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This town, a merchant border town, edges three nations: tiny principalities that fell to infighting when the empire fell. Humans are so short-lived that they don’t remember any further back than a hundred years, but Aden, Durden, and Salem have remained as tiny kingdoms unto themselves.

Aden and Salem, the two human kingdoms, are ruled by wizards and clergy, respectively. Durden is the mountain home of the dwarves, who have long been embroiled in their own troubles.

Races of the World: Dragonborn: Dragonborn are rare, but stories are told of their race, and the occasional dragonborn settles down in this area. All dragonborn are descendants of the mighty empire of Arkhosia, which fell in power due to a cataclysmic war with Bael Turath, the human empire (which became tieflings). Dragonborn are loners, naturally solitary, who wander among other races.

Dwarves: stout, loveable and hardy, dwarves reside in the Mountains of Durden, covered by beautiful cities made of stone. Dwarven cities are cut off from humans by orcish bandits that plague the mountain lands. Dwarves are uncommon, but not unheard of.

Eladrin: Eladrin of the Prime Plane are visitors, for no eladrin chooses to settle down in this world while the beautiful cities and forests of the Feywild are still accessible. Eladrin are not as rare as dragonborn, but more rare than other races, although elves and those with access to the Feywild will often speak of them. The Wizard’s Guild has many eladrin among them, for these fey creatures work powerful magic.

Elves: Elves choose to have no countries of kings, instead living in small communities deep in natural splendor. When an elf reaches adulthood, he or she will travel out into the world, gaining experience before returning to their community, where they will then teach the rising generation of young elves.

Half-Elves: Half-elves are natural diplomats, born into two worlds and able to make their way in either. Half-elves living among elves are born leaders, using the human ingenuity and drive they are born with to lift those around them to great heights. Half-elves among humans are prized for their clarity of vision and charisma, looking beyond the immediate problem and finding a solution that satisfies everyone. Half-elves are involved in many organizations, the Merchant’s Guild, the Wizard’s Guild, governments of men, and councils of Elves.

Halflings: river-dwelling traders, Halflings are renowned for their quick wits and sharp salesman tactics. Halfling families are a major part of the Merchant’s Guild, and the only trader of dwarven goods for the area. Halfing government is tightly organized, with ‘clans’ of Halflings, all related and sharing a common surname, working together in an area. Halfling outcasts are uncommon, but those who choose to wander away from their clan might find themselves shunned when they return. Not much is known about Halfling customs, for they share very little about themselves with outsiders.

Humans: Humans are diverse- one group as pious as the other is apathetic. Humans are a varied lot, some choosing barbarian tribes with chieftans, others cities with governors, kings, emperors, priest-kings, and even god-kings. Humans, ever-curious, are wanderers, many heroic humans wandering far from home to learn of the world and find greatness.

Tieflings: Tieflings are the legacy of the human Empire of Bael Turath, the vast noble houses that made pacts with demons and devils to increase their power, only to find themselves embroiled in a fight with the dragonborn nation of Arkhosia, which led to their mutual destruction. Although the humans of Bael Turath won the war with their dragonborn neighbors, as their children and children’s children were born, it became clear what horrible price would be wrought for the pacts they had made. Soon, the fracturing empire of Bael Turath fell, with the human populace unable to trust or follow the leadership whom had promised themselves to greater powers. The remains of the empire, already damaged by the costly war, fractured into a feuding quilt of city-states, with none holding more power than a handful of soldiers or a few wizards could do. Tiefling families hold lands and powers in the area, but they carry the social stigma of the actions of their ancestors, many fearing to leave the safety of their family holdings to travel to local cities. The families of Aden and Merlithos have holdings outside the city of Flamekeep, the families of Farth, Zeerdan, and Quarion have holdings in the plains that surround the city of Salem.

