Halena, Harrohin's daughter, who ruled now in her stead. But when things became heated, and Shanar accused the Deadeye of murder the Deadeye's party slew the lord of Maldare and his party, and eastern warriors in numbers none knew were in Helvar, marched on Maldare and subjugated it in a mere month's time.

But now the other nations were afraid, and they met in secret at Brice, for the island federation was the mightiest nation of the land, and in a secret council Illthendor, Brice, Vymarch and Dalasoere concluded that they must drive the Cult from their lands, for its influence must be an evil one, and its dominance and brutality and ambition would surely not stop at Maldare and Helvar. And so it was that the armies of the north and the many ships and soldiers of Brice marched against Helvar and occupied Maldare, and even bolstered by the armies of easterners the forces of the Deadeye seemed sure to taste defeat.

The engagements were many, and while the easterners were cruel, and skilled in the ways of killing beyond the art of the westerners, they were outnumbered and they were foreigners, and though they inflicted horrific casualties against their enemies, they were driven back, little by little, to the gates of Helos, where the combined forces of Illthendor, Dalasoere and Vymarch besieged the enemy, but could not overcome the defenders. And so a stalemate was reached until the forces of Brice appeared from the west.

But just when it appeared that the Deadeye was defeated, the traitor Combarond, commander of the forces of Brice, marched not against the Cult forces, but against the alliance warriors. Meanwhile the warriors of the east counter attacked, and in greater numbers than were believed to be in the city. The deception allowed for the massacre of the entire combined forces of the alliance, and it was not long until the Sanaks of the Cult arrived in every capitol of the western realms, with a contingent of veiled easterners and Bricetian warriors, to take control, and begin slaughtering fray, and converting the people to the ways of the Cult.

Now only the little island of Hardt remains free, and the Sanaks rule in the name of the Cult in all lands, and the people participate in the grisly rites of Damuk on pain of terrible death. The Cult's hold on the Fringe is not yet absolute, but unless a few die-hard insurgents, branded heretic, can somehow stem the power of the Cult, it soon will be.

The Nations of the Fringe
The Blasted Land, Helvar, The Bricetaine Isles, Maldare, Dalasoere, Vymarch, Illthendor, Hardt
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