Marked in Blood
The vast Northern Marches hold much unspoiled land. Some of this territory is the wildest in all Anuire. It?s a rough life on the frontier, but this existence has made the residents tougher than almost anywhere else in the region. On the other hand, folks here also act less civilized than most, as they look more toward survival than toward mere creature comforts. Living in constant fear of invasion or destruction, they have adopted a code that preaches living for today, rather than for the future — what?s the use of long-term investments when there might not be a tomorrow?
Dhoesone borders three non-human lands, as well as Stjordvik of the Rjurik. Cariele shares its borders with four non-human realms. Life in these lands is uncertain and nearly as brutal as in neighboring Rjurik the nobles and rulers here have little time to waste on pleasantries and pleasures. They must instead save their energies for the unceasing battles against enemies on all sides.
An immense elven wood stretches hundreds of miles across the Northern Marches, its placid coolness capable of making one forget the wars of kingship raging elsewhere in the land. This forest, the Aelvinnwode, blankets most of the region. Though its green depths include many varieties of trees, hardy evergreens are dominant this far north.
In stark contrast to the beauty of the Aelvinnwode, the malevolent glow of active volcanoes in the northeast illuminates an immense palace of jagged obsidian and iron towers. This castle, the lair of the Gorgon, seems to scratch against the sky, defying the mountains from which it was hewn. All around lie untamed realms, home to the humanoids that serve this abomination of pure evil.
The Northern Marches include only two Anuirean kingdoms: Dhoesone and Cariele. The region?s other six domains are controlled by demihumans, humanoids, and a particularly unpleasant awnshegh. The Stonecrown Mountains run throughout the North, hiding dangers for the unwary. Whether these threats come in the form of bandits, goblins, or angry giants that destroy traders? caravans, no one can say. But locals do warn visitors to stay on guard through the ravines of the Stonecrowns.
The goblin kingdom of Thurazor to the far west has its own hierarchs, who are alternately friendly and hostile to their Anuirean neighbors. Unfortunately, goblins are not exactly subtle, and most humans can see through their subterfuge. Brigands, goblins, and (some say) ferocious orogs inhabit the “realm” called the Five Peaks. The area is less a kingdom than a land ruled by a collection of robber barons. The goblin kingdom, Thurazor — not exactly an expert in the field of diplomacy — bases its main foreign policy on exports and trade goods. Though these materials seem of poorer quality than most Anuirean items, they cost far less. This cost factor has allowed Thurazor to retain political and guild positions. When goods arrive at market that appear far more skillfully made than the usual goblin fare, nearly everyone is diplomatic enough not to suggest that these items came from goblin raiders rather than from goblin crafters.
The giants from the nearby Giantdowns occasionally cross the border south into Anuirean territory, pillaging any homesteads unfortunate enough to block their way. Though the giants seem smart enough not to venture into the Gorgon?s Crown, Dhoesone, Tuarhievel, and the Rjurik lands come under the giants? tread once every year or so. No one has discovered a way to discourage the giants from their annual rampage.
The main danger of the Northern Marches remains, of course, the Gorgon. The awnshegh has made his stronghold here for 2,000 years, and people of the nearby realms long ago learned to avoid the foothills and mountains of the Gorgon?s domain in the northeast.
Still, their caution does them no good when the Gorgon emerges from his mountain fastness to harvest new bloodlines. Over time, the population of the neighboring kingdoms has dwindled, as residents seek safer pastures. The Gorgon has gone almost 20 years without stirring from his fort of Kal-Saitharak to ravish Anuire. Those who think they know how to prepare are doing so now. The truly wise understand there is little they can do if the Gorgon comes rampaging again.