Kingdoms of this area of the World:

Aden – named for the Royal House who seized control of this tiny principality when the empire of the Bael Turath fell. This area was long ruled by a few houses of tieflings, power was seized by the Wizard’s guild when some problem a few hundred years ago cropped up, long forgotten by the men, women, and children who live here now. Above all else, magical skill is prized by the people of Aden, while warlocks and their pacts are scorned (along with tieflings), although few remember the historical fall of the Empire, or any reason for this social stigma.

Flamkekeep, the noted wizard university, is center of the kingdom, although the Wizard’s Guard does not keep peace more than a day’s ride out of any major city. The land around the kingdom of Aden includes Darkwood, a forest of twisted trees turned black, rumored to be filled with perilous demons and horrors.

Durden – Among the mountains of the northeast, there are many dwarven cities and Holds. This kingdom is named for those mountains in the human tongue, and while dwarves have their own name for the mountains, they accept the human name for their collection of cities. Durden is everything that a dwarven community should be. At least, it was when its borders were open. For the few last hundred years, trouble with orks and goblins has closed off trade routes into the high mountains- only Halfling riverboats brave enough to travel rapids and sneak by orkish warcamps are able to bring a trickle of dwarven goods out to human lands.

Riverfall, the only dwarven city that has not completely closed off contact with the outside world, is several days’ perilous travel into the depths of the war-torn land.

Salem – named for the brave warrior-priest king who defended these lush farmlands from the orkish hordes who came out of the mountains, Salem is the center of religion for the region. If there’s a good deity worthy of the name, there is a temple here to worship them; shrines and open worship of evil deities is very much frowned upon. This plethora of divine magic makes most of the normal citizens of Salem fairly apathetic about religion in general, although there is a core of zealotry to every worship. Among the lands of Salem, zealots often begin crusades against evils to different corners of the land, from the mountains of Durden to the swamps of Mygos, where Halfling traders make their floating camps, safe from threats deep in the swamp.

The largest city in Salem is also named Salem, built by the people of the warrior-priest who saved them, and named in his honor. Temple Square, in the center of town, holds the four largest temples at the compass points, all centered around the Tomb of Salem. These temples are beautifully built, filled with shrines to exarchs and demigods.

Communication – Communication between the two kingdoms is strained, but groups within the kingdoms communicate using a variety of methods- the most powerful ones use magic mirrors or scrying pools to communicate- for the lesser groups, a paid messenger, a carried letter, or a carrier pigeon suffice.

Groups in the World:

Agents of Corellion: Elven rangers, the best in the land, mercilessly track down monsters that harm their local citizens. Although it is uncommon for the elves to train non-elves in the ways of woodland lore, it is not unheard of. Many adventurers seek out the Agents to gain training in woodland lore or the training of beasts.

Knights of Sedonia: Paladins of Pelor, named for the demigoddess who founded their order in Salem, the Knights train soldiers and warriors wherever they go, giving the people opportunity to defend themselves. Because of these brave knights, many towns and villages have defenders of their own, and are able to fight off goblins, kobolds, and other monsters. The Knights have training colleges in Salemand Flamekeep.

Merchant’s Guild: When the empire of Bael Turath crumbled, there was nothing to keep the anarchy that inflicted the land from harming trade routes; merchants fell to bandits and monsters. In the lands of Aden and Salem, the three most powerful groups- vintners from Salem, Halflings who traded along the rivers, and merchants from Aden combined to form a small guild. In the years since, they have become a power unto themselves, setting up trading areas along the river the blossomed into towns, towns where the Merchant’s Guild was the only law that held sway. From these towns, mercenaries were recruited to keep major roadways safe, and groups of armed thugs travel with important trading caravans to assure that trade is kept alive. While the Merchant’s Guild is rich and powerful, it is not a recognized government by the kingdoms of Aden or Salem, although both kingdoms rely on its trade of goods and information to remain in power. The Merchant’s Guild has appraisers and banks in the cities of Salem and Flamekeep, and shops in most towns, although they charge a premium for non-guilders who shop there.

Oath-Makers: There is no organization of Warlocks in the lands of Aden or Salem. They are fearfully called ‘Oath-Makers’ for the dark pacts they make with fearsome entities. Warlocks are often at the tail end of social stigma, although there are rumors that among ancient households of tieflings, an Oath-maker may set up training for young ones. The tiefling families of Aden, Farth, Merlithos, Quarion, and Zeerdan are powerful enough to turn aside investigation, but even they publicly shun warlocks.

Panthers: Rumored to be some sort of ‘Thieves’ Guild,’ not much more is known about the Panthers than rumors that circulate about them in the marketplace or common room.

Wizard’s Guild: Seated in Flamekeep, and encompassing every trained wizard in the region, the Wizards guild sets high value on power. Within the lands of Aden, its power is absolute, and every wizard in the lands of Aden and Salem is protected by the guild. Rather than bringing all prospective wizards to Flamekeep for training, wizards are encouraged to take apprentices from nearby lands, training them in the arcane arts. The brightest students are then sent to Flamekeep, where they receive training to become masters of the Arcane. The Wizards Guild angrily denies any rumors that connect them with so-called Oath-Makers: those who teach young ones to make pacts and become warlocks. It is also rumored that this master-apprentice scheme of teaching was stolen from Oath-makers, although there is no way to substantiate this.

Forces of Evil

Relationship between Aden and Salem: Because the residents of Salem worship a plethora of deities, and the residents of Aden are practically prohibited from worshipping deities at all, there is a great deal of tension between the two groups. Wizards are considered persona non grata in Salem, and temples are not allowed to be built in Flamekeep, so worship is restricted to tiny shrines. The lands of Aden are filled with demagogues, speaking to incite the people to join crusades or churches. This unstable element only leads the Wizard’s Guild to further oppress churches there. The land of Salem has only one Wizard’s Tower in the city, which is closed to the public of Salem (the Wizard’s Guild controls the tower, but the churches control the land around the tower), which prohibits apprentices from entering the tower to seek arcane training.

The Red Hand: A tightly organized band of marauders, the Red Hand is only known for the bloody handprint they purposefully leave behind when they slaughter a community. Little else is known about this group, for they leave no survivors.

The Hand of Naarash: One of the few groups named that the crusades of Salem group together against, The Hand of Naarash is a group seeking to bring about the end of the world, to listen to the demagogues tell about it. Few actual facts are known about the Hand of Naarash, although there are caravan stories told again and again about the brutal sacrificial methods used by this cult of Evil.

Cults of Yeenoghu: Gnolls of the area worship Yeenoghu, fulfilling their Demon Lord’s command to infect the area with chaos, panic, and slaughter. Cults of Yeenoghu is the direct opposition of the Knights of Sedonia, who train every man, woman, and child willing to wield a blade against them. The campaigns against Cults of Yeenoghu is costly but effective, keeping the number of gnolls willing to garner attention small.

Black Arrow Raiders: Little is known about this group of raiders, although their trademark black arrows pepper the corpses left behind when they raid a homestead or farming community have given rise to their name and fame. Campfire stories are also told of this group, and the supposed half-demon monster who leads them, feasting on the blood of the innocents brought before him.

Bandits: These groups of raiders specifically target farmers travelling alone, merchants outside the protection of the Merchant’s Guild, and anyone travelling without an armed escort. Thought to be human peasants down on their luck, as soon as one group is removed, another takes its place. Mercenaries in employ of the Merchant’s Guild travel roads to clear out these groups of bandits, although little progress is yet to be seen.

Orcish Hordes: The tribes of orcs in the foothills surrounding the Durden Mountains to the northeast are warlike and fierce, trapping dwarves in their citadels and mountain cities, taking over what few dwarven homes are abandoned. Halfling riverboats have kept trade alive, but the route upriver is a costly one.

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